I have beef with beef. Not eating it, I should add, oh no, I love eating beef. But cooking it is something I apparently just cannot do. If I cook a steak it’s inevitably either a grim grey colour or practically raw ( I know for some this would be absolute heaven, but I’m a medium rare kinda girl and require at least some heat on my steak); cook a roast beef and it’s always tough and chewy. Beef and I, we can’t catch a break. I never have this problem with chicken, I’ve cooked it so much it’s become natural to me. I crave that kind of confidence with beef but it’s just not happening. It’s incredibly annoying that I can’t get to grips with one of the most delicious things you can eat. I’d love to say that this all changed upon cooking what I’m about to write about but sadly no, I’m still a dud when it comes to beef.
I wanted to cook this dish a) because I said I’d stick to the Deep South theme for a little while so I should really stand by what I said, and b) because I wanted to cook up a little reminder of our New York holiday last year. I don’t feel I’ve done nearly enough annoying holiday reminiscing on this blog for my liking, and everyone likes hearing detailed information about other peoples travels right? Please, tell me again about the hilarious language mix up with the Greek bartender! Anyway, I’m going to tell you about Dinosaur Bar-Be-Que whether you like it or not. Barbeque food is as Southern as iced tea on a porch swing, yet very un-Southern New York is packed with restaurants dedicated to barbeque as well as soul food originating from the state of Louisiana. It’s no surprise really, New York is undoubtedly one of, if not the best place to eat in the world, you can find pretty much everything if you’re willing to look. Dinosaur BBQ can be found in Harlem as well as a couple of other locations upstate. One was even featured in Man vs Food, so we knew we had to check the place out as a pilgrimage to the joys of greed. Before I tell you just how much we ate, I’d like to point out that we had done a ridiculous amount of walking that week and burned a hell of a lot of calories. Plus we were on holiday so hold your judgement! Ok, so first off we had a bucket of wings. They were incredible, you would be a complete mug to go there and not try them. We went for a combination of garlic chipotle and wango tango marinades and both were excellent choices. I’ve not had better wings before or since. It was perhaps inevitable that what followed felt slightly disappointing, the wings were a hard act to follow. We had a combo plate which included smothered ribs, beef brisket in BBQ sauce, pulled pork and several sides. While everything tasted really good, they didn’t quite have the wow factor of the wings and I think the expectation of having proper American BBQ food meant whatever came out would never have quite lived up to all the Man vs Food moments. Still, I learnt that I really like brisket in BBQ sauce and wanted to try and recreate it at home.
Silly Hayles. If there’s one thing I should have learnt from all this blogging, it’s that trying to recreate holiday foods rarely, if ever, works. Banana cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory is a case in point. Try things, enjoy them, move on, that should be my new mantra. I was lured into foolishly recreating beef brisket by the book USA written by Sheila Lukins. It’s a behemoth of a book with tons of recipes, which maybe should be a warning that the quality control on these recipes isn’t top notch. How can you test and ensure over 600 recipes work? I had to marinate a joint of beef brisket (a cut of beef from the breast of the cow which needs long, slow cooking) in a spice mix, leave it in the fridge overnight and then cook it in what the book calls a ‘mop’, aka a BBQ sauce. The most disappointing thing about this recipe is that so many tasty, strongly flavoured ingredients went into making it and yet it tasted so meh. You’ve got bacon, mustard, soy sauce, onions, peppers, garlic, thyme, paprika, brown sugar and of course, beef. How did it go so wrong? Instead of what I expected it to be, which was soft, tender, juicy beef covered in a sticky glaze, I ended up with chewy, tasteless beef in an insipid stew. Neither of us was remotely impressed. It was a complete waste of ingredients and a totally uninspiring Sunday dinner. For me, to mess up a weekend dinner is a complete sin, food on those days needs to be fantastic especially on a Sunday when you’ve got that sinking back to work feeling and need an edible pick me up. Yet again a decent beef meal has escaped me, although seeing as I followed all the instructions in the book I would like to think that this time at least, I’m completely blameless. That’s it, I’m done with recreating holiday favourites, which is absolutely for the best as there’s no way I could ever recreate the heavenly burgers at Shake Shack or the immense crispness of the fried chicken at Pies n Thighs. Luckily a return visit to The Big Apple is on the cards so all I have to do is wait. Easier said than done though!