Horse Thief BBQ

Brisket, why do I always fall for your trap now?  I never was a big brisket fan until I went to Austin a few months ago.  There, I saw that brisket could be tender, juicy, rich, and delicious.  Hell, even the run-of-the-mill brisket at the Austin Whole Foods was miles beyond anything I’d ever had in California.

When someone tipped me off that Horse Thief had great brisket and I was within walking distance, I decided to give it a try.  For $6 and some change for 1/4lb of brisket, two slices of white bread, some onions and pickles, it didn’t break the bank. Unfortunately, LA brisket disappointed me yet again!

Brisket from Horse Thief Bbq

Just looking at the brisket, I thought something was wrong. The meat looked dry. I gave it a poke with my finger and it seemed to separate okay, leading me to think it just wasn’t the best looking brisket, but would be sufficiently tender.  A bite later, nope.  It was weird. The meat fell apart in my mouth, but had none of the delicious richness I was expecting from a well-cooked slice of brisket.  Sure, the flavor of the rub was fine and the smoke was good, but it just wasn’t juicy.  The fattier slice under my first slice was a little better, but not by much.  How can a fatty slice of brisket not be tasty??

In the end, I put the remaining slices in between the two pieces of bread, smeared in some sauce, added onions and pickles, and ate it like a sandwich.   It wasn’t bad, but it was a letdown.  I wanted melt-in-my-mouth, rich, juicy brisket that did not need any additional bbq sauce at all and this was not it.

Horse Thief BBQ
324 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 625-0341

The Salt Lick BBQ (Austin)

The Salt Lick BBQ

One important thing on my Todo List when visiting Texas for the first time is to eat barbecue.  It would be a shame for me to visit barbecue country without trying it at least once.  When I stepped out of the Jet Blue terminal and right into the smokey aroma of the Salt Lick outpost in the airport terminal, I knew that I couldn’t leave without going there.

While there are other places in the city limits, most of the locals and Texans I spoke to said the definitive place to go for barbecue brisket is The Salt Lick.  Considering I never really liked brisket, I wondered if I just never had the right brisket.  I always associated brisket as dry and stringy meat that takes forever to chew.  If The Salt Lick can’t make me like brisket, maybe that cut of meat is just not for me.

The Driftwood location of The Salt Lick is a short twenty-five to thirty-minute drive outside of Austin. For those of us in LA who’s used to driving thirty minutes just to travel ten miles in the city, this drive will be easy.  Leaving the actual city of Austin takes only a few minutes on the freeways and then the rest of the way is boring suburbs, big box stores, followed by rolling hills and even a Hindu temple in the middle of nowhere.

At first, I was worried by how touristy The Salt Lick seemed to be. It boasted a winery and a separate wine tasting building. There’s an outdoor patio full of large wooden tables and benches and even a separate area for kids.  The merchandise for sale on the walls made it a little too Disneyland for me, but one look at the barbecue pit and a whiff of the smell and I knew I had to stay.

For about $15, I got to pick two meats (I got brisket and sausage) which came on a large plate along with potato salad, coleslaw, beans, bread, pickles, and a part of an onion.  I opted for a combo of moist brisket and burnt ends when the waitress asked what my preference was for the brisket.  The service is fast and in no time, this plate was plopped down in front of me as well as two types of sauces.  Since the meat seemed already sauced, I didn’t add too much extra sauce on top. Just enough to realize the habenero sauce is not spicy enough.

The Salt Lick BBQ

Did The Salt Lick change my opinion of brisket? It sure did!  The moist slices were tender and fell apart in my mouth. The burnt ends were crispy and had a decent bite, but was nowhere near as chewy as I was fearing. The sausage wasn’t half-bad either, with a great snap.  The flavor of the barbecue and the smokiness of the meat was everything I hoped for.

The sides were surprisingly good.  The cole slaw was light on the dressing and not that mayonaise nightmare that I associate with some coleslaw.  It’s good that it’s delicious because one needs some roughage to help in digesting all this meat.  The potato salad was not what I expected either, but still delicious.  It was slightly tangy from mustard or relish, and had chopped cooked onions inside. It was one of the better restaurant potato salads I’d had.  The beans were alright, but I ate only a couple bites of it because I wanted to save my protein compartment for the meat.

The pickles and bread I mostly left alone because I couldn’t figure out what their purpose was.  Was I supposed to make a sandwich with the bread rolls? They were fluffy and white, reminding me of the rolls I used to eat in the cafeteria in elementary school.  I guess if I had more stomach space, I could use it to soak up the barbecue sauce later. And what about that quarter of a raw onion?  I mostly left that alone because I didn’t want to ruin the smokey barbecue aftertaste with the pungent aroma of an onion.

Although I shouldn’t have ordered it, I was curious, so I also ordered the blackberry cobbler. This was unlike any cobbler I’d ever had.  The breaded part was soft and spongey, more like a thick pancake than a biscuit.  The blackberry filling was way too sweet for my taste and I was regretting not ordering it with some ice-cream to tone it down.  The serving size of the cobbler was also very Texan. I think one order would be enough to satisfy four people.

Was the Salt Lick worth the 30 minute drive? Yes! I have a new found respect for brisket and am wishing I had finished my plate of barbecue because I’m now craving it.

Protip: It’s BYOB, so get a 6-pack from the Texaco station off the freeway and bring it with you. If not, you can always try your luck at the winery next to the restaurant, which also sells beer.

The Salt Lick
18300 FM 1826
Driftwood, TX 78619
(512) 858-4959

Homemade Seitan in Sandwiches

I saw a post by Vegan Dad with a recipe for veggie lunch meat and it didn’t look all that hard. I already had most of the ingredients (other than vital wheat gluten) in my cupboard and vital wheat gluten was easy enough to get at Whole Paycheck. The recipe itself isn’t difficult, but there is a lot of “standby time” so I saved it for this weekend.

Seitan 2 Ways

The end result was better than I expected! The ingredients by themselves didn’t seem impressive, but as a whole, they work! I followed the recipe fairly closely this time, but I’m probably going to make some variations of my own next time. Maybe a spicier lunchmeat? Curry lunch meat?

Seitan 2 Ways

The first sandwich I made out of the veggie lunchmeat was just a boring ‘meat’ and sprouts sandwich with thick slices of seitan, sprouts, mayonnaise, mustard, and some sourdough bread I baked a long time ago that I found in the freezer. Since the sandwich was so plain, I could really taste the seitan in it, which isn’t really a bad thing since I don’t mind the taste of seitan. But don’t go in expecting it to taste exactly like meat.

Seitan 2 Ways

The next night, I wanted to jazz up the seitan a bit, so I made a BBQ seitan sandwich with my own bbq sauce I made from scratch and some collard greens. Yes, it was southern food comfort night. For the BBQ sauce, which was thick, sweet, and vinegary, I looked up this recipe on chowhound for the basic proportions and made my own changes:

  • I halved the recipe, which makes enough sauce for 4 sandwiches
  • Instead of ketchup, I used 5oz of tomato paste
  • I didn’t have onion powder, so I left that out
  • The original recipe was way too sweet, so I added a healthy splash of soy sauce and a bunch of salt till it tasted more salty
  • I also added in some healthy splashes of white wine vinegar (regular white should be fine too) because the BBQ sauce I’m used to is vinegary
  • I wanted more kick in the sauce, so I shook in a bunch of cayenne pepper
  • I don’t like the taste of chili powder, so I left that out
  • I put in about 1/2 tsp liquid smoke even though I halved the rest of the recipe

After the BBQ sauce was ready (all the stuff I put in was nicely mixed in), I sliced the seitan thinly on a mandolin and put it in the sauce and stirred to coat. I already had some caramelized onion sitting on the stove so I threw those in too. I turned the heat on low and stirred every so often. It’s ready to eat when the seitan is heated all the way through.

Maybe sprouts aren’t the traditional condiment on a BBQ sandwich, but I have to say they are delicious on this. They soak up the sauce wonderfully and add a crispy texture. If you want to be really white trash, you can slather some margarine and vegannaise on the buns before putting the sandwich together.

The southern-style collard greens were easy to make as well. I chopped some onions and let it cook in a few tablespoons of olive oil till soft, and then threw in a clove of chopped garlic and put in pinch of salt and pepper. After another minute, I put in a tablespoon of tomato paste, turned up the heat, and stirred so the paste would coat the onions and garlic. By then, there will probably be some burnt bits of tomato paste on the bottom of the pan, so I deglazed with some vegetable broth and scraped the bits up to mix with the broth. Then, I poured in  1.5 cups of vegetable broth and then dumped in 1lb of chopped and washed collard greens. Covered up the pot, turned the heat to low and let it cook for 30 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so, I’d open the cover and give it a stir. After 30 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, and a small pinch of smoked paprika to give it that campfire smokiness. The paprika’s optional, but since I can’t put sausages or ham in the collard greens, it’s the only thing that can give it that southern-greens smoke.