Magdalena’s historical beef
Magdalena Old Timers Reunion touts Saturday afternoon’s barbecue as a significant event. Because I am a food aficionado – or maybe just an avid food consumer – I decided to buy a plate and see how their legendary traditional brisket tasted.
Here’s the story as I understand it. This brisket comes from a very old, cowboy-era recipe that involves burying the whole cooking assembly and letting the meat cook for many hours. This sounds like the kind of traditional recipe I find myself fascinated with, like kalua pig — the traditional pork recipe for a lu’au — which is rubbed with spices, wrapped in ti and banana leaves and buried with coals – a treat I’ve not tried, admittedly.
Brisket is made from cow pectorals – chest muscles – which are very tough from the constant work they do. These muscles end up with a lot of connective tissue that take a long time to melt and cook down, so the cooking process takes a very long time. It’s easy for the meat to dry out badly during the cooking process; some fat deposits are left attached to the brisket during cooking so, when melted, the fat keeps the meat moister.
But what of the legendary nine-dollars-per-plate Old Timers brisket lunch? It’s one plate of beans, brisket, green chile, onions, coleslaw and pickles if you want them, plus a tortilla and a soda.
I skipped on the beans, though I was told they were quite good. My eyes were on the brisket – more specifically, a brisket soft taco with green chile, onions and Kansas City-style barbecue sauce.
The brisket was delicious. It tasted mightily of beef first and foremost, which the barbecue sauce, green chile and onions complimented nicely.
When I say beef tastes like beef, it might seem like an obvious statement, but I’ve had burgers, steaks and other things where the beef flavor was in the background, or where the dish was focused on how the other flavors mingled with the beef. I’m not talking about highfalutin four-star dining either; a green chile cheeseburger is about every part of the sandwich, not the beef first and foremost.
But for all that I added to my brisket taco, it was still about the brisket and the mighty flavor of beef. The green chile was noticeably mild both in terms of spice and flavor. The coleslaw on the side was cool and refreshing, and I really enjoyed how the citrus and pepper cut through the fat of the beef.
Speaking of the fat of the beef, there was a lot of that. Brisket is expected to be fatty, but this was impressive. To be fair, I’m hard pressed to say whether there was more melted connective tissue or fat. In either case, it was very moist – my napkin reached carrying capacity halfway through the meal.
It was also remarkably tender beef. Burgers come out tougher than this brisket.
My only reservation about this is the price. The meal was filling and excellent, but nine dollars is a bit steep. Of course, I’m a college student, so I’m hardly a good judge of the value of food, but knocking a dollar off the price would make this something I’d be vocally enthusiastic about.
Still, the legendary Old Timers barbecue was noteworthy fare and a finer plate of brisket than I’ve had before.