I feel like my priorities have been all out of whack lately. The once fertile womb of my curing chamber lies fallow and has for months. My freezer is empty of the homemade bacon that makes summer tomatoes achieve their otherworldly state. My smoker has seen only one brisket this entire season, and even that was a bit of a stretch to accomplish. Nary of piece of meat has been ground, smoked or cajoled into emulsion. My one homebrew project has honestly been more like my good friend’s homebrew project with me pitching in on some ingredients. My pork intake has been mostly limited to the Whole Foods breakfast tacos I grab with my morning coffee. My recent culinary high point was grilling and eating a veal chop by myself at midnight after a late flight home. And writing has been strictly limited to the things I make a living at. In summation: Fuck.
Fortunately, pork fat came back to town a couple weekends ago when a rare afternoon yielded 15lbs of good fresh sausage. I made some hot Italians. I tried a new simple but strong red wine and garlic-heavy link. But the star of the batch was a take on my own version of the Texas hot gut.
For those unfamiliar, the hot gut is an indigenous beast made mostly of beef, fat, hot pepper and oak smoke. They stand next to brisket as a pillar of central Texas meat-market style barbecue. Bite into one fresh off the pit and you can expect a crackling thin casing, a gush of liquid bright orange fat and a good hit of black pepper and beef.
There’s plenty of stylistic variation from town to town, and even variation from joint to joint on the same street. But most importantly for me, the central Texas hot gut is a local classic that I had yet to undertake. In formulating the link, I intended it to be an assault. A full frontal sausage slap of fat, beef, smoke and heat. I used a 4:1 ratio of pretty well-marbled beef to pork fatback (I prefer the way pork fat behaves in a sausage to beef fat, but wanted a little cow in there too for good measure). I also upped the heat to levels I thought would push comfortable eating. It turns out I probably could have added more of both fat and pepper. But, after a few hours in the smoker, the links did not disappoint. Beefy, smokey, fatty, spicy and lots of good nuclear orange fat spilling out all over the place. Washed down with a few coldbeers and I felt pretty high on the hog. Or actually, like just a hog. Which wasn’t too bad either.
The sausages were great on their own, wrapped in a tortilla or on a bun with yellow mustard to soak up the extra spillage. But they also make a mean breakfast taco, maybe the meanest, what I like to call the five star lonestar breakfast.
The five Star Lonestar Breakfast
Say you’re cueing up a large piece of meat like a brisket or shoulder clod. Say you have to start your fire early (meaning late, like 1 or 2am). Say that knowing you’re going to be up, you invite some friends over. Perhaps some shenanigans take place. Perhaps then you find that you’re looking at a fire by yourself at 4 or 5 in the morning, feeling like crap already and wondering how your friends managed to drink all the beer you had purchased for your entire barbecue. This fixes that feeling. This also bridges the gap between barbecue and breakfast tacos, which is something that should be bridged as often as possible.
A smoker rolling along at about 200
A few links of Texas Hot Guts
Hot salsa/Hot sauce
Sliced Serrano peppers
A cast iron skillet
Around 4 or 5 in the morning, throw your sausages into the smoke box, tend the fire and go back to sleep. 1-2 hours later, wake up, put the pan on the hot flat top of the fire box, wrap your tortillas in foil and put them in the smoke box. Beat the eggs and scramble in the pan. Slice sausages, pile on tortilla (soaking up as much of the fat as possible) along with scrambled eggs, hot salsa, Serrano peppers and cheese. If there’s a beer left in the cooler enjoy it as a little breakfast desert. If that doesn’t work, hit yourself in the head with the pan and go back to bed.
I used some top round in this, which I picked for lack of sinew and ease of grinding. In hindsight, short-ribs would have been better for the added fat. I also would use a coarser blade for the grind. But you get the idea.
4lbs well marbled beef, cut into 1 inch dice
1lb pork fatback, in 1 inch dice
7-8 Serrano peppers
45 grams black pepper
15 grams cayenne pepper
15 grams paprika
1.5 ounces salt
1 cup cider vinegar, chilled
50 grams chopped fresh garlic
Mix all ingrients except the vinegar and grind through a coarse die. Put into a bowl and add the vinegar, mixing for about a minute or two till the meat and fat bind. Stuff into hog casings. Smoke for about 2 hours till the sausages carry a very smoky flavor but are not dried out.