When you want to plan a dinner party that offers good, simple food that gets you out of the kitchen quickly so you can kick back with your guests, there's no better way to do it than with some down-home Texas barbecue.
We consulted with Barbecues and Grilling expert Derrick Riches to get the lowdown on hosting a genuine Texas barbecue dinner party.
It's All About the Meat
According to Riches, Texas barbecue is sliced beef brisket, German-style sausage, and meaty ribs with tangy, tomato-based sauce carefully spooned over the meat or placed on the side. Its exact origins are uncertain, but there were influences from the German and Czech immigrants that came to the area, along with the Spanish and Mexican heritage in Texas. The word barbecue even comes from the Spanish word barbacoa. The cowboy chuckwagon also played a part in the tradition, with the choices of side dishes and desserts.
Don't Forget the Side Dishes and Desserts
Typical side dishes include pinto beans, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fried okra, and sweet potato casserole. Barbecue should be served with savory condiments such as pickled jalapeno peppers, pickled okra, cherry peppers, sliced onions, and dilled pickles. The bread of choice is plain white Mrs. Baird's sandwich bread. Dessert is traditionally cobbler—this is where the chuckwagon influence came in, as cobblers can be cooked over hot coals in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Favorite flavors are peach, cherry, and blackberry. And don't forget to top your juicy cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
You have several beverage options for your Texas barbecue. For non-alcoholic choices, you can't go wrong with unsweetened iced tea, served with optional sugar added by the drinker, or lemonade. Some Texans also love a sugary soft drink called Big Red, but it's not available everywhere.
If you'd like to add alcoholic beverages to your menu, then you should offer a good Texas beer. If you can find it, Shiner Bock, from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, is a great choice. Another favorite is Lone Star beer, which is more widely available. It's also appropriate to serve wine at a Texas barbecue, especially a Texas wine. Llano Estacado Winery and Caprock Winery are both winemakers from the Panhandle of Texas that have won numerous awards. A hearty red wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot pairs well with Texas barbecue. French Beaujolais is another good choice with beef brisket.
Setting the Stage
You can set the mood for a Texas barbecue in several ways. Decorating with a red-checked tablecloth, western-style bandanas for napkins, and sheriff's stars used as party favors or place cards will help to set the stage. Naturally, a Texas flag should be hung behind your buffet.
Music will also help to put your guests in the Texas spirit. "Cowboy Songs" by Texan Michael Martin Murphey are perfect for music during your Texas theme party. For a more mellow sound, you can play Lyle Lovett's "The Road to Ensenada," featuring Lovett's quirky, often humorous songwriting and tongue-in-cheek delivery.
Favorite songs include:
- "Don't Touch My Hat"
- "Long, Tall Texan"
- "That's Right, You're Not From Texas"
For something a little edgier, try either Terry Allen's "Lubbock On Everything," which includes his classic, often-covered "Amarillo Highway" or any of Robert Earl Keen's albums, especially "No. 2 Live Diner," "West Textures," or "Gringo Honeymoon," which includes the song, "Barbeque."
For other entertainment, you could hire a trick roper—entertaining for both kids and adults. Or you could play some cowboy poetry, such as the recordings of Baxter Black. He is the most famous large animal veterinarian/cowboy poet and is frequently heard on National Public Radio. If you can find a local cowboy poet, he would be a great addition to the party—use the Cowboy Poets' Society to find a local artist.
Ask among your friends to find a guitarist or pianist to sing and play cowboy songs for you. A good piano songbook is My 1st Book of Cowboy Songs. A good guitar songbook is Mel Bay Presents Cowboy Songs for Acoustic Guitar.