Here we go:
The sandwich: Smoked brisket with Alabama-style white BBQ sauce and Brussels sprouts on whole-wheat toast.
The construction: All those things I just said. The aforementioned Crowd Cow — where you can sign up with my referral code and get $25 worth of meat for both of us — sells full briskets, brisket flats, and brisket points. Flats are the lean type available at many supermarkets. They can be delicious, but if you’re smoking them, they sometimes end up pretty dry. The point — a.k.a. the deckle — is the fattier part sold as “moist brisket” at a lot of barbecue joints, and it’s both tastier and more forgiving. I buy the points.
Brisket has so much flavor and takes on enough smoke that it doesn’t require more than salt and pepper as a rub, but I gave it a light coating of yellow mustard and used a mix of the Trader Joe’s coffee-garlic rub and a the remains of a container of Chicago-style steak seasoning that I bought years ago in Arizona when my spring-training hotel had a barbecue. Here’s the brisket is on the grill:
This happened to be an exceptionally fatty brisket even after I trimmed it, so I wound up cutting some fat out of the center and melting it in a skillet. I shredded the Brussels sprouts and fried them in the beef fat, in the hopes that they’d crisp up and provide some texture to the sandwich.
I chose Alabama barbecue sauce because I knew I had the necessary ingredients and because I wanted something with a strongly acidic, vinegary flavor to give the sandwich bite and to balance out the bitterness of the Brussels sprouts. There are a bunch of recipes for Alabama-style sauce online. I used mayo, apple cider vinegar, the juice of half a lime, horseradish, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
If you’ve got a smoker at home, you probably don’t need this advice, and if you don’t it doesn’t apply, but I cooked the brisket over indirect heat at around 250-degrees. I used oak, which I believe to be the best and most versatile wood for beef and pork smoking. To me, hickory and mesquite have way too much smoke flavor, and I don’t often like the sweetness of fruit woods.
Important background information: I need to address an elephant in this digital room, because it’s one that has me awash in guilt right now: I live in a Manhattan apartment with outdoor space. It’s a phenomenal thing, and one for which my landlords could certainly get away with charging (someone, not us) way more in rent. The interior of our place is cramped, but the patio is big enough for a small dining table, a couch and a fancy grill.
And because it’s New York City, there are roughly 50 other apartments that can see right into our backyard, and these days, I can sense the eyes of all my neighbors firing death rays at me every time I’m out there. I feel like a goldfish nonchalantly barbecuing inside its fishbowl while everyone outside the fishbowl is dying of thirst.
What can you do? I’m not about to stay indoors out of solidarity, and if any of my neighbors want to devise some contact-free meat-moving system, I’ll happily throw their steaks on the grill next to mine. In the interim, I feel like I should move into more performative grilling, like I’m manning the hibachi at Benihana. I need to practice my knifeplay, for the people.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Honestly? Meh.
It was delicious, no doubt, because the brisket was delicious — salty, fatty, beefy and smoky. But I believe a sandwich should be better than the sum of its parts, and I can’t say with any confidence that I upgraded this brisket by slapping it between bread with sauce and Brussels sprouts.
My hopes for crispy Brussels sprouts were foolhardy: Though they had some light crunch coming out of the pan, that crunch was no match whatsoever for the greasiness of the moist brisket, so the Brussels sprouts served only to provide some not-unpleasant but also not-at-all necessary vegetal flavor.
Maybe if I had a kaiser roll or something, I could’ve found some extra ingredient to throw on this sandwich and give it some extra oomph. But my neighborhood, like many, lacks for bread selection right now, and this wheat bread was (and remains) all I had available. It held together surprisingly well under the onslaught of dripping fat, but it added nothing more than something to hold on to while I enjoyed the brisket inside.
Hardcore Sandwich of the Week heads might recognize it as a rarity for me to write up a less-than-spectacular sandwich, but since there is no small-business owner behind the creation of this one, I can be honest: It was just OK. As referenced, I think I would have preferred the brisket on a plate with Brussels sprouts and toast.
Hall of Fame? Nah.
Special shout-out: A handful heroes used my Crowd Cow referral code to buy meat, meaning my next big order of meat to prepare and review is going to be more or less free. Thanks so much to all of them. It’s like getting paid to write again, except this time around I am paid directly in meat, which would be my preference.
Also, seriously: The selection is limited right now, but Crowd Cow can probably deliver food to you faster than FreshDirect or anybody else at this point, so I’m going to keep plugging it and my referral code for as long as that’s the case.