Brisket: BBQ experiment

My 2 attempts at smoked brisket have ranged from pretty good (the first time), to dry and not done enough (the second time).  Since I was messing around supermarket brisket, I decided that instead of continuing with this Micky Mouse shit, I'd go for the real thing:  a whole brisket, also known as a "packer cut".  It includes not only that overly-trimmed, lean piece of meat you usually see posing as "brisket" (the "flat", as it's called), but also the more fatty piece that is on top (the "point").

Brisket first attempt

The first time.  Pretty good.

I called The Market Basket in Franklin Lakes, NJ, and they had one in Cryovac.  Just what I wanted.  While I expecting something at about 10 pounds, what I got when I picked it up was a 19 pound brisket.  Holy enormous cow, Batman.

Brisket 19 pounds

8 inch knife, for reference purposes

I trimmed off about 3 pounds of fat, which put this thing at 16 pounds.  According to everything I've read, that's about 16 hours worth of smoking.  There's simply no choice but to do this overnight, so away I went to my gas grill.  Purists, you might as well stop reading here, if you haven't already.

Brisket trimmed fat

3 pounds of beef fat, and 20 pounds of cat fat

The only other prep on the meat was a good, healthy rub of fresh cracked pepper and salt.  A whole bunch of pepper, and only slightly less salt.  A lot of this is going to come off during the cooking process, and even if it doesn't, we're still talking about 16 pounds of meat.  Not 16 ounces, which is a nice sized steak.  But 16 pounds.  Pounds baby, pounds.

Brisket with pepper

stretch-tite is awesome, and might very well be the only plastic wrap on the planet that actually works

The size of this brisket is only part of the challenge.

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Food Basics: good stuff, good deals, Manager's Specials

I'm finding myself shopping at Food Basics more and more.  Food Basics is sort of a budget store, owned by the nice folks at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (who own A&P, and others) that seems to cater to a lower-income audience than does say a Whole Foods or Stop & Shop.  You'll also often find Food Basics in ethnically diverse neighbors.  When a store caters to an ethinically diverse community, you're not only going to find great values, but you're going to find great products that you won't normally find:

Pigs feet?  Check.  Ox tail?  Check.  Pork shoulder?  Not a problem. Tripe.  Got it.  Offal of all sorts?  Yippers.

Gone are the days of calling Stop & Shop the day before a BBQ and pleading them to save a pork butt before turning them all into sausage.  Food Basics always has a bunch of butts right there in the case.  Carnitas is only some onions, OJ, and fennel seed away.


Carnitas, Jim

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Bourbon BBQ: Wyckoff, NJ


This sign might as well say:  "BBQ.  No nonsense, no B.S.  Come eat".   When you see a sign like this pop up in your area, you've gotta be happy.

Happy is what I've been for about 6 months waiting for Bourbon BBQ to open in the old Clixes (RIP) space on Goffle Road in Wyckoff.  The addition of a BBQ restaurant to the area is good news enough, but when you know it's Chef Gary Needham manning the smoker, well, people, it's your lucky day. 

I've been touting Chef Gary's BBQ since my first bite at his other restaurant, Ridgewood's Silver Oak Bistro.  I'm relatively confident that Chef Gary knew he made great BBQ well before I came along and announced it, but I can't help but think that I had at least just a little to do with the emergence of this latest venture.  If you'll allow me to indulge:  toot, toot.  You're welcome.

Bourbon BBQ had a grand opening party on Saturday June 30th (2007, for the benefit of those of you from the future), which I didn't make.  However, me and about 400 other people made their way over on its first official day of operation.

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BBQ ribs: here's the rub

Rub_20061BBQ has become a bit of a passion for me over the past year or so.  When I say BBQ (barbeque, or barbecue, if you like), I'm not talking about "grilling," which is generally defined as cooking over high and direct heat, or the event where a bunch of people get together and eat salads and hot dogs and hamburgers and get drunk (nothing wrong with those events, though).  No, I'm talking about good old fashioned American BBQ, which is basically the process of cooking with low and indirect heat and smoke (from burning wood).  BBQ is also a noun, describing the product of the BBQing process.  Now that that's out of the way....

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Silver Oak Bistro: Ridgewood, NJ

Sob_signPulled_pork2_2 Edit [20081005]:  Chef Gary is no longer with Silver Oak Bistro.

Edit: [200903]:  Silver Oak has closed.

BBQ seems to be popping up everywhere.  NYC has at least 12 BBQ places.  North Jersey has seen at least 2 come and go within a few years.  And there are others that have been around for a while (Hot Rod's in Wharton and The Mason Jar in Mahwah for example) , and new places opening up (most notably Front Street Smoke House in Elizabeth).  But there's one BBQ restaurant that's flying under the radar, and that's probably because it's not necessarily a BBQ restaurant.  That restaurant is The Silver Oak Bistro in Ridgewood, and their BBQ is super.

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The Mason Jar: Mahwah, NJ

Mason_jar_signI've been lamenting the fact that northern NJ is sorely lacking for decent bars with decent "pub grub".  I mean, is it too much to ask for a restaurant with a clean bar where I can order a good burger and a decent glass of red wine?  And maybe, just maybe, the bartender can make a decent martini?

Sooooooo, I've been on a mission for the past 6 months to find such a place.  And the results have been dismal.  I've been to chain restaurants, Irish pubs, old restaurants, new restaurants, a restaurant that looked like it should serve a burger and didn't.  I've been everywhere.  And they are all pretty bad.

However, one place stands out above all others.   The Mason Jar in Mahwah is that place.   

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