Happy Birthday to Me!!

A little background

Traditionally my birthdays are fairly tragic… One year I wanted nothing more than to see a midnight showing of Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian”, and someone (who will remain nameless) instead through me a surprise party (not at the movie theater fyi) and invited 2 of my friends and all of his. He’s no longer with us. 😉 The following year, I took the reins of birthday shenanigans. Cooked a ton of food because about 30 friends RSVP’d, and only 4 people showed up…one was my boss. Mortifying.

That being said, the last few birthdays have improved dramatically! This year was especially eventful. My boyfriend, Justin, and I spent last weekend in New Braunfels to take in the pre-river season atmosphere and had a wonderful time. Yesterday we had a perfect meal at Uchiko! It was so delicious we saved our saki bottle as a memento.

But you’re here to read about the life of the Crappy Little Chuckwagon.

You CAN go home again

Chuck's Set Up

Chuck’s Set Up

I can tell you that my brisket is born of a long family tradition, but why take my word for it? Feast your eyes upon the inspiration for the Crappy Little Chuckwagon. My dad, Chuck (I know, right?), has built his BBQ empire from scratch. A barrel, an upside down cauldron, sheet metal, and several cinder blocks come together with home grown pecan logs and smoke to culminate in perfect tender meaty goodness.

The barrel has been welded into a traditional grill for direct heat grilling. The cauldron is where the smoke billows into the barrel for slow smoking with indirect heat. It was here that I learned the 2 part brisket process. 6 hours of smoking, and 6 hours braising. I use an aluminum pan and cover it with stock, tomato puree, vinegar, sugar, onion, and garlic. Chuck just throws it in the slow cooker. Same result, but in the CLK, we just don’t have the storage for a slow cooker when we have a perfectly good oven. 🙂

Not just good for a lesson or 2 in BBQ, Chuck also grinds his own pork for his signature “Three Stooges Sausage”; available in regular, jalapeno, and pan sausage. You can imagine the influence this had on the menu for The Crappy Little Chuckwagon. In this very back yard, I witnessed my dad smoke an entire pig stuffed with chickens that were stuffed with sausage and potatoes. For my birthday party, we had a smorgasbord of chicken, Three Stooges Sausage, squash, and asparagus.

The Spread

The Spread

Kind of a big deal

I’m not just saying this; I love the Dudley and Bob Show. Have listened to it every weekday morning since I moved to Austin 3 years ago. They’re funny, edgy, honest, neurotic, and more than a bid crazy in the very clinical sense of the word. Like family! 🙂

Hitting them up to be on “Snark Tank” (not to be confused with “Shark Tank”) just made good sense. When I heard from their producer, Daniel, asking if I could be on the show Wednesday, I’m not gonna lie, I peed a little. Pulling mental preparation from the years I spent looking over Chuck’s shoulder when he was the program manager at KRJH in Hallettsville, TX, and working through the night and early morning to make sure I had perfectly prepared Kolache Pork Burgers and Stuffed Texas Flatbread for them to sample… I’ll let you judge for yourself, but I think it went pretty well.

The Dudley and Bob Show

Now don’t worry. If you didn’t realize it was my birthday, I’ll accept sharing my Crappy Little Chuckwagon kickstarter page with gladness. The only thing better would be a donation in lieu of gifts. Xoxoxox!

We haven’t discussed the meat…

  The Launch Party

Being from Shiner, TX, cooking with beer has been a long standing tradition, and brining meat is a bit of a passion. “What’s a brine?” or “What’s the difference between a brine and a marinade?” always follow. Well since you asked, a marinade attempts to add moisture to meat by applying a fat of sorts (usually an oil), and then add flavor by including an acid (usually vinegar). I have 2 problems with this method. A) The oil will never truly penetrate the meat, only moisturize the outside few layers. B) If left in an acid based marinade for too long, you can actually ruin the integrity of your meat.

A BRINE, however, is much more scientific in nature. It’s a saline type of solution where the salt opens the pores of the meat and forces in the water; actually adding the perfect amount of moisture. While this process is occurring, you have a brilliant opportunity to add flavor to that moisture being injected into your meat. I love science.

  Super Fine Texas Brisket

You’ve seen the menu, but now we’re down to the nitty gritty of preparation. As you’ve heard, I grew up in Shiner, (was even Miss Shiner 1995) and so I’m partial to using Shiner Beer…however, I won’t commit to a particular ale until the endorsement deal comes down the pipeline. 😉 When buying a brisket, it’s definitely cheaper per pound to buy them with the fat cap on, but I find that once I’ve trimmed half its weight in fat… you haven’t lost any money in the end just buying a pre-trimmed brisket.

Brined and Seasoned and on the Grill

Brined and Seasoned and in the Smoker

1/2 quart hot water

1 c kosher salt

1 c dark brown sugar

2 quart cold, dark beer

1/2 quart ice

  1. Heat the water, salt, and sugar and stir until all is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  2. Add beer and ice. When completely cool, cover your trimmed brisket. Leave refrigerated and in the brine for at least one day. I prefer two.

10-15 lb of smoking chips soaked in water (I like mesquite)

1/4 c chili powder

1/4 c smoked paprika

3 T garlic powder

3 T onion powder

3 T cumin

even coating of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

  1. Season both sides of the brisket with your spices. I like to spray the seasoned brisket with a pan spray to make the spice rub stick. When putting it on the grill make sure that the fat side is up, so that as the fat drips down, it’s basting itself.
  2. Smoke steady for 3 hours, making sure the fire doesn’t get too hot.

disposable metal roasting pan

35 oz tomato puree

1 quart beef stock

1 yellow onion, quartered and peeled

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 c dark brown sugar

1/4 c rice wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place the well smoked brisket in the pan and cover with all the ingredients. Cover with foil and braise in a 250° oven for another 3 hours.
  2. Carefully (as it will be extremely tender) take the brisket out of the liquid to rest. Strain out the onion, garlic, and as much fat as possible from the cooking liquid. Add it to a sauce pot over a low heat and reduce by half. Season to your tastes with salt and pepper.
  3. Thickly slice the brisket and serve with the sauce.

  Fancy Kolache Burger

The pork burgers begin as pork carnitas (chunks of pork that are inexpensive and have the perfect fat content for ground meat) that are brined in pineapple juice and then freshly ground. I went all in and bought a grinder. Gotta spend money to make money is what I say. It’s a small time home grinder, but that why I’m on Kickstarter. I’m a poor kid! Burgers are grilled to order, topped with jalapeno pickled pineapple and Sriracha aioli, and sandwiched by freshly baked kolache buns (you already have that recipe).

8 lb pork carnitas

1 quart pineapple juice

¼ kosher salt

The Old Grind

The Old Grind

¼ c sugar

1 quart ice

  1. Heat the pineapple juice, salt, and sugar and stir until all is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  2. Add the ice. When completely cool, cover your carnitas. Leave refrigerated and in the brine for one day.

1 pineapple, trimmed and cored

½ water

3 T kosher salt

3 T sugar

1 jalapeno, sliced in half lengthwise

  1. Heat the water, salt, sugar, and jalapeno and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat, and slice the pineapple into ¼” thin disks.
  2. Let cool slightly, and cover your sliced pineapple. I like to leave one jalapeno half in the middle the cored pineapple for good measure. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

blender

4 egg yolks

4 garlic cloves

¼ c Sriracha sauce (that’s right, I didn’t stutter.)

2 T of rice wine vinegar

2 c olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Put yolks, garlic, Sriracha, and vinegar in the blender and puree until smooth.
  2. While on low, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the running blender. Once the sauce thickens into a thick orange mayonnaise, it’s done. Depending on the olive oil, you may not need the entire 2 cups.
  3. Season to your tastes with salt and pepper.

Fire up your grill to a medium heat! Rinse the pork and pat dry before running through a meat grinder with a course grinding plate. If you grind the meat too finely you may risk over cooking and drying out your burger.

It was a Mighty Party!

It was a Mighty Party!

2 c fine bread crumbs

enough dark beer to moisten the bread crumbs

2 eggs

ground pork

  1. Combine. Cook a tablespoon size dab of your pork mixture to taste and see if any salt is needed. Season accordingly. Portion your ground pork into 8 oz patties (you can use a ½ cup measuring cup to portion out the meat if you don’t have a scale).
  2. When the grill is nice and hot and you’ve brushed it clean, place the patties on the heat at least 2 inches apart. Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes. Then give them a quarter turn. Close the lid again and cook for 4 minutes. Turn them over and cook for 2 minutes with the lid closed. Give them a final quarter turn and close the lid for 2 minutes.
  3. Take them off the grill to rest. This will give you a perfectly medium burger, but no worries, after the resting they’ll be completely juicy yet done through.
  4. Serve with pineapple and aioli sandwiched by a kolache bun.

  What have we learned?

You could do all that…or you could just let me. Check out my Kickstarter.

The Menu

We’ve practiced, tasted, tweaked, and finally perfected every element of the Crappy Little Chuckwagon’s first menu! For your edification:

Menu

Click to enlarge

Our practice run for the entire menu will be this weekend. One of my very best friends has moved back after almost 2 years! We’re having a huge bash for her this Saturday, and I’m taking the opportunity to launch the entire menu along with the Kickstarter campaign. What we have to glean from this is not only a great big CLK food love fest with pictures to prove it, but food cost.

The Cost

Bringing in more money than we spend is literally the bread and butter of a successful business. The upfront and fixed costs (such as the Chuckwagon itself, a grill, a fridge, the conversion to propane, mobile food business license, etc) are what we are budgeting to be covered by the Kickstarter campaign. After that, what comes in must surpass what goes out.

Beef brisket is a great example. In a grocery store, it will cost around $3 per pound while wholesale we can get it closer to $1.75. You still can’t look at it cut and dry, however. Two pounds of brisket after cooking becomes 1.5 pounds of brisket, so you have to calculate the cost per pound of post cooked product, and then mark it up to ensure there is an actual profit! Sounds fun, right?! :-/

The Party$2 Cup Cakes for Charity

I much prefer the scientific method to the mathematical…and I know where there’s a party. 😉 SO! Each menu item, brisket and all, will be brought out this weekend and documented very closely. The labor time necessary, the cost of raw materials, the yield of those materials after cooking, and the number of servings produced by the finished product will all be calculated first hand.

Once rubber hits the road, there will be other elements to consider such as viable competition, supply and demand, and market factors which will affect pricing, but for all intents and purposes…by this time next week, I’ll be able to tell you what we’re charging! 😀

The Launch

Being that a great many of my friends will all be in the same place exactly 3 days after my Kickstarter project begins, eating all of the Crappy Little Chuckwagon viddles…I’m just gonna make it official. May 1st marks the beginning of my Crappy Little Kickstarter campaign, but this Saturday will be the official launch party. 🙂 Watch the sky for fireworks!!

Shall we dance?

Tasty Beginnings

Recipe testing is a massive part of running a food based business and my favorite portion, to be perfectly honest. The hidden agenda behind nearly every chef’s tasting I’ve hosted was wanting to play with a new ingredient we’d found or try a strange cooking technique we’d read about. Menu planning is directly in line with recipe testing as far as importance, in fact it’s difficult for one to be successful without the other, and both are needed for a clear win. The Crappy Little Chuckwagon will be no different.

The Menu

My cooking is heavily influenced by Texas, and I plan on playing to my strengths. All my research begs the conclusion that less is more when it comes to food truck menus… so beef, pork, and vegetarian are what I choose for entrees, and I know I want a starchy side and a salad side. The beef is a no brainer – thick sliced Texas brisket in a smoky homemade BBQ sauce. It’s a bit of a family classic actually that’s been through several Imagetransitions before its final resting place of 50% smoking and 50% braising. In the best of all possible worlds, my pork selection would be ribs. However, in the best of all possible worlds I would also have limitless funds and resources. Being a not so perfect world, I have a spectacular recipe for a spicy pork burger. Ribs will come later.

The Challenge

You can’t just say “pork burger” and leave it at that. Here was my thought process. The large German and Czech populations in Texas have made kolaches and bread and butter pickles a staple at many meals, but how should they be served in the Crappy Little Chuck Wagon? I’ve already decided to test a kolache bun recipe for the spicy pork burgers. The sweet, buttery, flaky bread is a perfect medium for a spicy, juicy burger.

The RecipeImage

1 T. active dry yeast
1 cup of warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup of melted margarine
1 teaspoon of salt

  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, warm milk, sugar and one cup of flour. Cover and let it rise until doubled in size.
  2. Beat together eggs, 3/4 cup of melted margarine, and salt. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and blend.
  3. Stir in about 3 more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist. Mix using a dough hook until the dough is smooth and highly malleable, about 15 minutes.
  4. Cover the bowl and let rise until doubled in size—about an hour.
  5. After dough has risen, punch it down and pull 3 oz. dough balls.
  6. Place the dough balls on a greased baking sheet ½ inches apart, cover, and let rise again for another hour.
  7. Bake in oven at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown all the way to the pan. Allow the buns to cool slightly before trying to slice them in half.

Image

With our homemade kolache buns in place, I’m ready to build my CLCW burger. Pork is a brilliant start to a juicy burger, but I have a secret to share with you. If you add bread crumbs to your burger mix, the water in the meat mixes with the gluten in the bread crumbs to provide a nice uniform structure to the patty and a wonderful crunch off the grill. If you soak the bread crumbs in a liquid, when the burger starts to heat up on the grill, the liquid begins to steam out of the bread crumb, releasing moisture into the patty. If you soak the bread crumbs in Texas beer…that moisture release includes a punch of flavor. To reproduce the sweetness and texture of bread and butter pickles without the predictability of putting a pickle on a burger, I’ve perfected a pickled pineapple over the course of a summer. We have sweet, juicy, crispy, and tangy; what’s missing? SPICY!! Nothing beats homemade mayonnaise, and the only thing better than homemade mayonnaise is my garlicky, Sriracha aioli.

Two entrees are down with one to go before I tackle the side dishes. We’re already using homemade bread. What about a grilled Texas flat bread for our vegetarian entrée?! Hmmmnnnn…. Cannot wait to test that one.