Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Pits


A couple of weeks ago I made my first effort at a couple of local favorites - Baltimore-style pit beef and pit turkey.

When we first got to town almost eight years ago now, I was intrigued by these little roadside pit beef shacks that were scattered around. Sometimes they were in the parking lots of restaurants, sometimes they were attached to fruit stands, or gas stations or just sitting by themselves. When I finally pulled off and ordered one of the sandwiches, I was hooked.

It wasn't like the bbq I'd enjoyed in Kentucky, Texas or Chicago. There's no sauce applied during the cooking and sometimes not even a rub added before. The beef, grilled over direct heat has a crunchy crust and is sliced as thin as possible, then piled high on a kaiser roll and slathered with a horseradish sauce.

Pulaski Highway, which runs through Baltimore's east side, is Pit Beef Alley. Chaps is perhaps the Mecca of pit places, drawing well locally and bringing in aficionados from all over.

I prepared the beef and turkey the night before grilling, using a rub attributed to Big Fat Daddy, who used to be among the Pulaski pit bosses. The recipe is:

1/2 cup Season-All seasoned salt
1/4 cup paprika
4 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp oregano
2 tsp ground black pepper

After rubbing the beef (3 lbs top round) and a turkey breast, I covered both with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator overnight to cure.

The next day I prepared the Weber for direct grilling and when the coals were ready, put both meats side by side over the coals.

I turned the meats about every five to seven minutes to make sure they cooked evenly. After about an hour over the coals, both were nicely blackened on the outside and cooked to temperature inside (about 150-160 degrees for the beef, whenever the plug popped out of the turkey breast).

I brought both in, tented them on a cutting board for 30 minutes, then began to slice as thinly as I could. I also mixed up the requisite horseradish sauce:

1 cup Hellmann's mayo
1/2 cup prepared white horseradish
1 Tbl lemon juice
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste.

I don't know if I'm quite ready to open my own roadside pit joint, but it wasn't too bad for a first attempt.

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