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.

For the Vegetarians

In a chef’s head

Pig, cow, duck, and all their tender inner (delicious) workings are constantly on the mind and preferably tongue of most chefs. The perfect preparation, how you had it in San Francisco, what you read about it in Food Art, and the bacon design of your next tattoo (time to get off the pot Chef Marcus) are just some of the topics that rattle around bar stool conversations. With so much thought and energy dedicated to meat and its cookery…chefs often fully disregard the possibility of meatless dishes.

In a chef’s experience

In the 1st restaurant I ever worked, where eventually I was promoted to sous chef, the menu was very concise in order to accommodate a very modest dining room. We could seat about 30. 🙂 Along with the small dining room came the very 1st professional crappy little kitchen that I ever worked. It had 1 crappy stove, the dish machine shared a workspace with the salad station, but worst of all there was ZERO storage. If it wasn’t on the menu at that moment, we didn’t have it in the kitchen. Thus it was an absolute nightmare for someone to come in and demand an off menu dish.

The easiest one to head off at the pass was, “I’m a vegetarian. What do you have that I can eat?” Ask any chef and they’ll tell you the same, half of these people end up ordering the fish or the chicken anyway because lots of people suck. Hahaha! BUT, I always found coming up with new and exciting vegetarian dishes to be quite a stimulating challenge. All the vegetarian entrees in “Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens” are those vegetarian dishes from my restaurants.

Why would I waste this experience? What a shame to fritter away that expertise? I’ll be cooking in the ultimate crappy little kitchen with a petite menu to match, so one of the 1st thoughts that I had when developing said menu was, “I should give a vegetarian option. It is Austin after all.”

In a chef’s process

As I’ve said before, beef brisket on the menu is a no brainer. It bursts all the Crappy Little Chuckwagon parameters. Last week we dealt with a pork selection, and knocked it out of the park by deconstructing what is beloved by all Texans, the kolache.

What does all this mean for my vegetarian entrée? What are our parameters?

  1. Has to be vegetarian… obviously. My go to, spotlight veggie is the mushroom. For myself, I love a splash of Worcestershire sauce, but that doesn’t work here. For those of you who don’t know, the secret ingredient of Worcestershire is anchovy. While it might seem funny to sneak vegetarians (real vegetarians– not those sucky fake ones) little fishes, it is unethical and I won’t do it.
  2. Must be hand held, but can’t be a repeat. I thought about grilled Portobello sliders. With a hamburger on the menu, I’d really rather not have another sandwich let alone a tiny burger. Plus I tried it, and the Portobellos didn’t shrink enough on the grill to be a slider; they just looked like mushroom burgers. :-/
  3. Has to be accessible and sound delicious to everyone. What is a popular food truck item that I can recreate in my own crappy
    Grilled Texas Flatbread

    Grilled Texas Flatbread

    little image? Hmmmmnnnn…

While I’m making homemade kolache dough for our burger buns, why not see if we can roll it out and throw it on the grill?! While I worked at The Grape in Dallas, we made a grilled Tuscan flatbread  It was essentially pizza dough that we grilled before service. When an order came in, we topped it, flashed it in the oven, and sent it on it’s merry way. Texas flatbread really has a nice ring to it. Sure enough the soft and pliable dough rolled out and grilled perfectly. The beautiful circles with flawless grill marks looked remarkably similar to pita bread, which is a much better idea than a topped flat bread giving us the need for a crappy little oven.

Grilled Texas Flatbread

Grilled Texas Flatbread

My Texas Flatbread needed a filling, and using the pita/gyro as inspiration, I sautéed diced yellow onion with garlic, dried Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. Once brown I added a ton of chopped mushroom (cremini and Portobello), turned the heat up slightly, and seasoned with a bit more salt and pepper. Typically a Greek style gyro would have a meat filling and a sauce called tzatziki. It’s a very refreshing sauce made from yogurt, cucumber, and lemon, so to adapt it for my Texas flat bread, I made it with yogurt, chipotle, and lime. Add fresh cherry tomatoes and spinach (instead of romaine lettuce) and we have a winner!! Just needs bacon… Hahaha, but I’m not wrong! Maybe as an add on option?

The chef’s menu

As I’ve said before, I freakin love this process. You start with ideas that roll around in your head like powder kegs ready to explode into something more. In the kitchen you break down the ideas to see what works, how it could be better, and can it make more sense. Can we make this more cost effective without sacrificing quality? Can we make this taste better without hurting food cost? This is the nuts and bolts of a successful food business; the very beginning of a continuous progression of change and improvement as a chef hones their craft and becomes one with their space.

As for my space, the Crappy Little Chuckwagon is on the horizon. Each day I feel her coming closer, and you can plan on May being a big, BIG Crappy Little Kitchen month! Now that the menu is tested and planned, I enter the design phase. You faithful CLK followers will be the 1st to see the menu, along with it’s maiden voyage next month as we raise money to begin our Crappy Little Culinary Journey. I’m so happy to have you with me.

Stuffed Texas Flatbread (vegetarian)

Stuffed Texas Flatbread (vegetarian)

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.