• BBQ Brisket with Sweet Red Onions and Homemade Dill Pickle with Baked Mayacoba Beans and Sautéed Chayote and Calabizitas

    Serves 8

    For the Brisket:
    10 to 12 lb. brisket, with fat cap left on
    Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
    2 red onions, peeled and sliced thinly

    Directions:
    Rinse the brisket under cold running water and pat dry. Sprinkle top and bottom of brisket liberally with salt and pepper, until well coated. Refrigerate, uncovered.

    Soak 3 oak fire logs in a bucket of clean water.

    Make a fire in an indirect smoker as you would for a fireplace, stacking dry tinder into a teepee shape and placing the oak logs* on top. When they are red-hot, place the brisket on the end of the smoker near the chimney and close the lid of the smoker. Place one of the water-soaked logs on the red-hot coals and close the air intake of the firebox. Watch the smoke coming out of the chimney. Initially, it will come out in a thick plume. As the fire cools, a result of the closed air intake and the wet log, the smoke will start to trickle out. You want to see wisps of smoke coming out of the chimney continuously. The thermometer on the smoke box needs to get between 185 and 200 degrees. You achieve this by adjusting the air intake and chimney opening. More air to the firebox makes a hotter fire, less and the opposite occurs. Once the smoke box is closed, it should remain closed, unless you need to add another water-soaked log. Smoke the brisket for 10-12 hours. Its doneness is not measured by internal temperature, but rather by touch. When you can press your finger into the hard fat on the thick end of the brisket and the fat is very tender, it is time to close the air intake and chimney. Let the brisket rest in the smoker for 1 hour.

    To serve:
    Place the brisket on a cutting board. Separate the top piece from the bottom by cutting along the fat layer between them. Trim the larger bottom piece of all fat and slice thinly against the grain with your knife held at an angle facing away from you. Distribute among 8 plates and serve with thinly sliced red onions, homemade dill pickle slices and BBQ sauce on the side.

    For the Homemade Dill Pickles:
    2 cups apple cider vinegar
    1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
    2 tablespoons kosher salt
    1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    1 teaspoon dill seeds
    2 cups water
    2 lbs. pickling cucumbers
    2 shallots, julienned
    4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and cut in 1/2
    1 cup fresh dill, chopped coarsely

    Directions:
    Place vinegar, cane juice, salt, mustard, coriander and dill seeds and water in a non-reactive sauce pan and bring to a boil. Take off heat and stir until cooled to room temperature. Place cucumbers, shallots, garlic and dill in a non-reactive bowl and pour the brine over them. Place a plate on the cucumbers to keep them submerged in the brine. Wrap the bowl in plastic and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled.

    For the BBQ Sauce:
    4 ounces butter
    2 yellow onions, peeled and diced finely
    4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped finely
    2 ounces Piloncillo or dark brown sugar
    1 cup apple cider vinegar
    32 ounces catsup
    16 ounces tomato sauce
    2 tablespoons Adobo sauce from canned Chipotle chilies
    1 cup dark molasses
    Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

    Melt butter in a large non-reactive saucepan over medium high heat. When it stops foaming, add the onions, garlic and Piloncillo. Cook, while stirring, until caramelized. Add vinegar and scrape the bottom of the saucepan. Add the catsup, tomato sauce, Adobo sauce and molasses, stir together and bring to a boil. Drop heat to a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Take off heat and set aside. Hold at room temperature until service.

    To serve:
    Place 3 cups BBQ sauce in a bowl for self-service.

    For the Mayacoba Beans:
    24 cups dried Mayacoba beans
    8 cups cold water
    1/2 lb. thick-sliced pork belly
    1 large yellow onion, julienned
    1 tablespoon fresh garlic, crushed and chopped fine
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    6 cups vegetable stock
    Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
    BBQ sauce to cover the beans, about a cup
    6 strips bacon

    Directions:
    Rinse the beans with fresh running water and drain. Place in a non-reactive container and cover with 8 cups water. Place in the refrigerator to soak overnight.* Before cooking, drain the beans and discard the water. Set aside.

    Place a large non-reactive soup pot over medium heat. Add the pork belly and cook until slightly browned and fat is rendered. Add the onion, garlic, thyme and oregano. Cook until tender and fragrant. Add the pre-soaked beans, add the stock and turn the heat up to high. Do not stir the beans. Cook until tender. Keep beans covered with stock, so the beans are always agitated and in motion. Once they are tender, drain the beans and reserve the liquid. Place the beans in a large casserole, season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper and set aside.

    Place reserved liquid in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to 1 cup and add to the casserole. Use enough BBQ sauce from the previous recipe to cover the beans, then gently stir together. Place strips of bacon on top of the beans and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

    To serve:
    Remove bacon and chop coarsely. Place back on top of beans and serve immediately.

    For the Sautéed Chayote and Calabazas:
    3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 medium red bell pepper, seeds and veins removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
    4 Chayote squash, tough core removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
    4 Tatume squash (Calabizitas), split, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
    2 yellow tomatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
    Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

    In a large non-reactive sauté pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes, while stirring. Add the squashes and cook, while stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Lower heat to simmer and adjust seasoning with kosher salt and pepper.

    Serve immediately.

    • *Epicurean Tip
      Get Smoked!

      Hot Smoking (190 to 250 degrees F)
      For hot smoking, I prefer to use hickory logs cut for the fireplace. This wood is not readily available in California, so my second and third choices would be oak or almond. Do not use green wood as this can impart a bitter aftertaste to smoked meats.

      Cold Smoking (70 to 90 degrees F)
      I like to use any and all fruitwood branches (peach, apricot, citrus.).

    • *Epicurean Tip
      Go Soak Your…Beans!

      I pre-soak my beans not so much to remove the ’air’ out of them but more to slightly reduce my total cooking time. If you forget to pre-soak, you can place them in the pot with enough cold water to cover 2 inches from the surface of the beans. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover the pot and let sit for 1 hour. Drain the beans, discard the water and proceed with the recipe.

    • *Epicurean Tip
      Don’t Stir the Beans!

      Never stir beans while cooking. Agitation with a spoon will cause the skins to separate from the bean. These skins will settle to the bottom and may burn before the beans are cooked. Let the action of a “soft boil” or “slow rolling boil” work to keep the beans stirred.