Sunday, July 7, 2013

That Perfect Brisket

When I go for barbecue, I always choose brisket.  Often times, it is in combination with other smoked goodies (like ribs or sausage), but brisket is really my favorite of the barbecue meats.  And I thought I had already tasted my all-time favorite brisket years ago at the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas.  But today, something unexpected and momentous happened.  My husband made the ultimate brisket.  That Perfect Brisket, to be precise.  Behold:

To be clear, I much prefer an orange-colored vinegar-based sauce to dark sugary sauces, and even then, I use sauce sparingly.  Indeed, the meat should speak for itself.  And, to be fair, he did use Salt Lick barbecue sauce (albeit, warmed and mixed with the brisket drippings) (which, luckily, we are fortunate enough to be able to buy off of the shelves of Central Market here in Dallas).  But this brisket was nothing short of amazing.  My brother joined us for dinner, and when he took a small pinch-bite of falling-apart brisket from off of the cutting board after it was freshly sliced, he was so taken aback by the wonder of the brisket that he said "Wait, I need to think about what I just tasted for a minute."

In a nutshell, from the fingertips of one who enjoys my husband's cooking immensely but who cannot take credit for the tastiness (except for whatever help I can provide by chasing kids around while he cooks and cleaning up when he is done), here's my best description of how he accomplished this little miracle.... He rubbed the brisket down last night with a rub of cayenne, salt, and black pepper and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  Early this afternoon, he took it out to let it sit and get up to room temp.  Then he smoked it in the barbecue pit using apple wood chips for the smoke.  That took 2 or 3 hours.  Then he finished it, foil-wrapped, in the oven for another 3 hours.  Then he let it rest, out of the oven, for at least 30 minutes before slicing (which made it fall-apart-moist-and-not-at-all-dry-like-much-ordinary-brisket).  It was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.  It had the absolute perfect blend of smoke, salt, heat, fat, and plain old meat goodness.  And then he served it alongside bacon-infused kale (superfood!), fresh roasted corn on the cob (which I like to eat in sliced sheets of corn kernels (see below)), and smoky beans with cumin.  Delish.  I think I even sang a song about how good it was while I ate it.  Yeah, I know I did.  And while the pictures are tantalizing, they really don't do justice to how gooooooood this was.  Here's a picture of That Perfect Brisket (with a splash of sauce) alongside the perfect veggie accoutrement:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

That Perfect Edge and Sweetness

I am encroaching on my old self.  For those of you who know me personally, at least sometime in the past nearly 10 years or so (God, has it been that long?)... you know I am an attorney, that I work in a very tall building, that I am very busy, and that on some days, I am even important, and maybe even in the grand scheme of things... at least sometimes.  But having three days at my disposal this past weekend (even if I was feverish for part of it) has afforded me some precious moments in which I have been privileged and inspired to delve into an old passion.  I sat for about four or five hours yesterday, alone... with a mechanical pencil.  Well, not entirely alone.  I also had an eraser.  And a sketch book.  And some inspiring images on my laptop.  You see,  I am working on some drawings for a project I have been invited to work on, and it delights my senses to be working, in earnest, on an artistic goal of my own.  I have carte blanche authority to make any visual choices I want in this project, which is quietly thrilling.  You see, in this life, I have spent a great deal of time facilitating others' art.  I have spent time as a serigraphy printer - printing other artists' works in precisely-printed editions, as an art teacher working in a variety of settings with children of various ages, and I am only in the past couple of weeks gracefully floating back to Earth after an amazing experience orchestrating an art project and fundraiser for the benefit of others.  But, this time, the art project is mine.  It's all been utterly worth doing, of course, and I have been rewarded with personal and deep-running benefits from all of the the work experiences I have lived and toiled through for the benefit of others, but there is simply nothing quite like creating in solitude, enveloped only by music of my choosing in my squishy, external, massive headphones and sitting and working for hours that feel like mere minutes.  Just creating.  And, by the way, I am only cognizant that I was drawing for about four or five hours based upon my after-the-fact internal count of how many times the album I was listening to resounded and echoed in my mind as I sketched away, entirely in another world yet physically present at my hard and heavy reclaimed wood dining table seated upon a velvety upholstered chair.  When I was invited to work on this project, I was told by my project-partner that my work has a certain "wonderful combination of edge and sweetness that's just perfect."  So I suppose this post is about that perception of my work as possessing that perfect edge and simultaneous sweetness.  I am honored by his comment, and I hope to live up to it as I complete more drawings for our joint effort.  Truth be told, I'd like to embody this description in my own personal being in this world as well as in my artwork (and think sometimes that maybe I do), but I'll take what I can get.  Through all of this, my mind is swirled away on waves of memory reminding me what it was like to "live" my art.  Late night conversations with dear friends about our experiences of the most-important-thing-in-the-world-which-was-expressing-all-this-passion-and-vision-inside and countless hours, at all hours of the day and night, in various UT art studios smelling linseed oil and turpentine and feeling the exquisitely smooth trail of a fan brush on large personally stretched and primed canvases, covered with caked-dry-but-once-wet-clay and not caring and still carving away for hours, or reclining in the unearthly pale light of the print lab darkroom eagerly awaiting the results of the image in the photo emulsion after the appropriately timed exposure on the light table.  Wow, it's been such a long time since those days, and I am a more grounded, and more "accomplished" version of myself now, and yet less... well, less something I don't know quite how to put my finger on... but maybe, just maybe, encroaching on my old self while going forward in my present life will create a sort of perfect harmony, which perfection I can potentially blog about down the road.  Balance, after all, is golden.  In the meantime, when I have the time, I'll scratch my pencil on that soft but solid paper surface and work on crafting those perfect images of edgy sweetness. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

That Perfect Authentic Moment in Time

As I sat this evening with some colleagues over beers at the Old Monk, our conversations traversed many topics that struck a chord somewhere within me.  This prose will never fully be able to recreate for those reading it the precise feeling I have at this moment, but at least it will attempt to articulate a thankful and thoughtful reflection on but a few moments.  At various points in the cool evening over a long deep orange wooden table and some beautifully rich beers (and, as an aside, I was lucky enough to have the bartender drawing hearts with grenadine in my beer foam), a small few of us in the crowd talked among ourselves.  When we began, there was the usual work chatter, the usual commentary and suppositions about the about the economy, the usual banter about politics.  But then things pleasantly turned.  Somehow, our conversation managed to flow effortlessly into how important it is to tell people that mean something to you, that you respond to, that you connect with, that they and those moments with them are meaningful to you, and how it lingers with you throughout life when someone acknowledges such a shared authentic connection with you... how critical it is to keep your own light on no matter how bad it gets and to acknowledge and reconcile with yourself the unimaginable, but real, bad things in life and to live with purpose through and after them... how music can pull you in so deeply you literally cannot process or think of anything else... how philosophy and curiosity about this wide world have fueled what is now known as science... how intuition is a crucial ingredient in success, albeit tempered with personal testing of such intuitively felt conclusions...  and many more personally important yet fluidly evolving thoughts we all considered and shared before they transformed into other and more interesting thoughts... and then we all bonded over our common incessant need to produce, create, or DO something meaningful, nearly all the time.  It runs counter to my very being to waste time.  Time can be wisely used in accomplishing a task or in connecting with a kindred spirit.  But to sit idle without either accomplishment or meaning is something that turns my stomach and contorts my soul.  I find myself wonderfully pleased when I get to have moments like those I had this evening where I and those in my company are able to free ourselves from the mundane sorts of conversations that all too often dominate adult working life and instead explore the larger ideas that dominate my private thinking most of the time.  It's tricky in this world connecting with others, and I am deeply thankful for moments in this life when I do.  Here's to more real moments.