Chef Tom Perini
Buffalo Gap, TX
Photos by Steve Aja
Gap,Texas is authentic Texas, situated way out in the
Texas hills. To get to Perini Ranch, you turn off one empty
road onto another, go through a log fence, into a dirt parking
lot, and continue until you’re looking at an old oil pumper
sitting right there in the middle of a dirt field. Under the
trees are sheds, chuck wagons, and an aluminum walled shed ….
Wait! We are driving over to the shed. No — it is not
a shed. It is the famous, legendary, Texas hot spot known as
the Perini Ranch Restaurant.
walls, pickup trucks, and outdoor chuck wagons in the middle
of nowhere. I tell myself this place is going to have great
food! Rumor has it you can’t even get a table on a Tuesday
night if you haven’t made a reservation. Through the thick
wooden doors, we are greeted by the cats. These aren’t
just cats, these are ranch cats. I can just see into these bored
cats eyes, “ don’t mess with me, I’m sleepin’.”
The smell of mesquite wood is filtering through the afternoon
air. In the door comes a cowboy, slim, tall, wearing Levis,
with a silver grey cowboy hat. “Hello folks. You the photographers?”
“Yes” we say. “Can I get you a drink?”
I love this Texas hospitality!
Perini Ranch crew has opened up on a day off just for Food and
Beverage International. (On a regular day, we wouldn’t
have had room indoors for the photo shoot — too many customers.)
This is the headquarters of Tom Perini, James Beard Award winning
chef. The chef that was setup to barbecue for the congressmen
at the White House Rose Garden on the infamous September 11,
2001, Bush’s barbecue guy! He is also the Texas Restaurant’s
Association chef ambassador to Russia and Eastern Europe, the
self-described Cowboy Cook, Tom Perini. We’re going to
taste great beef, wonderful traditional American desserts, Tom’s
favorite side dishes, and look Texas in the eye over a cocktail.
As we sat around and watched everybody work, the place was filled
with lively conversation. Our first lesson was on some live
following is an excerpt taken from ”Texas Cowboy Cooking,”
by Tom Perini.
Remember, on the chuck wagon the heat source
is wood, and most of our cooking comes from that - something
grilled over a wood fire. That’s not just Texan; whether
you’re in Tuscany or Argentina or whatever, it’s
a traditional method of cooking.
the restaurant, we use mesquite because it’s native Texas
wood, and there’s a lot of it in this area. We used to
pull it all off the ranch, but now we go through so much of
it that we have it delivered 20 cords at a time. We use wood
that’s probably 10 years old and it has to be good and
dry mesquite so that the tar or pitch that is naturally in the
wood is gone. And we cook with the coals, which means we take
a pile of mesquite, burn it down to coals and then shovel the
coals underneath the grill. But the mesquite wood makes a good
hot, even-burning coal, so you don’t get as many hot spots
as you might with other woods. Other parts of the country use
other hardwoods like oak or hickory, but we use mesquite because
we have it right outside the back door.
there probably aren’t many people out there with a mesquite-burning
barbecue pit in their backyard. So if you are using regular
charcoal, try sprinkling some mesquite or other hardwood chips
on top of the coals. You won’t get the same amount of
heat as with the mesquite, but you will get some of the flavor.
Mesquite chips can be found in grocery stores nationwide.
determines the method of cooking is the height of the meat above
the coals. If you’re cooking a steak you want in on a
grill right above the coals, and I believe in cooking a steak
with a little bit of flame, because you don’t want a gray
steak. We keep it hot enough so it sears the outside of the
steak, and gives good grill marks and a little char, which adds
a tremendous amount of flavor. This really complements the flavor
of your beef. Before you throw anything on the grill, get the
fire hot enough to where you can’t keep your palm a couple
of inches from the grill for more than a few seconds.
Rib or Rib Eye Roast
With a roast, there is a lot of outside
surface to cover, and the appearance is very important. Use
this rub with a lot of pepper and garlic. Wet the meat a little,
so that the seasoning will stay on.
roast on the grill:
Place meat on pit and roast a 12 lb prime
rib at 325 degrees for 3 hours. Take it out when it is showing
an internal temperature of 120 - 125 degrees. Turn meat every
hour. Remove from heat and let meat rest for at least 40 minutes
roast in the oven:
Place roast on a wire rack in a roasting
pan to keep it out of the drippings. Preheat oven to 500 degrees
and roast for 25 minutes to seal the juices. Reduce oven temperature
to 300 degrees and roast to desired doneness. Use a meat thermometer
to measure internal temperature.
Herb Rub Roast
Chef Tom Perini Bio