The Burger Mix
Johnny G's Butcher Block
11600 Manchaca Rd
A couple of weeks ago I sent an email to Grover Swift, the owner of Johnny G’s Butcher Block in Manchaca, a favorite of carnivores down south. I suggested that he do a special grind of burger mix with brisket, short rib, and bacon; a “squealer” patty, but made with better cuts than just a standard chuck. I was over at Rancho Winslow a couple of weekends ago, and we saw Grover out “walking” his dogs in the back forty. Grover and Jill just moved in immediately behind Rancho Winslow, so CBoy went out and put a nice gate in their adjoining fenceline. Grover’s idea of “walking” his dogs was for him to sit in his truck, beer in hand, air conditioner on, and window rolled down, while he drove slowly around the pasture in big arcing circles, while the dogs trotted and panted alongside. “Beats the shit outta me actually walking them,” he said. “That would involve walking.” The man did have a point.
So we decided to amble on over and say hey, and once inside his new house we started talking ground meat. You probably don’t know this, but Johnny G’s grinds the meat for many of your favorite burger joints in town, and the dude certainly knows his burger meat. As the negotiations commenced, I told him that I wanted an equal blend of short rib, chuck flap, and brisket, with a little bacon thrown in for fat; something around 75-25 on the lean-o-meter, and not too finely ground; fat equals flavor, and it should have some coarseness to it. Short rib, we all understood, but chuck flap threw the group into a loop.
Grover does flap meat for kebabs, just like we used to do at the Wharf back in the day, after tri-tip got discovered and became too expensive for the corporate profit margin. Marinate and grill some flap meat and you have a fantastic kebab that melts in your mouth. But ask anyone where flap comes from and arguments ensue. Chuck flap is also known as “chuck edge”, or “chuck under-blade”, a cut from the serratus ventralis which is a very highly marbled muscle. In your NAMP Meat Buyer’s Guide it is number NAMP 116G. In California (and France) they call the other cut flap, or bavette d'aloyau, a fan-shaped cut that’s an extension of the T-bone and Porterhouse on the short loin. The NAMP Buyer’s Guide says it’s the NAMP 185A, or the obliquus internus abdominis muscle from the bottom sirloin butt. Same word, but two different cuts of meat from opposite ends of the cow. So what we finally agreed upon to sample was a 70-30 blend, coarse ground, of 10% short rib, 60% brisket, and 30% smoked bacon; a “squealer” by definition (a burger patty containing ground bacon), but a very tasty, very beefy squealer.
Art and I had a restaurant consulting meeting and chatted about marketing of the new book we have coming out on how to open and operate a restaurant (see link below), and cooked up a couple of behemoth burgers to try out the blend. I molded a couple of 9-ounce patties and fired up a skillet, while Art had cut and pre-soaked some spuds for pomme frites. The burger patties cooked up nice and juicy and tasted fantastic: a nice, rich beefy flavor with smoky undertones of porky bacon. We ate them on some Pepperidge Farms Italian White bread with some mayo and mustard (he had ketchup instead of mustard), chopped sweet onion, and ripe tomato slices. The spuds were blanched halfway at 330°F, and then finished at 365°F , so they puffed up and got golden crispy on the outside. That is what ketchup was meant for, a proper fried potato. We scarffed it all down, grunting with glee as we went. The leftover meat we shaped into a big meatloaf and cooked it off, not for meatloaf, but for meatloaf sandwiches: the king of cold meat sandwiches.
I love the juiciness of a 70-30 blend. The next batch I might cut back on the bacon to 20%, with 35% brisket, 35% chuck flap, and 10% short rib; the chuck and brisket should have enough fat to keep the whole mix at 70-30, even with the bacon reduced a smidge. I’d love to have more short rib in there, but it’s gotten so damn expensive since the wonderkid chefs discovered what the old soulfood cooks knew all along: slowly braise a short rib and it’ll melt in your mouth. Maybe I should try grinding some oxtail before the bistro babies discover them too.
Link to the new book:
Link to Grover's shop:
Austin Chronicle article on local sausages:
Mick Vann ©