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The Shitheads, as I’ve noted previously, are an obnoxious lot, prone to loud outbursts in public, over-drinking and over-eating, and the occasional ridicule of the blind. Four of the six Shitheads have Texas roots, which may explain something. I spent 14 years in Houston, and I’m probably the least beholden of the Shitheads to the Lone Star State, except in the cases of the Astros, Rockets, Tex-Mex, single-beer-sales at convenience stores, and smoked brisket.
Some of these things I’ve learned to appreciate from afar or, in the case of real pit-smoked brisket, suffer without. Sure, you can find places that come tantalizingly close to the real thing, but mostly they just make you ache for meat slow-smoked for hours over post oak, mesquite or some other hard wood. They make you pine for a square of red butcher paper heaping with slices of glistening, fatty brisket with nary a fork or sauce in sight.
I had some of that kind of brisket on Saturday. I had it in D.C.
I had it at our friends’ house. (Sorry about the tease.) Our friends, and fellow Shitheads, Jim and Jessica Shahin make regular pilgrimages to Texas. They don’t bring back bluebonnet seeds or stuffed jackalopes or Keep Austin Weird t-shirts or other Texana crap like that. They bring back a suitcase full of frozen meats.
Every time Jim and Jessica go to Texas, they bring an extra suitcase, a hard-shelled one, which they stuff with frozen briskets, sausages, and any other meat that captures their attention. “The first time I did this, I felt that I was smuggling,” Jim says, “like I was bringing back truffles from France.”
Because the briskets are so large, they never thaw during the four-hour, direct flight from Texas, Jim says. They’re still hard as rocks. So he just stuffs them in his freezer and smokes them as the need arises. The need arose on Saturday when the Shitheads convened.
But this brisket wasn’t the standard Safeway-brand beef, heavy on the fat cap, that Jim buys when in the Lone Star State. This was a fully smoked brisket from Louis Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, a Top 5 performer on Texas Monthly‘s best barbecue list. Jim had stored the brisket in his freezer since last winter. He pulled the beef out, thawed the beast, and then slowly smoked the brisket for a few hours on a low heat. The key, Jim says, is to heat the meat without cooking it all over again.
By the taste of things, I’d say Jim hit the mark (though the cook himself thinks the brisket had lost a little moisture). The brisket was fatty and flavorful and smoky and, best of all, covered in the cracked black pepper that is Mueller’s signature (see picture above). The stuff was so hot that one Shithead got a case of the hiccups. It was so hot that I dubbed the meat brisket au poivre. It was so tasty that I kept eating it long after my hunger and appetite had passed.