Anyone wanting to present a cooking class would do well to look at the example set by the County Line.
The barbecue joint at 10101 I-1o W. kicked off a monthly series of cooking classes recently with a lesson in pit-smoking that was perfect fun. It was held outdoors on a balmy autumn evening. The menu was loaded with pork products, from bacon to sausage, that made you want to ask for seconds. The prickly pear margaritas and the beer were flowing. Oh, yeah, and the instructor made everything he did look perfectly easy.
San Antonio native Garrett Stephens started his restaurant career as a dishwasher. For the last 15 years, he has been preparing barbecue at the County Line, so he knows his way around a smoker, which he demonstrated with his Memphis-rubbed Pork Shoulder. Use only Boston Butt for this succulent creation, he said, and make sure you select one with plenty of fat on one side. Leave it on and it will hold the meat together after smoking it for hours. Then when you are ready to serve, the skin will remove easily, he said.
Preparing the meat requires two steps. The first is to inject the meat with a marinade that uses a mixture of apple juice, grape juice and Worcestershire sauce. “Use every bit of the marinade,” Stephens said, which will cause the meat to expand once it is injected. The other is to make a rub, which Stephens makes by combining celery salt, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder and brown sugar among other ingredients.
When the meat is ready to smoke, it is important to maintain a temperature range of 200 to 225 degrees as you cook it for 1 1/2 hours per pound. So a 10-pound Boston Butt will take 15 hours to smoke.
And always smoke it with wood, not regular charcoal.
Stephens paired this dish with a coleslaw that incorporated Granny Smith apples.
He started the evening with frozen prickly pear margaritas, which are easy to make. Simply scrape the seeds from the center of a cactus tuna, or prickly pear, which adds a vibrant magenta color to the drink and a welcome touch of sweetness.
He followed that with an appetizer in which he took Hatch chiles and filled them with chived cream cheese and smoked sausage before wrapping them in thin bacon and turning them onto the grill. Use indirect heat and make sure the bacon cooks on all sides. It was simple, yet it had the audience sighing with satisfaction, especially when paired with the seasonal Smoked Hatch Green Chile Blonde Ale from Freetail Brewing Co., one of the evening’s sponsors along with Whole Food and Barbecues Galore.
Next came a garlicky Grilled Caesar Salad that had an almost mayonnaise like dressing that Stephens whipped up in a food processor. Two cloves of garlic were mixed with egg yolks, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco as well as three anchovy fillets.
Don’t be afraid of the anchovies in your Caesar dressing, he said. “They add buttery richness and saltiness.”
The salad was a perfect foil for Freetail’s Rye Wit, a light-bodied, refreshing beer that cut through the thickness of the dressing.
Stephens closed out the evening with grilled peaches and pound cake topped with the County Line’s special Jack Daniel’s sauce. Oil down the grill for this one and make sure it’s both hot and clean before placing the cake down, Stephens said. And don’t let yourself get distracted. The pound cake cooks in about 45 seconds.
I’ve been to plenty of cooking classes where the recipes were solid but just didn’t inspire me to recreate them at home. Not so here. In the few days that have passed since the class, I’ve already made the coleslaw. And I’m just waiting for some of my Anaheim chiles to ripen a little further before I grill them in a variation of Stephens’ recipe. That Jack Daniel’s sauce is going to get a good workout this fall on everything from chocolate-pecan pie to vanilla ice cream.
Stephens summed up his approach to smoking meat in a manner that applies to all cooking: “Barbecue is fun. If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t do it.”
For more on the County Line, click here.