Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Adventures in Texas Barbecue

One of my favorite parts about our vicarage year in Texas was the barbecue.  I speak as a lifelong Northerner when I say that Northerners know nothing about barbecue.  Up here, we slather a pile of chicken or shredded pork in sauce and call it "barbecue."  Or we cook brats on the grill and say we're "barbecuing."  Texas barbecue has nothing to do with sauce (or a grill, really) and everything to do with a long, slow bask in a smoker.  The sauce is an extra.  They serve it on the side, along with pickles, onions, jalapenos, and two slices of bread.  Those things are okay, but the important part is the meat--huge slabs of brisket and ribs and the best sausages you'll ever devour.  It's the food of... well... Texans.

Our favorite local barbecue joint was a place called Vitek's BBQ, known as the "home of the Gut Pak."  We ate at picnic tables outside in the sweltering heat, up to our elbows in half-racks of ribs and mounds of chopped beef, the screen door slapping behind us as men in cowboy boots and Texas drawls strolled out with their Styrofoam clamshells of meat and coleslaw.  You can smoke all the mesquite chips you want, but if you want real live Texas barbecue, you really just have to go down there.


The other day, I found a delicious-looking recipe for Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork.  I was a little skeptical about the "Texas" part, especially since one of the main ingredients was barbecue sauce, but I had a ton of pork and was suddenly inspired to start my search for the best pulled pork recipe ever.  Plus, my lonely little slow cooker almost never comes out of the cupboard, due to my suspicion toward all things crock pot, and I figured it was high time I put that thing to use on a foolproof recipe.

Someone had commented on the recipe that 24 hours on low made a beautiful, melt-in-your-mouth concoction of barbecue-y goodness, so I started the pork before bed.  Plus, I was using pork chops, not a roast, so I figured the tougher cut would benefit from a low, slow cook time.  We woke up the next morning to a mouth-watering aroma; the pork was bubbling happily and already so tender I could barely turn it.  All day I dreamed about the wonderful sandwiches that awaited our ravenous dinnertime appetites.

We came home to this:

In case the poor photo quality might have confused you, this is a very gross pot of very overcooked, dry pork chunks sitting in grease.  As my husband put it, the pulled pork was perfect--at some point around lunchtime when we were both gone.  By the time we got home, however, it was anything but.

Oh, and did I mention it was our anniversary?  We ended up feasting sumptuously on a Little Caesar's Hot-N-Ready pizza and some sort of amazing cheese-encrusted and butter-drenched bread.  (Don't worry; our real anniversary plans aren't until this weekend anyway.  Still.  It's the principle of the thing.)

I think I'm just going to leave barbecue to the Texans.

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