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BBQ Chronicles: Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue–Jasper, TX

The hunt for the best barbecue continues with the second joint today. This is a small victory as I have always wanted to hit more than one restaurant on the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ establishments in a single day. Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue happens to be number 9. I have a hair less than four years to visit the other 41 before the list is updated. I have my work cut out for me as these places are as far at 500 miles from home.

I wasn’t hungry when we rolled into Jasper, but I was here to eat barbecue. I knew I wanted brisket and when we found the dilapidated restaurant, I knew we were going to experience some magic.

I chose the sliced brisket sandwich. I wasn’t expecting this monstrosity as it was quite large. Topped with pickles and onions, this sauce soaked sandwich was perfect. I only wish I had ordered the sauce on the side. The sauce was decent, but I came for the meat.

The sliced brisket was very nice. It was juicy and the fat was rendered beautifully. It was a bit toothsome, but it certainly wasn’t tough. I had forgotten to ask for untrimmed meat, so I was pleased when I saw that the crusty bark was intact.

The meat had a mild flavor. Not too much smoke, and it wasn’t overpowered with seasoning. It was a simple, beefy masterpiece. At only 2 1/2 hours from home, I can see myself loading up the family for a nice meaty adventure. This is easily a 4.0/5.0. Well done, Texas Monthly. This BBQ doesn’t disappoint.

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BBQ Chronicles: Hitch-N-Post–Livingston, TX

It’s been a few months since I have been able to hunt for some good Texas BBQ. It is a bit of a tradition that I enjoy with my oldest daughter, Alli. I’m not a hunter, so we aren’t likely to go kill deer as we spend time together, but we have our own game we like to track down. We decided to have lunch at the Hitch-N-Post in Livingston, TX. It’s 3 1/2 hours from home so we had time to work up an appetite.

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Schlock.

We both ordered untrimmed fatty brisket which in my estimation, is the best tasting meat. I usually try the sausage as well, but we are planning an early supper at another BBQ place and I don’t want to gorge myself.

The brisket, though cooked, could probably have used another four hours in the smoker to completely render the fat and make the meat fork tender. I actually had to use a knife to cut the meat. There was a beautiful smoke ring and a decent crust, but I was hoping for a denser crust. Then again, this ain’t Lockhart.

The beans were good, but they were punched up canned beans. The potato salad probably came from Brookshire Brothers, but I came for the meat. The sides are just a bonus.

More schlock.
More schlock.

Apparently, the proprietor has a policy to give free cake to first time customers. He was a really nice BBQ enthusiast as he asked if I had tried Snow’s in Lexington. Then he started showing me pictures of BBQ joints on his phone.

The ambience was a schlockfest with old tricycles dangling from the ceiling and tiki umbrellas reminiscent of Gilligan’s Island. It was enjoyable soaking it in while I soaked up sauce with my bread.

The food was good. I would rate it a 3.0/5.0, but with the outstanding service and friendly atmosphere, I rate it a solid 3.5. Hitch-N-Post is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

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Minced garlic.

Chocolate Chicken Fricassee

I don’t feel like I have been all that productive this week as I have been dealing with a flare up.  It’s just one of those things.  One day you feel decent, the next day you feel like you got hit by a truck.  Gone are the days where I feel like a rockstar.  I’m just glad for the days where I don’t shuffle like an old man.  

My kids tell me to hobble like the wind which reminds me of soft rocker Christopher Cross.  I’m then reminded of a quote from Butthead.  Regarding soft rockers, he said, “They decided to rebel against their parents by making even softer rock.”  That’s the mark of ultimate rebellion.  Nevertheless, “Ride Like the Wind” and “Sailing” have been stuck on my mental playlist for 34 years.  I try to push it out with Metallica or Dave Brubeck, but Christopher Cross usually wins the Battle of the Bands inside my brain.

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Around 11:30 last night I was inspired to make chicken fricassee…with chocolate.  I nearly jumped into my soccer mom minivan to score some chicken thighs and chocolate last night, but I was able to resist the temptation until this afternoon.  I know, chocolate chicken just doesn’t sound all that appealing.  It’s not like chocolate fondue or anything, just enough to add a touch of panache.  My biggest critics are my kids and they thought it was great.  If my kids like it, it’s a big win for me.

Ingredients

6 chicken thighs

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 cup flour (for dredging the chicken)

2 slices bacon

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup flour

5 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 ounce 70% dark chocolate

1 tablespoon chicken base

3 tablespoons A1 steak sauce

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 pound linguine (or pasta of your choice)

Seasoning Blend for Chicken

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

I love anything with gravy.
I love anything with gravy.

Method

Rinse chicken and remove excess fat and skin.  Pat dry with a paper towel.  Rub seasoning blend into chicken and coat with mustard.  Allow chicken to marinate for 30 minutes.

Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

Render fat from two slices bacon in a cast iron dutch oven.  Remove and add 1/2 cup vegetable oil.  When heated, add chicken, skin side down.  Cook in two batches.  Allow chicken to fry over medium heat for four minutes and turn.  Allow to fry three minutes longer.

While chicken is frying, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove chicken and pour 3/4 cup flour into pot.  Combine oil and flour to make a roux.  Turn heat down to low and stir continuously until roux is a dark brown, about the color of milk chocolate.

Once the roux is sufficiently dark, add sliced onions.  This will stop the browning process.  Saute until onions begin to soften and add garlic.  Continue to cook until fragrant and onions are soft.

Add water and stir until roux has completely dissolved, resulting in a smooth gravy.

Add bay leaves, chocolate, steak sauce, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, chili powder, paprika, oregano, parsley flakes, and cayenne.  Blend well and and taste.  Make adjustments if necessary.

Mince the two slices of bacon and add to the gravy.  Also, introduce the par-fried chicken to the pot.  Cover and place in oven for 45 minutes.

About fifteen minutes before chicken is ready, prepare pasta according to the directions on the package. Enjoy.

Chocolate chicken fricassee on a bed of linguine.
Chocolate chicken fricassee on a bed of linguine.

Pastrami and Prosciutto Melt on Rye with Pepperoni Mustard

I’m a sandwich addict.  I just can’t help myself.  If you have followed my work, you would know that I’m continually thinking about food.  The flexibility of the sandwich is what attracts me to this culinary medium.  One creation that was especially tasty was my Monstrous Meatloaf on Ciabatta.  Another traditional favorite is my take on the grilled cheese.  Or, there’s always the egg salad sandwich.  If you have the time, you can make Scintillating Chicken Salad Sliders on Arepas, or you can go all out and make my favorite one–the Scotch Egg Sandwich on a Pretzel Roll with Horseradish Mustard.  That took some work, but if you like bratwurst like I do, you’ll be sated.

I’ve been wanting to make pepperoni mustard for a couple of weeks now.  Originally, I thought it would go well with corned beef, but I just couldn’t pass up the pastrami.  Besides, the whole family likes pastrami.  Corned beef?  Not so much.

The pepperoni mustard only takes about fifteen minutes with the aid of a ninja-like food processor.  I don’t even own a food processor.  I had to borrow one to try this creation out.  The sandwich is also easy.  Just stack meat to the sky.

Stack 6 slices of pastrami in preheated iron skillet.  Place two slices prosciutto and top with swiss cheese.  Cover and let heat for two minutes.
Stack 6 slices of pastrami in preheated iron skillet. Place two slices prosciutto and top with swiss cheese. Cover and let heat for two minutes.

Ingredients

6-8 slices pastrami

2 slices prosciutto

3 slices Swiss cheese

2 slices rye bread

4 thinly sliced red onion rings

2 tablespoons jalapenos

1 tablespoon pepperoni mustard

Pepperoni mustard spread on a pastrami and prosciutto melt on rye.
Pepperoni mustard spread on a pastrami and prosciutto melt on rye.

Method

Preheat an iron skillet over medium heat.  I got a paper towel with some vegetable oil and rubbed it over the hot skillet to keep the meat from sticking.

Stack pastrami, prosciutto, and cheese in skillet and cover for two minutes so the cheese melts.  Carefully remove stack with a large spatula and place on a slice of rye bread.  Top with onions and jalapenos.  Spread pepperoni mustard on second slice of bread.  Top sandwich with second slice of bread.  Enjoy.

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pepperoni mustard

Pepperoni Mustard

Yeah, I know it sounds kinda strange.  I just have so much pepperoni at the house.  It’s definitely a problem I don’t mind having, but I have to use up the pepperoni so I can purchase…more pepperoni.

This spread will go nicely on sandwiches and it’s simple to make.

Ingredients

1 cup sliced pepperoni, packed (like you would do brown sugar)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon Mezzetta sun-ripened tomatoes in olive oil

2 tablespoons Maille whole grain mustard

Method

Using a food processor, chop pepperoni and olive oil into a slurry.  Slurry just doesn’t evoke feelings of deliciousness, but trust me.  Add all other ingredients except the whole grain mustard and blend in the food processor.  Stir in the whole grain mustard by hand so that the texture is maintained.

Spread on your favorite sandwich and enjoy.

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I’m A Dashionista–Roasted Potatoes and Smoked Sausage

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I just received a check in the mail today from Mrs. Dash.  Yep, I sent in a variation of this recipe and I guess they thought it was good enough to eat.  I think I need a vanity plate that says “DSHINSTA.”  I updated this recipe so that you can enjoy it as it was submitted.  

My only wish is that I could have gotten a tiara.

Ingredients:

4 medium russet potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup mirepoix (I’m feeling puny today so I used some of the frozen variety)
1/2 pound Down Home sausage, split lengthwise, then split again and chopped
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tomato, chopped
Olive oil
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Table Blend

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine first five ingredients.

Drizzle olive oil and toss to coat.

Season with Mrs. Dash.

Roast uncovered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Can God Embody Both Love and Justice?

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Whenever a celebrity dies, the world weeps and vapid remarks like R.I.P. or “[insert celebrity name here] is in a better place” flood the internet. I’ve never heard someone say anything like, “[insert celebrity name here] lived in opposition to God, the Creator of the universe, and is in a real pickle.” Why do people always assume someone is in a better place after they die? It’s as if the world is caught up in a Ponzi scheme constructed of wishful thinking.

When someone dies, it is a reminder that our own death is drawing near. James, Jesus’ half brother, couldn’t be any clearer. He says, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (‭James‬ ‭4‬:‭14‬ ESV)

It is imperative that we know that certain conditions must be met before we can be assured that we “are going to a better place” after we die. Jesus says we must repent of our sins and put our trust in Him. People like to say that God is Love but say nothing about repentance. They must not have read Matthew 4:17. We cannot simply give Jesus a nod and continue living a lascivious lifestyle. We must repent.

It is true that God loves his creation, but is God so one sided? God has many attributes that we are comfortable with, but when we consider Him as the Judge, some try to deny Him of this trait because it is mean. Is it really mean, though?

When someone commits murder, do we want justice or do we want to set him free. We want the judge to sentence him to a long stay in prison. Even in our fallen nature, we have a sense of justice. But if we are confronted with the possibility of hell, we decide that our sins, crimes against the holy God are not significant enough to warrant hell. In fact, we like to believe that everyone will go to heaven. Except Hitler. We aren’t as bad as Hitler, right?

We forget about the numerous sins we commit daily against God. We are all liars, thieves, murderers and adulterers in our hearts, but we don’t deserve justice because only Hitler goes to hell. He is worse than we are. If only our eternity hinged on comparing ourselves to Hitler, everyone would go to heaven. Except Hitler of course.

We have to quit deluding ourselves into believing we are good people. What does the Bible day about man’s innate goodness? Paul clarifies the matter by quoting scripture. He says, “[A]s it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'” (Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭10-12 ESV) It’s a good thing that only Hitler deserves hell.

God hates sin and He must punish it. No matter how emphatically we conjure the Hitler fallacy, we still stand condemned. Yet we cling to this idea of comparative goodness.

If God is a loving God and if He also demands justice, how can He accomplish both? The answer is Jesus Christ. God himself came to this earth to die in our place. The judgment on our heads was transferred to Him. Through Christ’s work on the cross, God is able to reconcile the apparent paradox regarding love and justice.

The death of a public figure is a reminder that death stalks us all. Granted, only God can see into our hearts, so should we remain silent on eternal matters? Jesus gives insight into what a Christian looks like. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John‬ ‭15‬:‭5-6‬ ESV)

This knowledge isn’t so we can point fingers. Jesus shared this so that we can search our own hearts to know if we truly are one of His sheep. I don’t want anyone to go to hell, but we should not assume that everyone goes to heaven because it is misleading. If we tell the people we love an unequivocal statement like, “[insert celebrity name here] is in a better place” even if evidence points to the contrary, we are spreading damnable lies that puts our loved ones’ souls in jeopardy. If we do not submit to Christ, we will have firsthand knowledge that Hitler isn’t alone in hell.

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Can You Be A Member of the Church Without Attending Church?

The world has an incredible hold on many who consider themselves Christians. Americans have been conditioned by the “ask Jesus into your heart” mantra. But is it biblical? Is it biblical to say a short prayer and check it off your bucket list? Did Jesus hang on the cross so we can whisper a prayer only to continue with our lives as if nothing ever happened?

A common argument for Christians and non-Christians alike is that attendance at a church is unnecessary for worship. I don’t disagree there. A church is merely a building, but the intent behind the argument is typically, “I worship in my own way and corporate worship is unprofitable because all churchgoers are hypocrites.”

We are hypocrites. So what? Paul, the chief of all sinners could have easily named himself the chief of all hypocrites as well. He states, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (‭Romans‬ ‭7‬:‭15‬ ESV) If Paul was a hypocrite, should we be surprised that Christians today are hypocrites?

This is a good time to drag in the oft misquoted verse, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭1‬ ESV) Did Jesus really mean that we are not to judge? Or was this verse meant for nonbelievers to lampoon believers? What is the context of this verse?

Context. That is what determines the meaning of everything. A statement without context is useless. Before I mention logs in people’s eyes, take note that calling me a hypocrite or telling me not to judge is a judgment statement in itself. If we are never to judge and I am in error for judging, shouldn’t you lead by example by not judging? Would the mere fact of not judging in fact be judging? We could debate the matter, but that would definitely be judging.

Jesus goes on to explain, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭5‬ ESV) Jesus isn’t attacking people who judge, he is attacking those who judge with a hypocritical Pharisaical heart. If I am an alcoholic, who am I to tell others about temperance? We aren’t supposed to point out others’ sins when we are mired in those same sins. We are called to turn to Christ to overcome our sins.

The Church is the bride of Christ. If we despise the Church (the body of believers), how can we claim to love Christ? Similarly, John 15:23 is clear that if we hate the Son, we hate the Father as well. If a friend tells me that I am a swell guy but my wife is a shrew, is he really my friend? If someone hates my greatest treasure, my wife, then he hates me as well.

To hate the Church is to hate Christ.

I’ve also heard the tired retort, “Well, what about the Inquisition and the Crusades? The Church is evil!” I have had that same strawman tossed about by friends of mine. For good measure, they threw in some unintelligible redirect regarding the persecution of the Cathars and the Waldenses.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two points to address. One, if someone kills people in the name of Christ, they don’t know Christ. Secondly, the Inquisition is irrelevant to your salvation.

Jesus created the Church so that we can assemble with fellow believers and commune with Him. The Church with all of its human flaws is in place to glorify Christ. The Church is for the broken. The Church is for you and me.

Jesus died for our sins, yet some of us believe we can recite the Sinner’s Prayer and continue with our sinful lifestyles. I believe that is why so many reject the Church. Not because the Church is brimming with hypocrites, but because they are hypocrites themselves and refuse to turn from sin.

I’ve been there. I grew up in a “good Christian home.” I was raised Lutheran and was confirmed when I was thirteen. I had checked all the boxes. I was in the club. I had experimented with alcohol when I was a teenager, but that was only the beginning. When I was twenty-two, I could get in bars and I was a disc jockey at an active rock station. That was a terrible combination because I spent the next ten years or so in a boozy haze. I was saved. I could do what I wanted, right?

I never went to church because I didn’t want to be in the midst of hypocrites. I said I loved Jesus, but wanted nothing to do with Him. I wanted even less to do with his bride. While I was wallowing in my sin, Christ beckoned to me. Thanks to my wife and her incessant prayers, I was saved for real about five years ago.

I’m not the man I was five years ago. I eventually quit drinking and smoking and going to all bars. I’m even one of those hypocrites who goes to church every Sunday. I’m living proof that you cannot embrace Christ and remain unchanged.

Can you be a Christian without attending church? I believe the answer, at least on paper, is both. Jesus freed us from the chains of legalism so technically, I believe attendance is optional. I also believe Hebrews 10:25 commands the assembling of the saints. You can repudiate the church with all of your justifications, but Jesus’ response might be, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭23‬ ESV)

I Quit…Five Years Ago

Quitting is hard, isn’t it? I suppose I’ve had my fair share of quitting, though I think I may have been fired from more jobs that I quit. I’m a free spirit, I guess. I’m sure that’s also why I seem to pick up bad habits. One habit that was especially insidious was smoking.

Most people that smoke start early on in middle or high school. I believe I was fourteen when I tried my first cigarette. I could have all I wanted because I had a friend swipe them from his mom. There were also tobacco vending machines all over town. I’m guessing all of these machines were phased out in the States when I was eight or ten, but in Germany, it was another story. I lived there three years, and I was beginning to think that smoking was an Olympic sport. Nevertheless, I may have smoked all of twenty cigarettes from fourteen to eighteen.

I never got serious about smoking until I was eighteen. I thought smoking was ridiculous, but it just made me look so darn cool.

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CC image courtesy of Jo Naylor on Flickr.

I mention this because five years ago today I quit smoking. I took Chantix for months before I even thought about seriously quitting. The Chantix helped, but the best aid for me was Gobstoppers. I would toss about fifteen in my mouth because it’s hard to smoke with a mouthful of candy. And you might choke.

The withdrawal was the worst. I was on edge. I felt like I was gonna die. Or kill. Either was fine with me. That was only the beginning. For months I had a cough that made my smoker’s hack seem like I was just clearing my throat. Did I mention the nightmares? I still have the occasional nightmare. You know the kind. The kind of dream where you start smoking…then you realize that you have to start over again. I worked long and hard to be smoke free. I don’t want to have to start the quit clock over.

I always kept a half empty pack of Marlboro Lights in my glovebox just in case I needed them. About a year after I quit I got in a fender bender. Without thinking, I reached into the glovebox, popped a heater into my mouth, and started fumbling for a lighter. Just before I lit up I realized I didn’t smoke. I put the cigarette up and got out of the pickup to assess the damage.

Five years without a cigarette is a pretty big feat. I can remember the impossibility of quitting. I can remember the dread when I ran out of cigarettes. I can remember the constant hacking. I can remember standing in the rain to get my fix. I can remember the time I smoked four packs of Reds in one day. I can remember the freedom I felt after being smoke free for six months. I can remember envisioning this landmark day. Then I almost forgot that today marks five years of not smelling like an ashtray.

http://youtu.be/K1uFE891mXk

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Scotch Egg Sandwich on Pretzel Roll With Horseradish Mustard

I woke up this morning in a funk.  I’ve been fighting my autoimmune aches and pains and really thought I was going to camp out on the couch and watch House reruns on Netflix.  I would have if I wasn’t tasked with taking my fourteen year old daughter to the bank to open a savings account.

Boiled eggs encased in bratwurst.
Boiled eggs encased in bratwurst.

By the time we got to the bank I began thinking about sandwiches.  My kids think I should be famous for my pepperoni grilled cheese sandwiches and they always welcome new sandwich additions to my repertoire.  One night we had chimichangas for supper.  Chimichangas stuffed with banana, peanut butter, marshmallow spread, and Hershey bars.  Though not technically a sandwich, they were perfectly happy to eat a crusty and gooey conglomeration of delights.

Dredged in egg wash and coated with panko bread crumbs.
Dredged in egg wash and coated with panko bread crumbs.

I have been wanting to try Scotch eggs for some time now.  I decided they would make a great sandwich.  I was right.  I found some pretzel rolls and determined that I needed to use bratwurst for the eggs.  Add a nice mustard sauce and we have a German/Scotch egg.  A Scotch egg by any other name tastes just as sweet, right?  I knew that 400 level Shakespeare I course I took in 2 1/2 weeks one summer was going to be useful someday.

I decided to borrow a horseradish-mustard sauce from Martha Stewart.  I added a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to increase the drizzle factor.  It took maybe five minutes to make the sauce.  The rest was pretty straightforward as well.

Fried scotch eggs.
Fried scotch eggs.

Ingredients:

4 eggs, boiled to your desired consistency

2 eggs, beaten (to hold the breading)

5 links bratwurst, casings removed

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

2 quarts vegetable oil (for frying)

4 pretzel rolls (or whatever bread suits your fancy)

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Method:

Heat oil in cast iron dutch oven to 375 degrees F.  While oil is heating, peel eggs.

Take approximately 1 1/4 bratwurst links without casings and flatten.  Place egg in the center and carefully work sausage around egg to completely encase it.  (At this point, I stuck the eggs in the freezer for about fifteen minutes to firm them up.  It’s not necessary, but if you choose to do this, wait until you remove them to start heating the oil).

Coat meat covered eggs with egg wash and roll in breadcrumbs to coat completely.scotch3When oil is hot, carefully place eggs in oil.  I cooked two at a time so that they had plenty of breathing room.  Fry approximately ten minutes and periodically roll egg balls to make sure it cooks evenly.  (I didn’t have enough oil to completely submerge my eggs).

When cooked, carefully remove from oil and place on paper towel lined plate to drain.  Let cool for about ten minutes and slice with a serrated knife.  Place on roll and drizzle with delicious mustard sauce.  Enjoy.

I'm just a hack who likes to eat.

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