Cheryl Alters Jamison calls Santa Fe home today, but the cookbook author began gathering her wealth of Texas cooking expertise while living in Dallas in the late 1970s. She and late husband Bill Jamison, a Texan and fellow gastronome, penned more than 20 cookbooks together, most of them detailing dishes from the Texas border to the Piney Woods and from Amarillo to South Padre Island.
The duo won the first of four James Beard Awards for their 1994 release, Smoke & Spice, telling cooks how to create great barbecue in their own backyards. And it’s on that foundation that Jamison penned her newest work, Texas Q: 100 Recipes For the Very Best Barbecue From the Lone Star State, All Smoke-Cooked to Perfection (Harvard Common Press, $26.99), updating ‘cue-loving cooks on everything that’s transpired in the barbecue world in the 25 years that’s since elapsed.
The smokehouse evolution provided Jamison plenty of fodder, given that the genre has morphed into its own subculture: “Who could have imagined back in the 1990s that — as beloved as barbecue was — that Texas Monthly would hire a BBQ editor?” she muses. “What I like better today is the creative effort that’s being put into side dishes and desserts. Of course, it’s still most important to get the meat right. And so many more home cooks are interested in trying what they’ve discovered while eating out.”
To that end, Jamison offers her version of Pork Belly Burnt Ends with Jalapeño Jelly Glaze, inspired by the bacon burnt ends made famous by Heim Barbecue in Fort Worth (and soon, Dallas). That’s one dish she likes to include with other party-starters when she entertains, along with Port Aransas Tuna Dip, made with smoked tuna steak. Her appetizers chapter is full of fun ideas she recommends for a football game party or a day at the lake or beach.
“It’s a microcosm of the tastes swirling around Texas today. You’ll find classic Texas ingredients from pecans to beef to the bounty of the Gulf Coast,” she writes. “There are old ideas from the South, like deviled eggs and Jezebel sauce. You see — and taste — the flavors of the many immigrant groups that have added to the vibrancy of the cuisine, from Central and Eastern Europe, to Mexico and Vietnam.”
As alternatives for beef brisket and pork ribs, she points to lighter choices for main dishes, such as Backyard BBQ’d Chicken Breasts or maybe a Whole Stuffed Snapper — “a whole fish never fails to impress guests and is pretty darned simple.” Her book is complete with plenty of sides and desserts, too, from Mexican Street Corn Salad, Asian Cucumbers and Jicama and Honeydew Salad, to Peach Sorbet and Frozen Paloma Pie.
Jamison also co-authored last winter the cookbook Perini Ranch Steakhouse: Stories and Recipes for Real Texas Food with her close friends Lisa and Tom Perini, owners of the famous Buffalo Gap steakhouse. When she’s not writing books, she’s hosting a radio show, “Heating It Up,” on Saturday at 4 pm CDT. It’s streamed and podcast also at santafe.com. She has a virtual cooking class with the Santa Fe School of Cooking, teaching viewers to make espresso-rubbed pork chops in a stovetop smoker, along with other dishes, at santafeschoolofcooking.com. You can also follow her food adventures on Instagram at @excitedaboutfood and on her website, excitedaboutfood.com.
Pork Belly Burnt Ends with Jalapeño Jelly Glaze
3/4 cup Pork Rib and Belly Rub (recipe follows)
1 batch Citrus Mustard Mop (recipe follows)
1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) uncooked section pork belly, preferably skinless and boneless
1/2 cup jalapeño jelly
Before you plan to smoke pork belly, pack all rub over meaty side of pork belly. Place in a large plastic bag and refrigerate, skin-side down, for at least 4 hours to overnight.
Prepare smoker for barbecuing, bringing temperature to 200 to 225 degrees.
Prepare mop, if needed, and keep mixture warm over low heat while barbecuing. Place pork belly, skin-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to smoker and cook for about 3 hours, mopping about once an hour in a wood-burning pit or as appropriate in your style of smoker. Pork belly is ready when it is cooked well-done, approximately 175 degrees. Be careful with hot liquid pork fat. Keep smoker going.
Let meat sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then slice off and discard skin. Cut meat into ½-inch-thick slices, or another size and shape if you wish. Reserve the baking sheet with its pork fat.
If jalapeno jelly is too thick to brush on easily, add a little water to it. Brush pork belly slices with jelly and return to baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to smoker and cook another 15 to 30 minutes until jelly has melted and caramelized in places. Serve hot.
Pork Rib and Belly Rub: Combine 1/2 cup each packed dark brown sugar and sweet paprika with 2 tablespoons each dry mustard, onion powder and coarse sea salt, 1 tablespoon hickory-smoked salt and 2 teaspoons ground chile pequin or cayenne. Mix well and store covered in a cook, dark pantry.
Citrus Mustard Mop: Combine in a saucepan 3 cups water; 1 large onion, chopped; 4 tablespoons salted butter; 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce; 2 tablespoons dry mustard; 1 tablespoon dry rub (above); and juice of two lemons, with lemon peels. Warm the mop over medium heat, just to a boil. Keep mixture warm over low heat, adding water if it reduces so much that it can’t be drizzled easily.
Makes 8 or more servings.