Red, White, and Q
Rio Rancho’s Pork & Brew State BBQ Championship fires up July 4 through 6 throughout the Santa Ana Star Center’s south parking lot. In just over a decade, Pork & Brew has become one of the country’s premier barbecue competitions, sanctioned by the respected Kansas City Barbeque Society. Victors here have a shot at participating in the world’s biggest, baddest barbecue competition, the American Royal World Series, held each fall in Kansas City, Missouri. The Rio Rancho event organizers expect more than 60 barbecue teams from across the country. The teams haul in often custom-built smokers, and everything they need to stay on-site for three days. Most teams guard their recipes and techniques, but all love to talk Q and show off their cookers to the onlookers who come to soak up the smokin’ atmosphere. Expect a crowd of thousands, and continuous live music and other entertainment. Saturday’s the big day for judging. Barbecue and craft beers will be available for purchase. Near the intersection of Paseo del Volcan NE and Unser Blvd. NE; (505) 891-7258; rioranchonm.org
Putting the Q in ’Querque
New Mexico may not be in the South, but it does enjoy true Southern Q at Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque House in Albuquerque. The Powdrell family, pitmasters for generations, left Louisiana during the Great Depression in search of a better life farther west. The clan landed in Albuquerque decades ago and has been smoking ever since. When ordering, ask if they are serving a side of roasted chiles, sometimes available and always locally popular with barbecue. 5209 4th St. NW; (505) 345-8086; powdrellsbbq.webs.com
Here’s the Rub
We think North of the Border, a small company in Tesuque, makes some of the best commercial dry rubs and other barbecue condiments available today. Proprietors Gayther and Susie Gonzales consistently balance the seasonings just right. We especially love P.C. Willy’s green-chile rub. (800) 860-0681; northoftheborder.net
My husband, Bill, and I have been passionate about barbecue—real barbecue—pretty much since our separate introductions to it in childhood. Back in the early 1990s, we decided it would be downright fun to write a cookbook about crafting pitmasterstyle barbecue at home. It was our way of celebrating this vintage cooking style, and a subculture that seemed to be fading from the American consciousness.
Smoke & Spice has been in print more than 20 years, and has sold more than a million copies. Simultaneously, the interest in barbecue has soared. Obviously, it was time for an update, to insert some 50 new recipes, revise information on equipment and barbecue folks, and add beautiful color photos by Santa Fe photographer Gabriella Marks.
Our new edition of Smoke & Spice was published in May by Harvard Common Press. The book is available through the New Mexico Magazine Store (mynm.us/nm-shop) as well as at bookstores nationwide. The following adaptation and recipes offer a taste we hope you’ll find appetizing.
LET’S JOIN THE PARTY
Today we use the term “barbecue” in a multitude of ways, but in the American past, it mainly meant a big, festive community gathering. Throughout American history, when churches wanted to lure the less devoted, politicians needed to attract a crowd for a campaign speech, or folks had any cause for festivity, they held a barbecue and invited everyone.
The cooks didn’t grill hamburgers at these affairs. They dug a long, deep pit in the ground, filled it with logs, burned the wood down to low-temperature coals, and then slow-roasted whole animals and fish suspended above the smoky fire. That was barbecue then, and it’s still the essence of the art. To get real with barbecue, you have to return to its roots, and that means celebrating a meal with friends and family by smoking food slow and low over smoldering wood.
While everything you do makes some difference in your results, the only critical consideration is your smoking equipment and how to use it. The two essentials of real barbecue are a low cooking temperature and a cloud of wood smoke.
FOR CENTURIES, New Mexicans have dabbled in barbecue cooking, mostly cabrito (young goat), venison, and beef. Folks in Texas tend to opt for beef, nearly always the brisket, and up toward Kansas City, pork ribs reign as king of the Q. Throughout the South, pork butt or shoulder, and even whole hogs, are the meat most often cooked in this time-honored fashion.
But while there have always been expert practitioners of authentic regional styles, most American cooks were enrolled in “Introductory Barbecue” for the last half of the 20th century. It was fun, but we’ve grown weary of wieners and charred chicken. There’s been more and more yearning for the full flavor of old-time barbecue, the kind popularly known as Bar-B-Q. It’s a traditional food that, starting with its aroma, perks up your senses and makes you lick your lips with anticipation.
Satisfying your own longing for a mouthwatering barbecue has gotten easier in recent years, thanks to a revolution in home-smoking equipment and supplies. While everything you do when you barbecue affects the results in some way, the only critical considerations are your smoking equipment and how you use it. New developments allow anyone to make great barbecue in their backyard, on their balcony, or even inside. All you need are a dedicated backyard smoker or a covered grill, and a little education about the barbecue craft and its delightful culture. It’s not more complex than grilling, and it’s actually much more fun.
STUFFED PORK CHOPS
These tender chops are stuffed with a moist corn-bread dressing.
- 2 tablespoons whiskey
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1. teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
- 6 bone-in, double-thick, center-cut pork chops
- 1½ inches thick, cut with pocket for stuffing
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
- ⅓ medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- 1 cup dry corn-bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage or
- 1½ teaspoons dried sage
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
- 1 to 3 tablespoons chicken stock or water
CHOP MOP (OPTIONAL)
- 1 cup cider or white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons whiskey
At least 2 hours and preferably 4 hours before barbecue, combine paste ingredients in small bowl. Massage chops inside and out with paste. Place chops in plastic bag and refrigerate 1½ to 3½ hours.
Before beginning barbecue, take chops from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Prepare stuffing. Melt butter in small skillet. Add bell pepper, onion, and celery, saut.ing until soft. Spoon mixture into a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, adding salt to taste, and only enough stock to bind stuffing loosely. Stuff chops with equal portions of mixture.
Prepare smoker for barbecuing, bringing temperature to 200°F to 220°F. If you plan to baste chops, warm vinegar and whiskey in small saucepan over low heat. Keep mop warm over low heat. Warm heavy skillet over high heat.
Quickly sear chops on both sides and transfer to smoker. Cook meat 1¾ to 2 hours, turning and basting with mop about every 30 minutes in wood-burning pit or as appropriate in your style of smoker. Chops are ready when internal temperature reaches 155°F to 160°F.
SMOKY CORN ON THE COB
Putting bacon in the husk adds resonant flavor to slow-smoked corn.
- 6 ears of corn, with husks
- Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 6 slices of bacon
- Melted butter (optional)
Pull back corn husks just enough to remove silks. Place corn in large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak corn for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Prepare smoker for barbecuing, bringing temperature to 200°F to 220°F. Salt and pepper corn and wrap a piece of bacon around each ear. Pull husks back up to their original position.
Tear 1 or 2 husks into strips. Tie strips around top of ears to hold husks in place. Place corn in smoker and cook until tender, 1 to 1. hours. Remove corn from smoker and discard husks and bacon.
Serve hot, with a sauce or butter if you like.
SWEET POTATOES WITH ORANGE-PECAN BUTTER
Sweet potatoes have a natural affinity for smoke. The deep caramel flavor melds well with a simple butter sauce.
- 4 small sweet potatoes
- Vegetable oil
- 4 to 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- 3 tablespoons pecans, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- Kosher salt or coarse sea salt
- black pepper, freshly ground
Prepare smoker for barbecuing, bringing temperature to 200ÅãF to 220ÅãF. Scrub sweet potatoes well, prick in several spots, and rub with light film of oil. Transfer sweet potatoes to smoker and cook until soft, about 2 hours. Potatoes can sit 15 minutes before serving, or keep them warm for up to an hour by wrapping them up in foil.
While sweet potatoes cook, prepare orange-pecan butter. Melt butter and honey together in small saucepan over low heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir together. Reheat butter, if necessary, just before serving.
Slit open top of each sweet potato and drizzle with orange-pecan butter.
PEANUT BUTTER PIE
Some peanut butter pies are similar in consistency to pecan pie. We prefer this creamy, cool style with barbecue. Serves 6 to 8
- 1¼ cups graham-cracker crumbs (about 16 crackers)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 1¼ cups creamy peanut butter (don’t use natural)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- ⅓ cup peanuts, chopped, preferably honey-roasted
- Store-bought chocolate sauce (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. In bowl, stir together graham-cracker crumbs and granulated sugar. Pour in butter and stir to combine. Pat mixture into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie pan. Bake 10 minutes, until lightly set. Put crust aside to cool.
Whip cream in bowl until stiff. In another bowl, beat together cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar. Fold in whipped cream and blend well. Spoon filling into graham-cracker crust and sprinkle peanuts over pie.
Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Serve with spoonful of your favorite chocolate sauce. Pie keeps well for several days.
Cheryl Alters Jamison is New Mexico Magazine’s contributing culinary editor. Read her blog at nmmagazine.com/tastingnm. You can order her latest book, Smoke & Spice: Cooking With Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue, from the New Mexico Magazine Store at shop.nmmagazine.com.