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Category: Food

Egg Notes

The EggWe got a Big Green Egg. (Darry Smith, Eggs By The Bay, sold it to us. Great guy, highly recommended.) Pricy, but cheaper than an iPad and we’ll be using it longer, so no qualms about the purchase.

Neither Susan or I have any grilling experience. We’ve done three meals, all of which turned out perfectly from a cooking perspective. I am not great at marinades yet but that’s a different question. The Egg is stupid easy to use. This weekend we embark on a pork butt as our first smoking attempt.

Notes for posterity:

Chicken from an EggThe chicken was at 350ish direct heat, 15 minutes on one side then flipped and around 10 more minutes. The last ten minutes we dumped in leeks and potato wedges on the cast iron half-pan, which came out perfect. The wedges were parboiled first. I think next time we’d want to do the wedges a bit hotter for more of a crust.

The pork chops were an inch or so thick. We gave ’em ten minutes on each side at 375. Also direct heat.

The salmon got ten minutes skin side down, two minutes skin side up, again 375 degrees, again direct heat.

After the pork butt smoking, the gasket adhesive should be well and truly cured and we’ll be able to experiment with higher heats.

Half Moon Bay

We cranked over to Half Moon Bay yesterday for breakfast and a bit of sightseeing. I am somewhat baffled as to how I managed to spend ten years in Silicon Valley without doing much of that sort of thing, but that’s youth for you, I guess. The drive over 92 is lovely, and the Pacific is still there, and Half Moon Bay has a reasonably cute downtown. I recommend Chez Shea despite the cutesy name. You can sit out in the patio, on which subject see photograph.

Afterwards we drove up Route 1 to Pacifica for barbecue. It’s a good sign when a barbecue place has a line outside. Also when the smoker is clearly visible. The sausage was pretty good: nice meat, maybe a tad over spiced without the depth of flavor I wanted, but solid. The brisket was totally decent and they gave me a fatty cut without blinking. Not as much flavor as you’d get in Texas, which I think is because they’re just using oak wood, but they wouldn’t get laughed out of Austin or anything.


Caldwell County Courthouse Conservation of attention notice: if you’re from Austin you know all this.

We drove down to Lockhart today with Susan’s parents to do the barbecue pilgrimage. This is not the only possible barbecue pilgrimage, even in Central Texas. There’s Luling and Taylor and Llano, but Lockhart is pretty damned close and it’s home to a few legendary barbecue places, so we wanted to see what it was all about. Being heathens from out of state and all.

Lockhart is a tiny little town. All three of the high reputation places are within a couple blocks of each other, with a really cool Second Empire style sandstone courthouse in the middle. We did Smitty’s, which lies right next to 183. It’s this old, completely unassuming brick building with a very mellow sign. We went around the block, came in the front, and found out the line is back on the 183 side anyhow.

Smitty's smoking pit You order right in front of the smoking pit. My hair smells like oak smoke from the ten minute wait. These smokers have been in operation for over a hundred years, and I gotta think some of the quality is due to a well-seasoned apparatus. It’s market style Texas barbecue: you can get brisket lean or moist, pork ribs, pork chops, and sausage. By the pound, mostly. There’s a market in front of the building for drinks and sides. The meat is piled up on butcher paper. You get a knife, no fork.

Smitty's fireIn terms of quality… wow. It’s the best meat I’ve ever had, beating out the original Morton’s in Chicago. So there’s better meat out there, I’m sure, since it’s not like I’ve ever eaten at the French Laundry or anything. But man, that moist brisket was amazing. Good beef, smoked for hours, until the fat renders into the meat and gives it more flavor. No sauce. Insanely tender.

The sausage was exactly to my tastes. It was spicy but not uber-hot, and fairly grainy. Next time I’d ask for somewhat more smoked links to get it a little drier, but it’s not like it was bad. We had some left over and it’s going into breakfast tacos soon. I can’t wait.

The pork chop was stupid thick, cause it’s smoked, so it’s not like there was any worry about cooking it too dry to get it done all the way through. Yum.

Hudson’s On the Bend, & Elk

We had dinner last night with Susan’s parents at Hudson’s on the Bend. In general it was reasonably tasty; the more Hill Country specific cuisine was, unsurprisingly, where it shined. We all had the three course tasting menu. I had chipotle lobster bisque as the appetizer, which was reasonably good: the richness of the lobster was set off nicely by the chipotle. I’m not sure the Hill Country is really lobster territory, and I wouldn’t say this was more impressive than any lobster dish I’d get in a decent Boston restaurant, but it was still good.

For the main course I had the smoked elk with a lime chipotle beer blanc sauce. Totally awesome. I’d never had elk before; it’s like venison, reasonably enough, but richer and darker. The sauce was perfect, again lightening the richness of the main ingredient. They use an espresso rub, and it was superb. I would have this again in a heartbeat. Possibly I can without going to Hudson’s; the actual recipe is here.

The dessert was a pretty mundane caramel pecan pie coated in chocolate. Good ingredients but the chocolate overwhelmed the pecan. I should have gotten the pumpkin white chocolate bread pudding, which was in fact superb.


Dinner tonight: Stiles Switch BBQ, which is conveniently half a mile from our house. The place just opened; the pit master used to be the pit boss at Louie Mueller’s up in Taylor. I am no barbecue expert but I hear Louie Mueller’s is very good, and Stiles Switch made me very happy. And it’s just a few minutes away.

Food on the Run

After getting my tire fixed this morning, I swung by Snarky’s Moo Bawk Oink for a sandwich. They’re trying to get a food trailer park off the ground in North Austin, around a mile from our place, so that’s a thing to support. Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed. I had the Jamaican chicken jerk sandwich on a pita, which is supposed to be traditional Jamaican flavors with some pineapple slaw and jerk sauce. The jerk sauce was more harsh fire than flavorful, though, and I didn’t get anything terribly Caribbean from it. Also there was not much pineapple slaw at all.

I’ll try it again because hey, they’re close, and maybe the cubano is good. Also the guy manning the truck was nice. I think maybe he should be taking applications and getting more trailers there right now, rather than trying to form the perfect mix and asking people to hold off. It’s gonna be tricky getting traffic there with five trailers, and one solitary one will have a hard row to hoe. Fingers crossed.

Jeni’s At Home

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home is a pretty interesting contrast to my current ice cream bible, the David Lebovitz book. They’re both really good ice cream books. The latter is a slow foodie’s dream: all natural ingredients, slow preparation, real egg custard bases, and so on. The former is not molecular gastronomy or anything, but it’s definitely on the cooking as science side of the fence.

I did my first recipe from the Jeni’s book tonight; just a plain vanilla ice cream. The generic base uses cream cheese to get the richness that normally comes from egg yolks. It also incorporates cornstarch, which works to provide better texture by impeding crystal formation. And I guess the corn syrup helps with texture as well? So in general, more processed ingredients for the sake of better texture.

It came out pretty well. The flavor was right on target. The texture was awesome, and I assume it’ll freeze up nicely. On the whole I sort of prefer the traditional custard method cause I was indoctrinated in the ways of earthy-crunchy granola from a very early age, but I like this stuff too.

Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

I took David Lebovitz’s custard-based chocolate ice cream and cut the cream down by half a cup to 1.5 cups and the chocolate down to 4 ounces from 5 ounces. The first change was in the interests of making sure we have room for raspberry swirl in the ice cream container, and the second was because it seemed like a waste to open an extra bar of semisweet Ghiardelli’s chocoate to get one extra ounce. The mix is sitting in the fridge right now, and by pre-frozen taste test it’ll work out just fine.

He likes to conserve saucepans, so I made the custard in the same saucepan I used for the initial chocolate plus heavy cream blending. This resulted in a somewhat odd-looking brown egg custard. This was definitely my second good custard in a row, although I’ve gotta be careful if I use the hot burner. I should swap back to the cooler burner next time even if it’s a pain to get it lit.

Oh, the raspberry part is just raspberries fork-crushed with sugar and a bit of vodka to prevent too much freezing. You layer it into the quart container with the ice cream after you’ve made the ice cream. So good. We did the vanilla raspberry swirl last time and it was amazing. This is a test run for some future visitors who requested this flavor.

Aztec Chocolate

So this is your basic chocolate ice cream recipe, Philadelphia-style (no eggs), but you also add a bit of brandy and some cinnamon and a bunch of chile powder. The recipe calls for either ancho or chipotle chile powder; we went for ancho. My initial reaction on tasting the mix was that it was a bit wussy, but I’m more hardcore about heat than is reasonable. It is super-rich and chocolatey, so all’s well! And when I have a chance to make this with Chris T., we’ll fiddle around with a hotter batch. You could do this with a small amount of naga jolokia and get something really interesting.