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The New Barbecue

From the Wall Street Journal …….

A specter is haunting the barbecue world: the specter of stale smoke. Don’t get me wrong—barbecue is our great American food, a high art attained through years of patient training by men as single-minded as samurai. But it has also become stagnant and so dogmatic that many pit masters haven’t changed their recipes or routines in decades. Some shaking up is in order. And, at long last, it’s happening. The New ‘Cue is here.

The beef brisket at Smoke in Dallas may look like classic Texas barbecue, but chef Tim Byres gives it an edge with a bold coffee cure and other sly innovations.

Really, it shouldn’t come as a shock. American cooking is being reinvented before our eyes by the most creative, skilled generation of chefs in history. It was only a matter of time before some of them took on the sacred cow of barbecue. At the Granary ‘Cue & Brew in San Antonio, Tim Rattray serves a classic Texas menu of brisket, ribs, links and other standards at lunch. But at dinner, barbecue comes in the form of composed, unmistakably modern dishes. A dish of beef shoulder gets texture and tang from garnishes of crunchy, coffee-laced quinoa and pickled celery. Moroccan lamb shoulder sits on a fluffy bed of preserved-lemon couscous and spiced crème fraîche. In an especially flagrant act of barbecue heresy, even vegetables occasionally star. Mr. Rattray smokes cauliflower in his barbecue pit, then juices it and uses the smoky stock to make a risotto dotted with gelled cubes of craft IPA brewed by his brother, Alex, the Granary’s co-owner and brewmaster.

“Just because it’s barbecue doesn’t mean it has to always stay the same,” Mr. Rattray told me. “I love classic barbecue, and I think we make a great version of it here. But I want to take it further.”

Though not a modernist like Mr. Rattray, Tim Byres at Smoke in Dallas hews to another great trend in contemporary American cooking: the return to following the seasons and sourcing ingredients locally. Smoke has its own vegetable garden and displays a kind of primitivist bent that feels revolutionary, especially in a city like Dallas, which is so dominated by big chains. “Dallas is pretty straightlaced,” said Mr. Byres. “They want what they know. We’re very rustic, but also sophisticated, which is something people don’t see much here.” The key, of course, is that Smoke’s barbecue stands up to the rigid standards of purists. The coffee-cured brisket, one of the restaurant’s most celebrated offerings, is an accomplishment any old-school pit master would be proud of. But it’s also more than that: a multi-dimensional dish with a bittersweet undertone and an acidic edge. It improves on the classic salt-and-pepper brisket without appearing to rebel against it.

Nobody tells you that five different kinds of chili were ground that day for the rub, or that the dark espresso was chosen for its umami depth, or that cooks are trimming and re-searing and re-seasoning the meat at multiple stages of the process. All you know is that it’s great.

It’s more or less a coincidence that the Two Tims, as I think of them, are from Texas. The New ‘Cue isn’t happening only in the Lone Star State, or, for that matter, in the other great barbecue centers (Deep South, North Carolina, Kansas City). If anything, it’s less likely to show up there, given the prevailing barbecue fundamentalism. In Texas it’s heresy to even put sauce on beef, much less flash-fried quinoa. Outside of the Barbecue Belt, nothing is holding back barbecuers from thinking like chefs, or chefs from cooking real barbecue.

In San Francisco, for instance, you get guys like Ryan Ostler, at Hi-Lo BBQ, putting smoked brisket and house-made spicy Thai sausage into a Vietnamese-style pho steeped with smoked marrow. Up in Boston, Andy Husbands dominates the world of competition barbecue with straight-up ribs and pork butt. And then at his restaurant, Tremont 647, he turns around and serves tasting menus of dishes like “smoke-vide” beef ribs—a preparation that combines smoking with the sous-vide method of cooking vacuum-sealed food in a low-temperature water bath—and smoked duck-confit po’boys.

On the competition circuit, where hundreds of portly men with beards cook essentially the same terrible food (as a certified judge, believe me, I know), originality is as frightening as a hand reaching up out of a freshly dug grave. As Mr. Husbands sees it, barbecue isn’t the exclusive property of that insular community. “These days we see chefs of all types embracing older styles of cooking like charcuterie, butchery—and barbecue. This year’s International Chefs Congress in New York City will even be hosting a barbecue competition. It’s a true cuisine with limitless possibilities.”

The difference between old and new ‘cue goes as deep as the meat itself. Almost all commercial barbecue, from the day it was invented, has consisted of the worst, cheapest beef and pork available. That is basically why it was invented—to break down tough, gnarly cuts via long, slow cooking. (The smoke was just a byproduct of the crude fuel that happened to impart deliciousness.)

The reason Texas barbecue is served on butcher paper is because it was popularized by butchers looking to move meat nobody wanted. Hugh Mangum, a former line cook at the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant Nougatine, does relatively straightforward barbecue at Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue, his sleek, minimalist place in New York’s East Village. But he uses heirloom-breed Berkshire pigs, famed for their pure flavor and well-marbled flesh, for his obscenely rich pulled pork.

“In my fine dining days, we took it for granted that better ingredients yield better results,” Mr. Mangum said. “Plus, I don’t want to feed my customers what I wouldn’t feed my kids. Just because it’s barbecue doesn’t mean it has to stay the same. I want to take it further.”

Wherever he’s coming from, people like it: Mighty Quinn’s is jammed every night, as are most of the other places venturing beyond the ‘cue canon. The people of San Antonio are still wrapping their heads around the Granary, but I give it six months before reservations get scarce. “What the hell is this?” a man asked me when I was there recently. “Can’t I just get some brisket?” Buddy! I wanted to say. There are a million places to get brisket, and 95% of it tastes exactly the same. There’s room in the pit for something more.


Tim Byres’s BBQ Beef Brisket With Coffee Cure

Brisket is a challenging cut to cook well; low and slow is the only way. This recipe, from Tim Byres of Smoke, in Dallas, takes some 14 hours in all, but the results are tender and juicy every time. The dry rub combines classic barbecue spices with earthy dark-roast coffee. The salt and sugar in the rub cure the exterior of the meat and help form the tasty, charred crust called “bark.”

Active Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 14½ hours Serves: 16

For the coffee rub:

1⁄3 cup finely ground dark-roast coffee

1⁄3 cup dark chili powder

1⁄3 cup smoked paprika

½ cup kosher salt

2⁄3 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the brisket:

12-pound whole beef brisket

For the tomato-and-molasses barbecue sauce:

2 cups ketchup

2 cups diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 1⁄3 cups distilled white vinegar

5 tablespoons Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons granulated garlic

4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed

½ pound brown sugar

2⁄3 cup molasses

Salt and black pepper

1. Make rub: Mix all ingredients in a bowl, using your hands to break up any clumps.

2. Pat brisket dry with a towel. Massage 2 cups rub into brisket. (The rub will soak up any remaining liquid from beef and form a crust.) Place brisket on a large plate, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.

3. Prepare a smoker for smoking according to manufacturer’s instructions, maintaining a steady temperature of 225 degrees. Place brisket, fat-side up, on center rack of smoker and smoke 12 hours, or 1 hour per pound. Leave smoker closed throughout; there is no need to check meat as it smokes.

4. After 12 hours, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of brisket. Internal temperature should read 185 degrees. Once that temperature is reached, open door of smoker and let meat rest 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make barbecue sauce: Combine all ingredients except molasses in a large stockpot set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Whisk in molasses, then carefully transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Transfer smoked brisket to a cutting board and cut according to instructions above. Serve sliced brisket with sauce on the side, and serve chopped brisket topped with sauce and a sprinkling of additional coffee rub on a toasted bun.

—Adapted from “Smoke: New Firewood Cooking” by Tim Byres (Rizzoli)


Fire-Roasted Oysters

Chef Tim Byres adds guajillo chilies to the compound butter traditionally used in shrimp scampi, then dollops it onto oysters along with bread crumbs, Mexican-style chorizo sausage and smoky chipotle salsa. You can shuck the oysters a couple of hours in advance and leave them nestled in their shells, upright and covered, in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill. The scampi butter can be prepared in advance, too, and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.

Total Time: 1½ hours Serves: 20

For the scampi butter:

20 guajillo chilies, stemmed

¼ cup white wine

1 small shallot, roughly chopped

15 garlic cloves

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

For the oysters:

5 dozen oysters, scrubbed and rinsed

1 1/3 cups Mexican-style chorizo (about 1 pound), removed from casing and crumbled

2⁄3 cup plain bread crumbs

1 1/3 cups chipotle salsa

1. Make scampi butter: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toast chilies until fragrant, 15 seconds per side. When cool enough to handle, slit chilies and remove seeds. Place chilies in a bowl, cover with very hot water and steep 10 minutes. Drain chilies and transfer to a food processor along with remaining scampi butter ingredients except butter. Pulse to create a paste. Add butter and pulse to incorporate. Set aside.

2. Shuck oysters, leaving meat inside bottom halves of shells. Discard empty half-shells.

3. In a skillet set over medium heat, cook chorizo, breaking it up with a spoon, until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.

4. Prepare a grill for cooking over high heat. Top each oyster with 1 tablespoon scampi butter, 1 teaspoon chorizo and ½ teaspoon bread crumbs. Use tongs to place oysters on grill and cook with flames licking up around oysters until shells are charred at edges and butter is bubbly, 3-5 minutes. Remove oysters from grill and top each with 1 teaspoon salsa.

—Adapted from “Smoke: New Firewood Cooking” by Tim Byres (Rizzoli)


Grilled BBQ Cornish Game Hen

A Cornish game hen is a chicken raised for 28 to 32 days, as opposed to the 42 days necessary for a full-grown bird. It is half the size of a standard chicken, has more white meat and weighs an average of 1¼ pounds, bone-in—the perfect individual portion size. This recipe riffs on the elements of traditional chicken salad: cucumber, grapes, walnuts and honey. Verjus, used in the vinaigrette, is the tart juice of unripe wine grapes; a lighter alternative to vinegar, it is available at specialty grocers.

Total Time: 1 hour Serves: 6

For the Cornish game hens:

Six 1¼-pound Cornish game hens

6 shallots, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, stemmed

For the garnish:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 bunch red grapes, separated into 6 smaller bunches

For the vinaigrette:

1 large red bell pepper, finely diced

1 medium English cucumber, finely diced

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 cups verjus

2 teaspoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup walnut oil

1. Use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the backbone from each hen, then open hens and lay flat, skin-side up. Toss remaining ingredients together in a bowl and tuck mixture under skin of breasts and thighs.

2. Prepare a grill for cooking over medium-high heat. Lay hens skin-side down on grill and cook 2 minutes, then rotate hens 90 degrees to create hash marks on exterior and cook 2 minutes more. Flip hens and continue to cook until golden and a meat thermometer inserted into breast meat reads 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove hens from grill and set aside to rest, uncovered, 10 minutes.

3. Make garnish: Add oil to a skillet set over high heat, then add grapes and cook, shaking pan often to ensure even cooking, until skins blister slightly, 3-5 minutes.

4. Make vinaigrette: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Ladle a generous amount of vinaigrette with vegetables onto each plate. Place 1 hen on each plate and top with a small bunch of grapes.

—Adapted from “Smoke: New Firewood Cooking” by Tim Byres (Rizzoli)

Source: Wall Street Journal

Fatty Acids Found in Fish Linked to Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

Women who consume an increased number of omega-3 fatty acids found naturally in fish like salmon, tuna or sardines are less likely to develop breast cancer, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers from the Zhejiang University concluded that 0.1 g per day or 0.1% energy per day increments of intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) were associated with a 5% reduction in risk. In order to achieve the reduction, oily fish such as salmon, tuna or sardines, should be consumed in 1 to 2 portions per person per week the study concluded.

More than 800,000 women—including 20,000 who had breast cancer—from the United States, Europe and Asia participated in the study to examine n-3 PUFAs and the correlation of decreased cancer risk. Studies suggest that healthy diet and lifestyle is crucial for the prevention of the common cancer.

The n-3 PUFAs include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are involved in chemical messaging in the brain, help regulate blood vessel activity and areas of the immune system. The main dietary sources of EPA, DPA and DHA come from oily fish, while ALA is found mainly in nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables.

Marine n-3 PUFA was associated with a 14% reduction of breast cancer between the highest and lowest category of marine n-3 PUFA intake. The risk was lowest in Asian populations, probably because fish intake is much higher in Asia than in western countries, say the authors.

The researchers concluded by saying, “evidence from either experimental or observational studies suggests a protective effect of marine n-3 PUFA on breast cancer, though no conclusive results have been achieved. Our present study provides solid and robust evidence that marine n-3 PUFA are inversely associated with risk of breast cancer. The protective effect of fish or individual n-3 PUFA warrants further investigation of prospective studies.”

A previous study from South Korea showed similar results for women with pre- and postmenopausal state.

Source: BMJ Group

Cooking Pumpkin with Ground Pork

Ingredients

20 oz small pumpkin
200 g ground pork
3 slices ginger
2 tbsp oil

Sauce

1 cup water
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking wine
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
dash ground white pepper

Thickening

1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

Method

  1. Remove seeds of pumpkin. Cut into pieces with skin on.
  2. Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok. Sauté ginger until fragrant. Add pork and stir-fry until no longer pink.
  4. Mix in sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
  5. Add thickening and bring to a boil again. When sauce thickens, remove and serve.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

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