Pork

Pulled Pork Barbecue

Posted on 09/20/2011. Filed under: Dinner, Life, Pork |

Hey y’all! I do believe I have mentioned before how much I love the pig. I love bacon, I love ham, I love prosciutto, I love sausage (ha ha, double entendre!), and I love some pulled pork barbecue. Really, I love barbecue in general. I’m the chick who has sauce all over her face while holding a rib in one hand and sucking sauce off her fingers from her other hand. I will slap my mother for some good smoked brisket. Barbecue chicken is summer. Anyway, I love barbecue. Last weekend, I was driving home from the Goochland Drive-In after seeing my friend Celia Finkelstein in Horrible Bosses, and I had the brilliant idea to turn my crock pot into a smoker and make some pulled pork barbecue. Why not?? I’d heard and read about methods where people turned their oven into a smoker with a roasting pan and keeping the temperature low, smoking the meat for 8 hours or more, so why not do it in a crock pot?

All week I’d been plotting in my head how this was going to work: I was going to put soaked woodchips in the bottom of the insert of the crock pot, put non-stick foil over the chips, poke holes in the foil, put the meat on top of the foil, put the lid on it (and everything will turn out riiiiiiigggghhhht! I love the Squirrel Nut Zippers!!), set that sucker to low and in 8 or 9 hours, voy-ola you have barbecue! Sounded easy and totally do-able! This means barbecue in the winter!!

So I consulted my Facebook friends, one of whom is the executive chef at Tommy’s Restaurant in Reedville, about my methods and where to purchase the woodchips as I had no idea, especially since fall arrived here suddenly this week and we’re now past Labor Day. I also figured this would be a good Supper Club meal for The Men as Matt would be home from college and Flogging Molly was playing The National on Sunday, September 18. Saturday, I went to Lowe’s and bought a bag of Hickory woodchips. Then I went to Kroger and bought a pork butt (I have no idea how much it weighed but by feel, I had a big butt…get it? No, seriously, the butt probably weighed 5 lbs? I know it was about $15 with my Kroger card), paprika, cumin, a 24 oz. can of Heineken, and a few other things. I came home and put dry woodchips in the crock pot to measure out how much to use, then put them in a pitcher, poured the Heineken over the chips, added about an ounce and a half of Wild Turkey American Honey, and let the chips soak starting at about 5pm on Saturday afternoon.

Chips soaking in beer and bourbon

And then I took Mom out for her birthday dinner at her favorite place in Richmond, Joe’s Inn in the Fan. We always get the same thing, her the Spaghetti a la Joe, and I get the Spaghetti a la Greek. And another great thing about going to Joe’s this time of the year is that they have my beloved Legend Oktoberfest on tap. This beer is one of the many reasons why I love fall. Awesome beer. After dinner, we picked up a friend from church and went to the Goochland Drive-In. Yes, this was actually my third week in a row going to the Drive-In, the first one being for a date (who then later dumped me after two dates because I didn’t put out….nice! haha!!), the second with a friend, and then this weekend for Chick Flick Double Feature of The Help (which was so good, really well written, directed and acted. I love Emma Stone and have a tiny girl crush on her) and Bridesmaids(which really could have been funnier…Melissa McCarthy totally stole the movie and was incredibly hilarious but Kristen Wiig’s character was just really frigging depressing). When we got home from the movies, I stayed up and rubbed my pork butt.

I’d found a recipe online (on my iPhone, how 21st Century of me) for a rub that looked good. It was a quarter cup of paprika and two tablespoons each of the following: sugar, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder. I mixed the spices together in a bowl with a fork, rinsed and dried the pork with paper towels, and then massaged the hell outta my butt. (hee hee!) I coated the pork with the rub and got in any nooks and crannies, put it on a plate and wrapped it in plastic wrap (which my friend Frank later pointed out to me that next time to leave it unwrapped in the fridge as to let the meat “dry out” a little and there would be more of a bark on the pork…will try this for next time!). I put the butt in the fridge and went to bed at 2am Sunday morning.

Spices assembled for butt rub

Ready to be rubbed

 

All rubbed up and ready for the fridge

Y’all, 7am is damn early when you’ve only slept for five hours. Or for me it is anyway. I stumbled downstairs, rubbing my eyes and got to work. I took the woodchips that had been soaking in beer and bourbon since 5pm the day before out on the counter, strained the liquid from the wood and nearly got drunk from the fumes of the boozy wood. That was a hell of a way to suddenly wake up! I decided to reserve the beery bourbon for a sauce later and put it in the fridge. I think I had about two cups left.

I put the chips in the crock pot and put some non-stick foil over the wood and poked holes all over with a toothpick. I put the pork on top of the foil (fat side up), put the lid over the pork, plugged her in and set the temp to low. I quickly washed my mess and went back to sleep. When I got up four hours later, the house smelled so good. Smokey and spicy and porky yummy.

Then I got some bad news. Matt texted that he wouldn’t be able to make it, his fraternity was holding their pledge initiation that night. Well, I understood but since the pork was already cooking, and Dan was coming for dinner anyway, we went ahead with Supper Club. Although, Dan and I decided not to see Flogging Molly as he’d just gotten off work and I had household stuff to do like laundry. Besides, I was exhausted from all this cooking.

I took the beery bourbon out of the fridge and poured it in a saucepan and heated the pot on medium with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and a splash of apple cider vinegar and let it simmer and reduce down for about 45 minutes. While that was going, I roasted a head of garlic for hummus.

Simmering booze

I removed the sauce from the heat and took the garlic out of the oven, and let them both come to room temperature. When the pork was ready, I heated the vinegar sauce back up and in another saucepan I heated up the rest of an old bottle of still-good Whole Foods Mesquite barbecue sauce with liquid from the chips and pork in the bottom of the crock pot. I also added the same crock pot liquid to the vinegar sauce. I let the pork rest for about 20 minutes before shredding. I took the pork out of the crock pot at about 5:30. Mom had told me later that the outlet I’d plugged the crock pot in had stopped working and needed to be reset, and the pork didn’t start really cooking until 8am that morning.

I pulled apart the pork and it was just falling apart. Tender and juicy, the rub was nice and spicy. While it didn’t have a crust that I was hoping for, and it wasn’t as smokey as I’d hoped (because there ended up being a lot of juice in the crock pot from the chips and the pork), but it was still very good. I then added pulled pork to both the vinegar sauce and tomato barbecue sauce, put Tabasco in both pots for more kick. To the vinegar pulled pork, I added rice vinegar for more tang, Worcestershire sauce, and several dashes of Tabasco, salt, pepper, and honey for a little sweetness.

All done!

Just falling apart and fork-tender

Pulled pork with the vinegar sauce

Pulled pork with the barbecue sauce

 

Dan came over for dinner and we had a sandwich of each type of pulled pork, along with Kraft macaroni & cheese, Martin’s red skin potato salad, and Martin’s cole slaw. Y’all, my barbecue is so good! It’s different than what you’d expect of pulled pork barbecue but it’s just really good. Mom and Dan loved it and raved, and both had a hard time deciding which type was better. And the best part is that there are tons of leftovers. Dan brought a Meritage that was delicious and complimented the meal perfectly. A nice soft juicy wine that had the right amount of dryness.

Dessert was a devil’s food cake with white buttercream from Martin’s for Mom’s birthday. We watched football and laid about in a barbecue daze.

I would totally do this again, but I think next time I do believe I will try the oven method of smoking to see if I could get more of that smokey flavor and a bark to the meat. But who knows, I may go back to the crock pot method for more simplicity. Either way, barbecue and the pig are gifts from God.

Bon Appetit, Y’All!

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Jambalaya

Posted on 05/26/2010. Filed under: Chicken, Dinner, Grains, Pork, Seafood |

In less than seven weeks, I will be in New Orleans.  I can not freaking wait for this trip for several reasons, in no particular order: 1. It’s NEW ORLEANS for a week, my absolute most favorite city that I have been to so far in my life; 2. I won’t be in Richmond for a week, which means I won’t be at work, always a good thing; 3. I see my boyfriend for the first time since March; 4. All I will be doing is grocery shopping and cooking, which is perfect.  When I decided to go on the trip, I thought, “Why not make dishes that are native to Nawlins while we’re there?”  Turns out, the church folks that are going on the trip as well are already expecting cajun cuisine.  One of the guys has a best friend that lives there and I guess one night we will be having a Gumbo Throwdown (his will be seafood, mine will be andouille & chicken like the Gumbo I made for this blog). 

But one of the dishes I was really nervous about making was Jambalaya, mainly because it has rice in it as a main ingredient and I was convinced rice and I weren’t ever going to be BFF’s.  I poked around Tastespotting and found this guy’s recipe, which looked pretty spot-on as well as pretty easy.  Andouille was purchased at my stand-by, Whole Foods, as well as the shrimp (which after de-veining looked terrible, but cooked beautifully).  I’d debated on using shrimp because of the cost (thanks, BP, for not only destroying the environment but also making seafood costs skyrocket), but thought why not and went balls to the wall with the meats.  Mom purchased the chicken, and to make the dish more flavorful, I decided to use thighs instead of breasts.

De-boning chicken thighs is a bitch.  I said it, and I’ll repeat it: de-boning chicken thighs is a bitch.  Even with brand-new Henckels paring knives.  But I did it.  Next time, I’m using chicken breasts to save time and effort.  I started prepping the dish by de-boning four chicken thighs, removing the skin, cut the meat into cubes, reserving the bones and cartiledge for stock, skin to someday coat in seasoned flour and fry on its own.  Everyone likes the crispy fried chicken skin right?  Anyway, after the thighs were done, I sliced three andouille sausage links into quarter-inch slices while the meat was still a little frozen (I’d bought the sausages on Sunday and wanted them to be frozen for easier slicing), and peeled and deveined a pound of shrimp.  An hour after prepping meats, I had this:

Triumvirate of Meat: Shrimp, Andouille, Chicken

Then I prepped the veggies, which Emeril refers to as The Holy Trinity: green pepper, onion and celery.  I had half a leftover green pepper as well as a whole one, so I sliced them both and cut the slices into a medium dice.  I then cut one medium sweet onion (Mom gets the sweet onions, but I’m sure a white one would work just as well) into a medium dice, and three ribs of celery to a medium dice.  I used the author’s recipe as a guide as far as what ingredients and how much as far as the rice, tomatoes and stock were concerned, but I just went with the flow with pretty much everything else.  I thought one rib of celery wasn’t enough in ratio of the pepper and the onion, and I figured more celery wouldn’t hurt.  It sure didn’t.  After The Holy Trinity was prepped, I finely minced four cloves of garlic, measured my rice and stock, and opened the can of plain diced tomatoes.  My mise en place was set.

I love a recipe that starts with cooking pork in pork fat, this time being andouille cooked in bacon fat.  And yes, I am one of those southern cooks that reserves bacon fat and drippings after every batch cooked.  However, I don’t keep the can of fat on the stove like your MeeMa did*, I keep it in a plastic Gladware thing in the fridge, and I’d say it’s at least a pound of solid, delicious fat.  Makes awesome scrambled eggs.  Anyway, I melted bacon fat in my cast iron Dutch oven (stop giggling, kids, I get the double entendre), and cooked the sausage until brown, then removing and setting aside on a paper-lined plate to absorb some fat.  Then I added the chicken to the hot fat, browning it until done and then removed and set aside.  I added a little more fat to the pot and added the Trinity, and cooked the veggies until just soft, about five minutes, stirring every now and then to make sure everyone gets cooked.  When the veggies were done, I added the andouille and chicken back to the pot, along with a cup of rice, two cups of homemade chicken stock (which I’d made with crushed red pepper, so the stock already had a kick), the can of diced tomatoes with the juice, the garlic, a healthy pinch of Kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, three bay leaves, a few sprigs’ worth of fresh thyme leaves, and the cayenne.  This, I eyeballed.  I didn’t measure, I added just enough that would bring the heat.  I stirred it all up, put the lid on it, let it come to a boil.  I turned the heat down to a simmer when the pot was at the boiling point, and stirred the pot every few minutes to prevent burning and sticking.   

It smelled amazing.  I mean it was smelling good before with the pork cooked in pork fat and all, but with the veggies and the meat and everything….just yum.  I was really psyched about how the jambalaya was turning out at this point, but still nervous about that fickle bitch known as rice.  I really just didn’t want this whole beautiful pot of food to be ruined by undercooked rice.  So I was really protective of the Dutch oven and its contents as the process was coming along. 

Almost-done Jambalaya

After the rice had cooked about 25 minutes, I added the shrimp, stirred them in, and covered the pot.  I let the shrimp cook for about 10 minutes while Matt & Dan took a smoke break.  When they came back in, the Jamabalaya was done. 

Beautiful, delicious Jambalaya

 Earlier in the day, I’d stopped by a local Brazilian bakery to get some French bread.  I know that sounds weird, but the bakery has little signs on the side of the road by the Walmart that I frequent, so I thought why not give them a try.  Three mini-loaves for $1.  Can’t beat the price, and the bread was crusty on the outside and nice and chewy in the middle.  I pray I never develop Celiac Disease.  We grabbed bowls and hepled ourselves to Jambalaya, and I put Tobasco and cayenne on the table just in case someone wanted it spicier.  We all dug in and it was amazing.  This Jambalaya was really effing good.  Hot, spicy, meaty, delicious.  The shrimp was plump and juicy, veggies were tender, the sausage and chicken were just divine.  Matt made several approving “Mmmm” sounds.  Dan added Tobasco for more heat, but said the jambalaya was really good on its own as well.  I have a pretty wimpy palate, so it was almost a little too hot, but delicious nonetheless.  Just meant I drank my sweet tea quicker.  Mom said that it was wonderful, and this is a woman that bought a bowl off the side of the street IN NEW ORLEANS.  But it was all agreed that this was my best dish yet.  The best part?  THE RICE WAS COOKED PERFECTLY!!!!  I have redeemed myself with the Rice Gods!  Woo hoo!

The good news is that one pot could easily feed six, maybe seven people.  I figure if I triple the recipe, there will be enough for a team of 17.  Also, with the success of this dish, I pretty much have every night’s dinner planned for the trip.  I’m just really relieved this dish turned out well, and it actually exceeded my expectations. 

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

*Doesn’t every southerner have a MeeMa that reserved bacon drippings?  A friend of mine once asked me if my grandmother (mine was called MaMa [pronounced “maw-maw”]) kept a can of fat on the stove for cooking purposes.  Mine kept her can of fat in the fridge, my mom kept the can of bacon fat in the fridge, and I keep my Gladware thingy of bacon fat in the fridge.  I don’t think I could trust room-temp bacon fat that’d been left out for an extended period of time.

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