Thursday, February 3, 2011
Layers of spicy flavors, carefully combined according to Billy Bob’s secret recipe, make up our brisket rub.
A few days ago, I espied a nice rack of beef ribs at the local Food Emporium. I love ribs, and I am especially fond of great big meaty beef ribs. These were by no means of Fred Flintstone dimensions, but they looked sizable enough... and so I brought them home.
Northerners like me can spend their entire lives under the misconception that “barbecuing” is the same as “grilling.” Throwing a few hamburgers, hot dogs, or steaks on a grate over hot charcoal is an excellent way to prepare these meat-products, but it is barbecuing in no way, shape or form: It is grilling.
Having lived in the South or in Texas most of my life, I know better.
There are, I suspect, as many ways to barbecue meat as there are small towns in the South and Southwestern United States, but the common elements are slow cooking and smoke. You don’t have them, you don’t have barbecue - you have Faux ’Cue.
Some styles involve slathering the meat with a sauce or mop before or during cooking, the sauces ranging from sweet goop to thin, vinegary tomato-based fluid. The style I favor is one I learned from my father-in-law Billy Bob (of blessèd memory), a Texan through-and-through. That means no goop on the meat - at least, not until serving, and only for those who prefer it. The meat is seasoned by the liberal application of a dry rub mixture, after which it is smoked s l o w l y over charcoal with mesquite and hickory. The rub, heat, and smoke work their alchemical magic; the result is tender meat packed with flavor.
Barbecued beef ribs à la mode de Billy Bob, as prepared at the Straight White Compound last November. Photo: Erica Sherman, photog extraordinaire.
I’ve used one dry rub recipe - with only minor modifications - for the past 30+ years. That’s the one I got from Billy Bob, and I think of him every time I make barbecue. Or eat barbecue, for that matter.
And, sorry, you cannot have the recipe. Family’s gotta have some secrets.