Barbacoa Style

For about the last 6 weeks or so we’ve been offering up barbecue pork cheeks on Fridays as a meat special.

Pork cheeks are a rich, succulent, tender, smokey meat good on its own, or great for tacos, sandwiches, baked potatoes, or stacked on a pile of pinto beans. Pork cheeks are new to lots of people that eat at our joint.

When answering the question from a customer regarding the special meats for the day the conversation often goes like this:

Customer: “What are the specials today?”

Me: “Pork cheeks”

Customer: “What else you got?”

I recently told the order takers to change the sign from pork cheek to pork barbacoa. The conversation then was like this:

Customer: “How many different ways can I have the pork barbacoa?”

Faith was then placed back into the effort of making signs to inform customers of the daily specials.

Me: “You can have pork barbacoa any way you prefer. Except for on rice cakes or pita bread. We don’t have any rice cakes or pita bread.”

Pork cheeks solicit oohs. Pork barbacoa draws ahs. Barbacoa is one of those terms that started out as defining an ancient cooking method, but perhaps now more commonly describes the result of the cooking method. It’s a little like how a person can go to a barbecue, barbecue, and eat barbecue. Barbecue and barbacoa are among the few words longer than 4 letters that have such great variety of intended definition. The same could be said for chocolate.

Sometimes when discussing the various styles of barbecue or barbacoa with opinionated meat heads under the guidance of whiskey or beer they might use 4 letter words to clarify their opinion of someone else’s ignorant opinion of what is proper barbecue or barbacoa. Wine could be the culprit for 4 letter word usage when identifying what is chocolate. You know it is true ladies. Own it. This is where fireplace spaces come in. We can all agree that wood fires are useful for cooking meat and increasing our tolerance of what are clearly stupid opinions. We should build more fireplaces.

If you are up to getting a little deeper into the history of barbacoa in Texas and places to find it look to JC Reid’s pretty darn useful article about barbacoa at this link. Go read it.  JC knows his shit. Don’t waste your time with some piss ant article in Time or another publication from anywhere north of Dallas. Daniel Vaughn has a series of articles on TMBBQ if you search for barbacoa. In this one post you can see in the comment section how conversations about barbecue or barbacoa can potentially escalate into a debate heavy on the use of 4 letter words.

We decided to make some beef cheek barbacoa. The ancient methods of coals, water pots, buried mezcal bottles, agave leaves, and earthen holes would have to be modified slightly for our purposes. We went with post oak, our off set smoker, steam pans, and whiskey…not necessarily in that order.

I do like a hand crafted mezcal, but was fresh out and under budget for the level of quality I care for in a mezcal. My favorite is Tobala by Del MeGuey. This mezcal is made with wild agave and is about $200 a bottle. I like it when my agave pina is roasted in an earthen pit and stone ground using a donkey powered stone mill, but I’m getting off course.

A good breakfast taco with beef cheek barbacoa on Saturday mornings seemed like a logical time to float the buoy.

Breakfast Barbacoa Taco

Then Scott Sandlin stopped over and ate the one in his picture below.

Photo by Scott Sandlin

Scott’s words were something like: “the brisket taco is good, but the beef cheeks are on a whole different level of beef flavor”.

I know this because Scott and I sat out by the new outdoor man cave fireplace I just installed. That’s what I’m talking about. Scott is covering barbecue for Houston Food Finder these days. He’s on it so check out his feed. Neither Scott nor I intentionally used a four letter word directed towards one another the whole time we sat by a pile of burning wood. It’s just a fact is what the power of of a wood burning fireplace does for moderating conversation.

During a recent cool dusk last week,

it dawned on me that I needed an outside space to drink coffee on a cool morning. Chef Greg might drink a Miller Lite while waiting for briskets to finish at night.

This is a place where men can talk about making food with burning wood. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was harnessing the power of fireplace level headed dialogue.

It is a place where men can ask the question about why cocoa bean husks erupt in flames.

It is a place where women can come, invited or not, to answer questions for men. And there is even some tolerance in allowing women to rub our noses in it.

The lure of free chocolate truffles brought us a teacher with answers.

One of these days when budgets will allow I can picture a rustic brick fire place with a wood fired oven on top. That would make for a cozy spot to share with friends. Maybe I can sell the naming rights for the outdoor fireplace and oven as a means to finance its construction. The Center for Reasonable Conversation is interested I’m told, but I’m worried that there is a lock in brewing up against common sense, and that might not be good for business.

The answer about barbacoa style is that there is no singular answer just like there is more than one way to make or enjoy barbecue, chocolate, coffee, whiskey, or beer. Just make it great and share it with others who enjoy your style. We can rent you our fireplace space if you need it to recover from someone else’s opinion. It does have healing properties too.

We are going to continue with pork cheek Friday and beef cheek Saturdays for the time being anyways. Here is a cool picture of the two cuts of cheek meat before cooking.

We cook pork and beef cheeks with wood fires and steam so the meat is tender and smokey. This is our barbacoa style. So far so good. I think both are pretty tasty.

The week previous was filled with hand carried critters.

We made fresh green beans, and pretty pink pastrami.

Fresh Green Beans

Pastrami Thursday

We even made a pastrami beef short rib that may have been the single best piece of beef I’ve ever tasted.

The beef rib was in a brine for a week, and smoked for a day. It is a process let me tell you. We are kicking around doing at least one 3 bone plate for Thursdays. We might even put the beef rib pastrami up for sale to be reserved for a Thursday eating opportunity. You could buy it on a Tuesday and eat it on Thursday. That’s an idea anyways.

We set a new record for chocolate truffle sales last week. Part of the reason for that was an order of 52 four truffle box sets for Nike guests at the Super Bowl. These are being delivered to Hotel Derek in advance of the Nike friends arrival.

Janie got pretty excited about the thought of Michael Jordan knocking down one of her hand made chocolate truffles. I told Janie to write on the inside of the lid, “Just enjoy it”. Even without the Nike order, we set a record for truffle sales. That’s a sweet thing to see happen.

Thursday night Chef Greg will be leading a crew to sling some barbecue at The Big Texas Party sponsored by ESPN and Culture Map.  We’re getting our mitts on the Super Bowl fun and that’s got us excited about being a part of Super Bowl week.

The Tejas Quarterly Dinner on Valentines Day is now sold out. This dinner is going to be big fun. Doing a fancy smancy dinner every once in awhile helps make things interesting is why we came up with the Tejas Quarterly. Actually, I came up with The Tejas Quarterly idea and announced it before telling anyone. The kitchen staff shot me a good deal of stink eye when they first had the chance to look at me after announcing the special dinner event. But, we love the menu and are going to make rustic fine dining great again.

Last week you tolerated our sell outs with good grace and with minimal protest. We thank you for that.

Enjoy your week everyone.

Cheers! Scott

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