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.


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.