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?

On the side!

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and I don’t plan on having any. 🙂 Side dishes are often my very favorite part of the meal, in fact if we’re talking cheese grits, macaroni and cheese, fried potatoes, or a good Caesar salad, I’ll go ahead and just have that. All of that. Hahahaha! It can become a cheese and carbohydrate massacre to be certain, but you can’t be profitable while trapped in a box. The Crappy Little Chuckwagon needs sides that break these boundaries and change the way folks view BBQ side dishes.

The 3 main dishes that we have tested, tasted, and approved are fairly monotone in color. As juicy and saucy as it is,  my Smoked Brisket is brown, despite it’s pink smoke ring. The Sweet & Spicy Pork Burger has a beautiful red sauce, a vibrant yellow pineapple, and toasty bun, but they come together with a very similar color pallet. My Texas Flat Bread is golden and crispy and stuffed with brown and red hues. We need green!!

Onto the drawing board

As usual…I have needs. I want 2 side dishes (remember that less is more. Too many choices will ruin the food truck ordering experience) that must be:

  • Brilliant green to pop next to their Earth colored counter parts
  • One starchy for the traditionalists
  • One light and refreshing for nutritionists
  • As bold in flavor as any entrée they may be accompanying

It just so happens that I have 2 perfect side dishes in mind. They’re classics from “Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens,” but don’t worry. I’ll throw you these recipes for free. 😉

On the plate

Over the weekend, my friend Justine had a group of us over to grill some pork loin. Perfect opportunity to dust off these recipes and make sure they’re still as good as I remember.

Herb Potato Salad

Herb Potato Salad

Red potatoes, large…………………………………… 5 (about 2 lb)

Sea salt…………………………………………………… to taste

Fresh cilantro, chopped……………………………… ¼ c

Mayonnaise…………………………………………….. ¼ c

Basil pesto, store bought……………………………. ¼ c

Red onion, small dice………………………………… ¼ c

Black pepper……………………………………………. to taste

  1. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and place it over a high heat. When the water has begun to bubble, add 2 T of sea salt to the water and allow the potatoes to simmer until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain them and put them in a large bowl to refrigerate.
  2. When the potatoes are cool, carefully cut each potato into large cubes. Place the cilantro, mayonnaise, and pesto into your blender and puree til smooth. Add your herb mayo and diced red onion to your diced potato and fold them together. You don’t want to break down your potatoes too much, so be gentle! Taste the potato salad to see if you need more salt or pepper.
  3. Pile high on a serving platter, and wrap tightly to refrigerate until you’re ready to serve ice cold.

Roasted Poblano Slaw

Olive oil………………………………………………….. 3 T

Poblano peppers……………………………………… 3

Red cabbage, shredded…………………………….. ½ head

Green cabbage, shredded………………………….. ½ head

Limes, juiced……………………………………………. 4

Rice wine vinegar……………………………………… ¼ c

Honey……………………………………………………. 1 T

Ground cumin, spice…………………………………. 1/2 T

Olive oil………………………………………………….. 1/2 c

Green onions, chopped……………………………… 4

Carrot, peeled and grated………………………….. 1 large

Sea salt…………………………………………………… to taste

Black pepper……………………………………………. to taste

  1. Preheat your oven to 500°. Place the poblano peppers on your baking sheet and lightly drizzle olive oil over them. Roast them in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until they have begun to blacken and blister all over. Remove them with your tongs and Roasted Poblano Slawplace them in a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow them to sit this way and steam.
  2. Once the peppers are cool, pull off their tops and allow the seeds and juice to spill out of the top. Carefully peel off their skins, and don’t rinse under water while doing this,  or you’ll lose too much flavor.  Once they are peeled, dice them into a medium dice.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar, honey, cumin, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Toss together with the cabbage, roasted poblano, green onion and carrot. Taste at this point and season as needed with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container, and serve ice cold.

To recap:

When people walk up to the window, we will ask, “Cow, pig or flatbread?”

Depending on what they say, we’ll either plate up thick sliced Texas Brisket in a smokey homemade BBQ sauce, Sweet & Spicy Pork Burger with pickled pineapple on a kolache bun, or Grilled Texas Flat Bread stuffed with grilled mushrooms and Chipotle tzatziki.

Then we ask, “Tater or slaw?”

The response will then either be an Herb Potato Salad or Roasted Poblano Slaw.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Yummy

A very humble beginning…

Hello Blog Readers!

This is undeniably the beginning of many firsts for me. In the past whenever asked “Do you blog?” or “Are you on twitter?” my response has inevitably been “I cook…?” Well here I am blogging, and please follow me on twitter @CLchuckwagon. Hahaha!

Why the sudden change of heart? In my 10 years cooking, I did manage to get a pretty neat cook book published, “Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens”, but for the most part I’ve been content to cook great food for other folks, drink some beer and wine, and make a little money here and there. I’ve been an executive chef, a pastry chef, a catering chef, a culinary professor, and even the director of food service for the public school system. Shouldn’t I know what I want to be when I grow up by now? Why don’t I own my own restaurant? With a cookbook, shouldn’t I have a cooking show or something? I mean everyone else does. :-/

The Book

Then it hit me. I do know what I want to be when I grow up… a freakin chef!  And of COURSE I’d love to own my own business. How can I combine the very best of me into a business that would flourish and continue to open up new revenue streams, creative outlets, and help me become an all around more productive member of society?

Let’s see I’m an experienced chef who’s expertise is cooking in crappy little kitchens, a published cookbook author, a Texas girl born on a pecan orchard who had the opportunity to raise cattle and pigs growing up, and has a very strong relationship with food and where it comes from. Chef, small space, Texas, local farmers…

Playing with my food

That’s it! A food truck is the ultimate expression of a Crappy Little Kitchen! I want to embrace that purity; to not only enhance my ability to cook gourmet meals despite great odds, but to take it on the road. I’m looking to purchase a truck or a trailer (whatever I find with the most personality), “slap a sink, a stove, and refrigerator against one wall”, (for CLK historical accuracy), and christen thee The Crappy Little Chuckwagon.

Now to find a suitable wagon… more on that later. 😀