How an Aussie cupcake baker became a Texas barbecue expert, author

12:00 a.m. Tuesday, March 6, 2018 Austin360 Eats
Jess Pryles is the Austin-based founder of the barbecue-and-meat lifestyle brand Hardcore Carnivore, which includes a website, cooking classes, a line of seasonings, a signature edition barbecue smoker and now a cookbook. Contributed by Mark Roper

There’s nothing Jess Pryles won’t grill, smoke or sear.

The local barbecue star and author of a new book has taught meat classes to scientists and cooking classes to everyday burger lovers, and she even has her own signature edition smoker and a line of meat and steak seasonings.

It’s all part of the Hardcore Carnivore life that is now capped by Pryles’ first book, “Hardcore Carnivore: Cook Meat Like You Mean it” (Agate Surrey, $29.95), a guide and recipe collection that combines her meat know-how with a wide range of dishes, from rabbit and adouille gumbo to slow-smoked ribs and char siu skewers.

She covers steaks, burgers and pulled pork, of course, but also particularly Texan dishes, such as parisa, the tartare made with raw beef and cheddar cheese that’s served almost exclusively in Medina County. Jess and I got to try this together for the first time when we went hunting outside Castroville a few years back.

With coffee-rubbed kangaroo loin, blackberry lamb shanks, Texas caviar and carnitas, Pryles’ debut has a different perspective from other meat cookbooks because the author grew up in Australia loving Texas from afar.

She first started visiting Austin a decade ago when she owned a cupcake bakery in Melbourne. She and Olivia O’Neal, owner of Austin’s Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, met through Twitter and started traveling back and forth to bake at each other’s shops once a year.

Eventually, Pryles’ interest in barbecue took over, and she started studying, blogging about and building community around beef and barbecue, both in Australia and in Texas. (She is on a panel at this year’s South by Southwest about building community through barbecue.)

By the time she finally made the leap to move to Austin for good, she was drawing thousands of likes on every post on social media; touring ranches, slaughterhouses and meat inspection facilities around the state; and cooking on live TV to share tips on every aspect of preparing meat at the end of that supply chain.

She launched the Hardcore Carnivore line of meat and steak seasonings in 2016, and from Brazil to Sweden to the “Today” show and back to Austin, she never seems to tire of talking about her favorite subjects — meat and the Lone Star State.

Cider-Brined Pork Chops With Mustard Sauce

Apple and pork are complementary flavors, so it makes sense to start them mingling well in advance of the cooking. The secret to chops with a beautiful crust that are still tender and juicy on the inside is to start the brining process the night before.

For the brine:

4 cups apple cider

1 bay leaf

6 allspice berries

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup maple syrup

For the pork chops:

4 thick center-cut bone-in pork chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the mustard sauce:

1/4 cup yellow mustard

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of kosher salt

To make the brine, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until the salt has dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool.

Put the pork chops in a dish and pour the cooled brine over the top. Weigh the meat down with a plate if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet over high heat. Remove the chops from the brine, pat dry with paper towels and place into the hot skillet. Sear the chops for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, then transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking. Cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

While the meat is cooking, make the mustard sauce. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently until warmed through. Serve the pork chops drizzled with the mustard sauce. Serves 4.

— From “Hardcore Carnivore: Cook Meat Like You Mean it” by Jess Pryles (Agate Surrey, $29.95)