Saturday, March 17, 2012

Broussard's Links + Ribs + Bar-B-Q

8420 S. Sam Houston Pkwy W, @ Fondren

I first came across Broussard’s several months ago. It was a Sunday and they were closed but I noted it was a new strip center and there was no wood pile out back - not promising signs for good barbecue. I jotted it down on my list of places to check out but it wasn’t high on the list. Please feel free to insert some weighty thoughts about book covers, etc., here.

When I got around to looking into it, I discovered it’s a brand new Houston outpost of a long-time Beaumont institution, offering a unique take on links apparently known only in the Beaumont area. Their hand-packed links are a variation on what Robb Walsh in his barbecue Legends cookbook called the Southern Black/Urban Black style of sausage, fine ground beef only with simple seasonings such as red and black pepper and salt. But whereas most of those are wrapped in synthetic casings, Broussard’s are wrapped in a very thick natural casing and seem to be lacking in the red pepper element. Because they’re hand stuffed, they’re also much more loosely textured. And they’re just links, not hot links.

On my first visit I had to try the house specialty. The casing is very tough; it was a struggle to cut through it with a plastic knife. You eat these by scraping or squeezing out the meat and spreading it on bread (provided) or crackers or whatever. I found myself unceremoniously picking up the casing and scraping it with my teeth to get the last bits. I’ve only experienced one example of these types of sausages that I liked before, being enough of a barbecue snob to overwhelmingly prefer the Central Texas, coarse ground, natural casing varieties, but I liked these. The uncomplicated sauce is mildly sweet, very mildly hot; it was perhaps essential for the enjoyment of the meat. The potato salad was, I think, homemade with just a hint of mustard. I found the Rice Dressing, however, disappointingly lacking in spice and seasoning.

Intrigued, I just had to try the ribs (note the order their offerings are listed). Now I guess these ribs are not going to win any awards at the barbecue competitions, either, but I will have to admit to the heresy of liking them, too. Tender almost to the point of falling apart - almost - slathered in sauce, characteristics a barbecue snob should detest, There were melt-in-your-mouth fatty bites and some chewy, burnt bits; damning the calorie count and the cholesterol, I gobbled them all up. The potato salad lived up to expectations from my previous experience but the green beans, a soul food style cooked way past the point of crispness or snap, with bits of onion in a thin, very salty broth, could’ve used a more flavoring from some bacon or the like.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Doreck and Sons Packing Co.

4101 FM 646 N, Santa Fe

For several years before I made the decision to do a blog I had been very much into barbecue, burgers, and Texas-made sausages and The Texas Sausage Trail was one of the first categories I established on this blog. But there are unforeseen twists and turns in life and the blog has become more focused on ethnic and neighborhood eats in Houston. I’ve only been up to Austin and Central Texas once in the past 3 years and I didn’t stop at any of the barbecue emporiums or smokehouses or butcher shops along the way on that trip. But it was about 3 years ago that I happened upon this place while researching another project down in the Santa Fe area.

It was a nasty day; the parking lot was full of mud-splattered vehicles of the 4WD and dually variety. Inside, coolers were stacked all over the place, bearing the names of the hunters whose bounty was inside.

When I finally found the meat cases there was only one variety of sausage, a pork and beef jalapeno sausage (they make other varieties I understand) so I grabbed a package and got back to work. Back home, I tossed the package in my freezer in a section devoted to sausages I’d collected on previous trips around the state.

It was only recently that I came across the package again and heated some up. To be honest my expectations weren’t too high for an unheralded sausage maker from Santa Fe. I had looked for something online back then and found nothing (there are a few brief mentions now). I was down to the last of the link before I remembered to take a picture and the little piece I had left is lost in the bun from Three Brothers. The first thing I had noticed was the rather larger pieces of jalapeno, confirmed by a more pronounced taste of jalapeno than one usually finds in jalapeno sausages, but it had only a modest amount of heat. It’s a medium-coarse grind, densely packed sausage; I hardly detected any smokiness; it might benefit from finishing off in a smoker rather than stove top as I did. However I was pleasantly surprised by this sausage and next time I get back down there I intend to check them out for some other varieties.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pollos y Tacos La Bala

S. Post Oak @ Willow

Or is the name of this trailer Gorditas y Tacos La Bala? That's what it says on the sign on the fence.

I’d seen an older truck with the La Bala name on it at this location many times but never stopped. The very new looking wagon, a line of customers, and the fact my first choice for lunch one day was closed, persuaded me to give it a try. I’d wondered if the truck had any connection to Tacos La Bala (Bellaire, Beechnut, Dashwood) and I noted machacado on the breakfast menu and desebrada and cochinita pibil for tacos, gorditas, tortas, etc., items that are not very common on taqueria or lonchera menus, and there is the Torta de la Barda, too. I’ve had the machacado and desebrada at the La Bala taquerias and I was persuaded this must be a mobile unit by the same folks.

One of the phrases I have used repeatedly on the blog is something like ‘I burned out on such and such’ and it applies here. I burned out on loncheras over a year ago and I don’t think I’ve stopped at more than one or two since then. There seem to be a lot fewer of them around my part of town than there were a couple of years ago. This turned out to be an auspicious re-acquaintance opportunity - the food was very good, perhaps the best I’ve ever had from a lonchera on the Southwest side.

I went with desebrada, one of my favorite meats, and pastor. The desebrada was better than I’d had at the taqueria on Bellaire, the pastor better than what I had at the location on Beechnut. It was the juiciest and most flavorful pastor I’ve had since my last visit to Karanchoe’s over a year ago with tender meat and fatty pieces, not a dried up or overcooked morsel among them. I squeezed both of the impressive salsas on the tray rather than on the tacos so I could get a better picture of the taco meats then decided I didn’t need the sauces at all.

I got home and looked up the comments online about the taquerias and was reminded their cochinita pibil is highly acclaimed. Then I realized that for some reason I’d never gotten around to trying the cochinita pibil at the taquerias, a bit strange since I’m sure it’s what first persuaded me to put them on my list of places to try. So I went back the next day and tried that and the nopales. The pibil is fully worthy of all the praise and I’m kicking myself for never having tried it before. For many years, this was my favorite Mexican dish and there are only a couple of other versions around that I like. It's good to know there's a purveyor so close to home. I got this order to go and unfortunately the taco de nopales suffered from being wrapped up in foil for the trip home, the cactus becoming unappealingly limp verging on mushy.

It’s a bit of a sketchy neighborhood; the parking lot/driveway for the convenience store/gas station is frequently packed and parking can be a hassle. Tacos on maiz are $1.50, for flour, $1.75 - have prices at loncheras gone up? Is that the new standard price? If not, this place is a bit more expensive, but worth it. Lengua and tripa are a bit more expensive than the other meat choices but the pollo asado offerings, which I have not tried, are less pricy than other pollo asado wagons.