Friday, July 20

Lone Star Dispatch: Linked In

From the keyboard of guest blogger Daniel Vaughn, whose computer smells vaguely of brisket. 

Texans are known for their beef barbecue, but our love of the steer goes deeper than just brisket. In southeast Texas, along the Gulf Coast, a few producers still turn out all-beef sausage links. Not even an oink's worth of pork is included in these sausages—known locally as "juicy links"—not even in the casings. Seasoned with plenty of garlic and enough paprika to dye the generous outflow of fat, these links are packed into beef casings.

A juicy link at Patillo's in Beaumont. Photo by Daniel Vaughn

A few old timers (and some who just don't know any better) expend the time and energy required to chew the tough casings. Most folks squeeze the filling right into their mouths like a Louisianan downing boudin, while others cut the links opened and consume the filling either with a fork or using a slice of white bread as a plate-to-palate conduit. In this situation, the bread should not be stout enough to withstand more than a few seconds of the saturated filling, as the impromptu fold-over sandwiches are meant to be consumed quickly and with gusto.

Patillo's Bar-B-Q in Beaumont is the first place I ever experienced these links. The restaurant turns one hundred this year, and I don't think they've touched the recipe in that time. Similar links can be found at Sonny's II (and presumably at Sonny's I, wherever that may be), also in Beaumont. At a Port Arthur hole in the wall called Comeaux's, Mr. Comeaux has been dishing out juicy links of his own recipe for a quarter of a century.

Back in Beaumont, a joint called Broussard's Links & Ribs still makes a great beef link, but the fat content—and therefore the succulent juiciness—have been reduced over time. Farther down the coast in Galveston, Leon's World's Finest Bar-B-Q bills juicy links as "Downtown Links" on its menu. Leon is proud to carry on the tradition, faithfully preparing them according to a 1930s recipe.

Let's hope today's fat-averse tendencies don't choke them out for good.

You can follow Daniel Vaughn on Twitter at @bbqsnob.