A Most Frustrating Brooklyn Barbecue: A Tale

The Command Center
The Command Center


It was time again for me to host the annual company barbecue. That meant 30 or more people coming over to the apartment in Brooklyn. That meant pounds and pound of meat. It meant bags and bags of charcoal. It meant hours and hours of work.

All of which is to say I was excited! And agitated. And nervous. A lot could go wrong, starting with the annual prediction of 60% chance of rain. I have a back yard just big enough for 30-some-odd people. I have an apartment that is smaller than the back yard. So, you do the math. But the chance of rain diminished throughout the week until the weather on the day of the actual event looked like it was supposed to be sunshine and lollipops. The day of cooking, on the other hand, looked to be a steady fall of rain.

Oh, yes. This is a two-day cooking affair. Three days if you include shopping. But it was all under control. I’ve done this before. Even if I haven’t mastered my brisket (shut up) just yet, I have the process down to a science.

Continue reading “A Most Frustrating Brooklyn Barbecue: A Tale”

Morgan’s Barbecue: Bark Has Bite

Since hearing that Morgan’s had opened on Flatbush and St. Mark’s in Brooklyn, I’d been itching to go. Word on the street (by which I mean one of the managers of Dinosaur: Brooklyn I’d bugged one afternoon) was that one of the guys involved worked at Franklin BBQ in Austin. A couple of news pieces about Morgan’s backed that up.

So, last night, instead of going some place fancy for my birthday, I took a chance and had Cara take me to unproven ‘cue place. We all know how badly that can end in New York.

But I’m happy to report that Morgan’s met and exceeded expectations. It’s a sit-down place–which I’m fine with in New York, because I’d rather not get stuck with a tray of meat and nowhere to sit (Mighty Quinn’s). And the menu isn’t very big–again, this is a good thing.

We ordered brisket, ribs and pulled pork. All three–yes, even the pulled pork–showed that Morgan’s is, at heart, Texas barbecue. The ribs and the brisket had been rubbed down with ample salt and black pepper and had a great bark. This actually might be the spiciest brisket I’ve had in New York. Unlike the ribs at Hill Country, which are large and a little on the tough side for my liking, these were small (baby backs?) and extremely tender. Almost too tender for your barbecue sticklers. The brisket was excellent and, well, what do reviewers say about brisket? It was beefy? I don’t know. It was good. The pulled pork was surprising in that, unlike a lot of places around here, it wasn’t drenched in sauce or overly mushy. It had a strong garlic flavor, too, which I liked.

For sides, we had a loaded baked potato, which was good. And mac and cheese, which wasn’t cheesy enough.

Morgan’s has a solid bourbon and rye selection and the Shiner Bock was served at the perfect temperature.

I recommend it. And yall know how I am about barbecue.

The Great Brisket Experiment: 2013

If there’s one thing I like almost as much as stuffing my face full of smoked brisket, it’s barbecuing it myself.


Okay, that is a lie. Barbecuing brisket — and pork shoulder for that matter — is one of those things I really, really look forward to doing. And I maintain the kid-on-Christmas-morning glee until one of the following

  • The shopping trip turns into a shit-show of an obstacle course
  • The weather decides not to cooperate
  • Five hours into the proceeding and I’m just trying to stay awake
  • When the food is served and everybody’s all, “THIS IS AWESOME” and I’m thinking “This is shit. It’s crap. It doesn’t taste like Black’s or Franklin’s or Hill Country or Brisketlab. AND OH MY GOD, DID YOU JUST PUT SAUCE ON THAT?!?!”

But this last barbecue? It was going to be different. Because I’d learned something while in Texas with Nick on our Fabulous Brisket Tour. And it was game-changing.

Continue reading “The Great Brisket Experiment: 2013”

The Turducken of the Cake & Pie World

For years, a bitter debate has raged in this country of ours over what is better, cake or pie. Now, I’m not going to use this space today to point out what sad, sorry, deluded fools the pro-pie camp is. Pie is nice. Sure. But anyone with the sense God gave a goat knows that cake is far superior, surpassed only by the holy of holies–ice-cream cake. Besides, we all know that pie is simply an attempt by the health fanatics and the industrial fruit lobby to get us to eat more fruit. (Which is why the pie I eat most often is Boston Cream Pie–which is not sullied by whole foods of any sort.)

I’m not here to argue about these things today. I’m here to alert you to a compromise — of sorts. It’s called a “Pumpple cake.” Created by The Flying Monkey bakery in Philadelphia, it is a hybrid of pumpkin pie, apple pie and cake. (Judging by the name of the bakery, these people are geniuses.)

Now, I’m no fan of apple pie — it’s got those slug-like chunks of slithery apple slices in there — and this isn’t as glorious an invention as pumpkin-pie cheesecake, but this creation should be heralded as an attempt to bring two factions together. As Today says, it’s the “dessert equivalent” of a turducken.

It should also be heralded for cramming 1,800 calories in one slice.

You Can Keep Yer Hippie Peanut Butter

No one’s ever going to confuse me with a hippie or a vegan or an organic-type person. I don’t shop at Whole Foods because it’s too expensive. I will never join the Park Slope food co-op because I did not go to college and grad school so that I could spend the time I’m not at my fulltime job bagging groceries, stocking shelves and hanging out with people so sanctimonious about their “religion” they make Sarah Palin seem like a heathen.
Continue reading “You Can Keep Yer Hippie Peanut Butter”

Things I’ve Eaten Today

Breakfast this morning was a smoked sausage and egg biscuit at Jim Neely’s Interstate Barbecue. In the Memphis airport. Now, of course, you’re thinking, “Airport. Doesn’t count.” Well, let me tell you. Jim Neely his own damn self was in there checking on things, holding court with customers about the Food Network, barbecue, running restaurants and his nephew. Good enough for me. Continue reading “Things I’ve Eaten Today”

The Turducken Flies at Midnight

Shhhh. Be vewy, vewy, quiet. We’re on the trail of the Turducken, a mysterious beast that haunts the wilds of South Louisiana. It’s a hard thing to track, partly because it’s not one, but three beings that form a symbiotic parasitic relationship. First, we have the Swamp Chicken. It feeds on nothing but live crawfish, raw rice and, when it can catch it, the even-more elusive six-legged Boudin, whose chirps and squeals can be heard on rainy Louisiana nights. Next, the Ground Duck. The Ground Duck hides in its lair for months at a time, waiting for the right moment when a Swamp Chicken walks by. Then it pounces. What follows is a revolting battle as the Ground Duck distends its beak far enough to swallow the Swamp Chicken whole. The job done, it lies there defenseless, much like a boa constrictor digesting a pig. And along comes the rarely seen Pelican Turkey, which simply makes a “Gobble-gobble” noise before scooping the new formed Duck Chicken with its impressive mandibles.
Continue reading “The Turducken Flies at Midnight”

Squirrel Head Potpie

When a recipe starts by telling you to boil ten squirrel heads, you know you’re onto something good! I found this little gem in “Louisiana Cultural Vistas,” one of those fancy magazines they put in upscale hotel rooms in New Orleans. It’s actually an excellent damn mag judging by this particular issue. And the potpie recipe was tucked in an article about Mary Land, author of Louisiana Cookery and a woman light years ahead of her time — conservationist, serial marrier, hunter, fisher, cook.

Anyway, the recipe card reads:

Boil ten squirrel heads until tender in just enough water to cover. Make pie crust and line casserole. Place a layer of heads and some juice. Dot with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make another layer of heads, juice and more pie crust strips. Cook in oven for one-half hour. (Serves six).

I sure as hell hope the recipe assumes you’ll take the meat off the skulls before putting it in the crust. Otherwise, that would be one huge (and crunchy) potpie.

Boudin, Baby. Boudin

Trust me on this one.
Trust me on this one.
Boudin. If you’re not from Louisiana, you probably haven’t had it and you probably can’t pronounce it. Boo-dan. But you have to cut about half of the n off of dan.

Sure, at first glance, a box of boudin may look like a carton full of soft-boiled geriatric, uh, weinies. But I promise you won’t put anything tastier in your mouth. (I’m talking about the boudin, you perv.) Continue reading “Boudin, Baby. Boudin”

The First Annual Bodacious Basinkeepers BBQ

No. I did not change the name of my novel from The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival to The First Annual Bodacious Basinkeepers BBQ. Rather, in a weird bit of coincidence, my good friend Toby Dore–the guy who set up the Facebook Group for my book–is actually part of a gang of guys trying to get their own first festival off the ground. The Basin Cleanup and BBQ will be held Sept. 26 from 6 to 12 p.m. at Whiskey River Landing.

Like I said to Toby, I wish he’d have told me about this. I could have used him for a little research instead of just making up all the details in my book!

I fully expect those of you who live in the area to get out there and go check this out. Invite your friends. Spread the Facebook group around. Go, man. Go.

And for those who don’t live in the area? Well, come a little closer. Let me talk to you about Louisiana festivals.
Continue reading “The First Annual Bodacious Basinkeepers BBQ”