Pickled Red Onions with Habañero Chili


Pickled Red Onions with Habañero Chili | Culinary Compost Recipes
This is a classic recipe from Texas. The habañero adds a substantial kick but may be omitted if desired. Serve as a garnish on tacos, or pork carnitas. Will keep for two weeks in your fridge. If you like, you can also throw a couple of sliced radishes in for some extra color. Please note that you must refrigerate after pickling or it will spoil. This recipe will fill one Mason pint jar. You can double or triple the ingredients and place in a quart jar instead.

Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. white granulated sugar
3/4 red onion, sliced
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 fresh habañero pepper, stemmed

Directions:

In a non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, water, salt and sugar until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Loosely pack the rest of the ingredients in a pint mason jar. Pour the brine mixture over the onions until they are just covered. Seal with a canning lid and ring. Allow to cool on your counter for thirty minutes. Refrigerate and serve the next day.

Makes one pint.

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Texas-Style Pulled Pork Tacos


This is a great, carnitas-style Tex-Mex recipe for using leftover pulled pork. Braised slow and low, the meat is super-tender. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. If you still have leftovers, they freeze wonderfully… Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

5 to 8 cups pulled pork
1/2 cup Stubb’s Original BBQ sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce)
1 cup chicken stock
1/8 lime, squeezed
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. chimayo chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp. ground coriander

Serve With:

Tortilla shells, brushed with olive oil and toasted on the grill or on a heavy, cast-iron comal
Fresh guacamole
Thin-sliced red onion
Shredded Mexican cheese
Sliced serrano or jalapeno peppers
Cilantro leaves

 

Directions:

Place the leftover pulled pork and the ingredients indicated in a 5-quart Dutch oven heated at 250-degrees in your oven.
Mix well and heat covered for two hours. Stir once at one hour.

After the second hour, check for tenderness. Reduce heat to 170-degrees F., if needed until ready. Serve in toasted tortilla shells with your choice of fresh guacamole, red onion, cilantro, and shredded Mexican cheese.

 

Serves: 4-6

Leftover Tex-Mex BBQ Pork Tacos | Culinary Compost Recipes

Ensure that there is enough chicken stock and BBQ sauce to just cover the pork. Braise it slow and low until tender.

 

 

Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket


Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket | Culinary Compost Recipes

Anything declared “the official BBQ dish of Texas” has to be good. This defines authentic BBQ brisket.  And it should come as no surprise that some good things take time to prepare.  Lots of time.

Lots of time with lots of cold beer.

The key to good brisket is selecting a quality cut of meat, and then smoking it at a constant temperature, slow and low over hardwood chips for many hours.

You’ll note that many people prefer to baste the surface of the beef with a light coat of yellow mustard before adding the rub. This is called “the glue” by BBQ afficionados, and in theory, helps the dry rub ingredients bind to the meat and keep it moist while smoking. In all honesty, I’ve never noticed a difference in taste, texture or juiciness with or without it. You decide.

Selecting a Quality Cut of Meat:
The grade of beef brisket available in most supermarkets or meat shops vary in quality and are:  Select, Choice and Prime. Prime is the best you can get, and you will pay a premium for it, so be prepared to take a hit on your wallet.  If you’re looking at a reasonably-priced cut of Select brisket on sale in your local supermarket, my advice is to not waste your time. You’ll want to go with a cut that’s at least Choice grade.  Remember, Quality in = quality out… you really do get what you pay for.  Spend a bit more money for an unbelievable finished product.  Here are some tips for getting started:

 

INGREDIENT:

1 Choice or Prime-grade cut of beef brisket; flat or point (calculate total pounds needed) with a generous fat cap and good marbling
BBQ brisket rub (Click here for Jim Fanto’s secret rub recipe)
Wood chips for smoking – either Hickory or Oak, with a small amount of Mesquite
Apple juice for the drip pan

You will also need:
Empty beer cooler (the unfortunate assumption is you’ve drank all of the beer while you waited.)
Thick bath towels
Plastic wrap and heavy aluminum foil
Digital timer

 

DIRECTIONS:

The night before you plan to smoke the brisket, lay out the meat on a large cutting board and trim the fat cap down to 1/4″. Note the grain of the meat* – you’ll need to use this for determining how to cut it after it’s done smoking (More on that in a bit.)  Sprinkle generously with dry rub, ensuring all sides are coated. Pat down with your hands and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, calculate the hours needed for the smoke, including time needed for the stall, or plateau and a 45min-1 hour rest before slicing, using 1.5 hours per pound as a minimum for your guide. For example:  Shown below in the photos is a brisket flat that’s just under 3 pounds. Let’s do the math;  3 x 1.5 = 4.5 hours.  Add at least 1 hour for the stall (explainer below), and one hour for the rest before slicing. This particular cut took exactly 6.5 hours, from the time I put it in the preheated smoker, to the time I took it out of the cooler after resting. Now, with that said, you will never know exactly how long the stall is, as this time varies by the weight and structure of the meat — if it has a lot of fat and marbling, it will react differently than a more lean cut of meat. After time, you will know roughly what to expect when planning for the stall.

The Stall, or Plateau, Defined:
There is nothing more frustrating thinking you’re going to be serving your BBQ masterpiece at 6pm, only to find out it stalled for over two hours at a fixed temperature, throwing off your plans until well after 8pm. At roughly 160-degrees F., meat will hover at a constant temperature before rising again to the proper temperature needed to remove and then let rest. This is called “the stall” and it’s a phenomenon caused by the evaporation of moisture from the meat in the smoker box, effectively cooling the meat for a time, until the temperature-to-water ratio in the box corrects itself. At this point, the temperature will increase again, with the final hour or two increasing more rapidly due to the rendering process of the fat.

Remember, the brisket will be done when it’s done, and it may not be a time that you can control. You’ll need to plan ahead for this in your calculation, giving you enough time for the smoke and rest.

Next Steps:
An hour before you are ready to smoke, preheat your smoker to 225-degrees F. Ensure the ash is cleaned from the wood tray and that the wood tray is properly seated around the heating element.  Add about two cups of apple juice to the drip pan and close the smoker door. At this time, remove the brisket from the fridge. Remove the plastic wrap and allow to warm up on your counter.

Oil a grill grate with peanut oil on both sides. Place the brisket on the grate and carefully place in the smoker. Insert the digital probe into the thickest part of the meat. Close and lock the door, ensuring it’s tight. That door needs to stay closed and be treated like a Prohibition-era bank vault for the entire smoke!  No peeking!  Add one cup of wood chips to the chip loader and then start a digital timer.

After 45 minutes, reload the wood chips. Add wood again after another 45 minutes. You will not need to load more wood after 135 total minutes as the meat will not absorb more smoke. In case you’re wondering, the magic meat temperature for this cutoff is about 140-degrees F.

Your target temp for removing the meat from the smoker is 195-197-degrees F.  As discussed above, at about 160 the meat will hit the stall and hover there for at least 45 minutes to several hours. At about 170-degrees it will start climbing. Check the internal meat probe temperature often after this point as it will continue to rise more quickly.

Remove the brisket from the smoker when it hits your target internal temperature of 195-197. Working quickly, remove the probe and wrap tightly in heavy aluminum foil.
Place the meat in the bottom of an empty beer cooler. Layer towels over the top of the meat (this acts as an insulator) and seal covered for 45-minutes to 1 hour.

Remove and slice carefully, perpendicular to the grain* in 3/8″ planks. Serve immediately with your favorite BBQ sauce on the side, potatoes, beans, roast corn, or just about any other Southern dish you can think of. Brisket plays nice with everything. Enjoy!!

Jim Fanto's Secret BBQ Beef Brisket Rub | Culinary Compost Recipes

Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket | Culinary Compost RecipesSmoked BBQ Beef Brisket | Culinary Compost Recipes

Texas-Style BBQ Ham Sandwiches


Texas-Style Sliced BBQ Ham Sandwiches | Culinary Compost RecipesThis is a simple and economical way to use up leftover ham, whether it be a bone-in or boneless. Minimal fuss elevates this utilitarian sandwich into a very satisfying family favorite. For this recipe, be sure to sear the ham in a heavy pot over medium heat to bring out the flavor. Don’t worry — It will be super-moist and tender.  Serve on classic thick-cut white bread with cheese, red onion, slaw or sliced pickles.  It’s even great leftover and cold. Hot-damn, this is good eats!!

 

Ingredients:

1/4 lb. thinly-sliced leftover ham, per person
1 small white onion, sliced roughly, lengthwise
1 tbs. butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce
Thick-cut sandwich bread, buttered
Sliced white American or Colby cheese
Thinly sliced red onion
Coleslaw (optional)
sliced dill pickle chips

 

Directions:

Thinly slice the ham and set aside. Using a large, heavy cast-iron pot or chicken fryer, heat the butter over medium until melted. Working in batches if needed, add the ham and spread evenly over the bottom of the cooking surface. Increase heat slightly, and brown the ham slices on both sides until there is a nice sear. Reduce heat to low and add the sliced white onion. Stir with a wooden spatula to incorporate. Heat for five minutes, then add the BBQ sauce and mix. Cover with a heavy lid and gently heat for 15-30 minutes, stirring once.

Remove from heat and serve on buttered white bread with sliced cheese, red onion or slaw, and sliced dill pickle chips.

Texas-Style Sliced BBQ Ham Sandwiches | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mike’s Borracho Beans


The Spanish word borracho literally means drunken. This is a recipe based on a signature dish served at Joe’s Texas BBQ in Green Bay Wisconsin. At Joe’s, they use their home-prepared smoked sausage and a small amount of burnt-ends, which I don’t have access to. I improvised and used chorizo and a ham shank on bone, using the water it simmers in as a savory reduction broth. Negra Modelo beer is also added. This is a really great recipe but you have to allow enough time for it to cook – it cannot be rushed or the results will be for naught.

Go easy on the salt!  The ham and chorizo are loaded with it.  Enjoy-

Ingredients:

1 ham shank on bone
Cold water
2 links spicy chorizo sausage
3 cups dry pinto beans
1 14.5 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup strong black coffee
1 12 oz. bottle Negra Modelo beer
32 oz. beef stock
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled, and minced
1 flame-peeled poblano pepper, diced
1 tbs. ground chipotle, to taste
1 tbs. ground cumin, toasted from seed
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground Mexican oregano
1/2 tbs. ground ancho chili powder
2 dry bay leaves
1 cup cilantro leaves – washed and stemmed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs. rendered bacon fat
Dash of fresh-squeezed lime juice

Preparation:

Wash the dry pinto beans in a colander and cover in cold water overnight.
When ready, heat the smoked pork ham shank in a 5-qt cast-iron dutch oven, partially covered,  with enough water to just cover the shank. Simmer on medium-low for about 2 hours, until the meat falls off the bone.
Rotate occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Remove from heat and place aside in a dish to cool. SAVE  the water the ham shank was simmered in.
De-bone the shank and trim meat of all fat – cutting into bite-sized pieces. Discard the bone,  and place the meat back into the pot with the reserved water. Bring to a slow boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Add the can of whole peeled tomatoes and crush with a potato masher. Add the coffee and beer. Rinse the beans and add to the pot.

In a separate heavy pan, sautee the onion and garlic on medium-low heat in 2 tbs. rendered bacon fat until translucent – about 15 minutes. Take care not to burn the garlic.
Add to the pot with the dry spices and bay leaves.

Brown the chorizo sausage in a separate pan – cut into 1/2″ chunks and add to the pot.
Using a propane torch or a burner, blacken the poblano – peel and dice. Add to the pot.

Add the beef stock and simmer uncovered on low for about 4 hours, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally.  Add the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Stir before serving.

NOTE: The consistency is not supposed to resemble baked beans. There should be a nice, rich broth. Add more beef stock or a bit of water if it becomes too thick.

Serves 6-8
Makes about 4 quarts

Simmered Ham Shank Boned and Cubed Ham Shank Chorizo Sausage Mike's Borracho Beans

Tejas Potato Chips


This is a recipe I reverse-engineered after my stay at the University of Texas in Austin. These homestyle chips were served at the Carillon Bar and Grill in the AT&T campus hotel. A killer complement to smoked brisket and fine tequila.

Ingredients:

4 large potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into thin planks
3 tbs. salt
2 quarts cold water

~

2 tbs. ground smoked paprika
2 tbs. ground ancho chili
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Lawry’s salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
(makes a little more than 1/3 cup)

Directions:

Prepare dry spices and set aside.

Place two quarts of cold water in a large pot. Add three tbs. salt and mix well. Scrub the potatoes and leave the skins on. Slice in to thin planks with a mandolin and add to the salted water.
Leave in the water for at least 1/2 hour. Drain and rinse with cold water. Repeat.

Heat 1.25 quarts vegetable oil in a large cast-iron pot until temperature reaches 375° F.
Add the chips in two batches, stirring occasionally with a Chinese spider strainer, for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel.
Add the chips to a shaker bag with about 2 tbs. of the dry spices and shake until well coated. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Mike’s Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas


Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

No other dish comes close to the excitement and flair of a hot skillet of fajitas served for hungry guests. The aroma, sizzle and spice create a memorable experience that is perfect for just about any occasion – indoors or out. Fajitas are an Americanized version of Mexican flank steak (faja meaning “belt”.) Texans would probably like to lay claim to the fajita, but history gives credit to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border in the late 1930s or early 1940s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as skirt steak.

The fajita is truly Tex-Mex cuisine (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak — and with that bit of history, enjoy the recipe. I’ve tweaked and niggled it for over ten years.

 

Ingredients:

2 pounds skirt, flank or sirloin steak
1 huge spanish or red onion, cut in thin wedges
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large green bell pepper or poblano, cut in strips (if using poblanos, you must remove the tough, outer skin)
1/4 cup washed fresh cilantro leaves (more for garnish, if desired)
Juice of one fresh lime
1 large ripe tomato
Kosher salt, to taste

FOR THE MARINADE-
Mike’s fajita rub
1 tsp. liquid smoke
Juice of 3 fresh limes (a very effective natural tenderizer)
4 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup XV olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

FOR THE GRILL-
Wood charcoal (please, gas grills just don’t do this recipe justice.)
Mesquite wood chips
12×12″ aluminum foil square

 

Preparation:

Aggressively pierce the flank steak with a needle tenderizer on both sides, sprinkle generously with rub (working it in with your fingers) and place in large ziplock bag. Mix the marinade ingredients well in a bowl and add to the bag. DO NOT SLICE UP THE STEAK AT THIS POINT. YOU WILL DO THIS AFTER YOU GRILL IT. Coat well, remove the air and place the sealed bag in the fridge for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Rotate occasionally.

Prepare your mesquite chips for the grill by either soaking them in water for a couple hours OR by placing them dry in a wrapped aluminum foil packet with several holes punched in the side. Either method works well. If you cannot find mesquite chips you can also use hickory.

When ready to grill, cut up your vegetables and set aside so you don’t have to rush everything at once.

Prepare the grill with real wood charcoal; when they turn white, throw on the mesquite chips. Sprinkle a little more fajita rub on each side of the steak. Grill until it is medium-rare, 7-10 minutes. YOU WILL FINISH COOKING THE STEAK IN THE PAN, so don’t worry if it’s a tad pink or even red. This is a good thing.

Remove the steak from the grill and set aside on a cutting board for FIVE MINUTES. This step is critical, as the juices of the steak will draw back into the meat. If you cut it immediately, it would dry out and be tough.

Restoke the charcoal, if necessary. Bring a large, well-seasoned cast-iron pan up to HIGH heat. There really is no substitute for cast-iron with this recipe. The intense heat will warp or burn the non-stick coating off all other pans. I also don’t like using the smaller fajita-style pans like restaurants use, as they are ridiculously small for a family-sized portion prepared in one easy batch. I prefer to place the pan directly on the outdoor charcoal grilling grate.

Add about two tbs. of olive oil to the pan and sear the onion and peppers until slightly blackened. Stir once and add the garlic.

Using a very sharp chef knife, quickly slice up the meat in 1/4″ strips at a bias, ensuring the cuts are perpendicular to the grain of the meat. Add to the pan and stir once. Top with chopped tomato and lightly salt. Add the cilantro leaves and drizzle with lime juice. Remove from heat immediately and serve on tortilla shells with guacamole and your choice of salsa.

Serves 4-6

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Don’t fret if you didn’t get it right the first time. This recipe is a lot of work and requires split-second timing during the cooking process. Practice makes perfect and you will ascend to grilling guru status in no time!

Mesquite-Grilled Steak Fajitas | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mike's Famous Guacamole | Culinary Compost

Preparing Roasted Poblano Peppers | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the roasted poblano peppers.

Toasting Flour Tortillas over a Cast-Iron Comal | Culinary Compost

Toasting flour tortillas over a cast-iron comal.

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.