Shameless self promotion with Turkey Day Pictures

And by turkey, we mean lamb. Because we don’t much like turkey. And really like lamb.

So first, the shameless self promotion:
As we have said before, we cook for Feastly. It’s a lot of fun and if you’re ever in DC, you should come to one. Preferably one of ours, but there’s quite a few good cooks on Feastly in the DC area. And right now, Feastly is trying to get more people to sign up. So, the first five people who sign up using this link will have a $10 credit in their account. Full disclaimer: we get $10 too, once you sign up to attend a meal.

On to the pictures!

A Summer Southern Feastly Picnic

Saturday just past Laura and I cooked up a little indoor picnic for some amazing new friends all of whom just happened to be on staff with or hosts for AirBnB. There was cole slaw. There was cornbread. There were collards. There were sweet potato fries. There was even a syrupy berry salad for dessert. But! The core of the meal was an 11 lbs Boston Butt that I turned into some of the best pulled pork we’ve ever had. If I do say so myself. Now, a battalion of smokers, BBQers, and grill masters have spilled an ocean’s worth of ink and probably some blood on the best way to make this Southern staple and I have no doubt that any number of them can tell me exactly what I did wrong and why I am a heretic for having done it my way. So, I’d now like to spill a little myself describing how I did it so that you, dear reader, can have my Carolina Pulled Pork at home with only a little bit of effort.

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I have to admit upfront that this was the first time I had ever done pulled pork solo and so I relied on a few hours of internet research and a long conversation with my best friend, Whit, on the best way to get the job done. All that being said – here’s the way it happened:

  1. Obtain the Butt – I got lucky on this one. I was pretty sure when we were putting the menu together that the kind folks at Harvey’s Market would have what I was looking for and, lo and behold, they came through with a 22-day dry-aged pork shoulder and we’re even kind enough to do all the trimming for me. For those that don’t already know, dry aging is a process of allowing natural enzymes in the meat post-slaughter to activate and so tenderize the meat. 22 days is a long aging and made for a very tender shoulder.
  2. Brine the Butt – In my brief research, my experience being around pulled pork growing up, and through my conversation with Whit, it was made clear to me that brining your meat is absolutely necessary to getting the best results at the end. All Brining means is soaking the meat in a heavily salted water (with a few other choice seasonings) for 4-18 hours. Be sure to do this in the fridge. No one needs to die for their pork. The brining process  improves on the meat’s natural juiciness and infuses it with the flavors added to the brine. In my case that was a hickory smoked salt from Maine, my own dry rub mix, and a few bay leaves.
  3. Massage that Butt with Dry Rub – this last step before cooking is absolutely essential to having Carolina Pulled Pork. Take whatever mix of kosher salt, black pepper, and spices you want (mine is a secret) and shovel lots and lots of it onto the brined pork that you have pulled out of the liquid and patted dry. I really mean lots and lots. You want the pork to look like the first picture below. Massage the mix into the meat being sure you get into all those cracks and creases. It’s the dry rub that turns into what the old hands at this call a “bark.” That bark is what provides the sharp points of flavor in old-fashioned pulled pork that everyone loves so much.
  4. Slow Cook that Beautiful Butt – once the pork was thoroughly covered in dry rub, I lightly covered it with foil and put it in the oven at 215ºF. At that low temperature, the meat had to cook for 18 hours before it reached the goal – a core internal temperature of 200ºF. It was a long wait but it was totally worth it. When it was all done and had rested for about 30 minutes, the shoulder bone slid right out with no resistance at all and the meat pulled apart with two forks just like it was supposed to.

Those are the four steps to delicious Carolina Pulled Pork. Easy-peasy. Except that it takes three days. Enjoy these before and after pictures!

 

AirBnB meets Feastly

So! Feastly was kind enough to ask Laura and I to cater an event this coming Saturday: a Thank You to AirBnB’s hosts.

Since I’m starting graduate school soon, I have time to put in to making this an evening to remember. The Menu? Well… I’ll post more about that on Tuesday after the event has come off and I have lots of pictures of the meal. In the meantime, have this as a hint:

The Meat

A Friday Fall Feast – in which we Feastly again

Ze Menu:
Shredded Slow-cooked Savory Brisket Sandwiches
Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad
Roasted Potatoes & Kale
Whole-Wheat Dinner Rolls
and
Mini Baked Apple Fritters

Our Guests: a couple originally from Mumbai, India (NOT vegetarians – I had a moment of panic when they first arrived of the ‘oh no am I about to try and serve beef to Hindus?’ variety – probably presumptuous and stereotypical of me, given that they had to have seen the menu before signing up, but I can only liken it to suddenly realizing that your guests are from Israel and the main dish is pork chops. The odds are good that you have just royally screwed up.)
I am really digging this whole dinner with people I’ve never met before. I have no idea how else I would have met this couple otherwise and they were really good dinner companions – talkative and good listeners, interested in food so we had something in common and it got the conversation started, different life experiences so we got to talk about things which were new to both sets of couples, and just generally a fun evening.

Also, having to pull together a menu and pitch it to the Feastly community is good-for-me(TM). It’s pushing me to consider (more) how dishes go together – more than ‘have a protein, carbs, and at least 2 servings of vegetables’ which is where I’ve been stuck skill-wise for a couple years. In my defense (excuse!), I’ve been concentrating on knife and technique skills. But really now, this is a useful food skill and I am glad to be finally developing it. (There, I said it, stop twisting my arm now! ::poke, poke::) Learning to pitch things is also good for me in the ‘stretch beyond your comfortable skills little introvert!’ kind of way… but seriously, if anyone ever calls me a ‘little introvert’ with a straight face, there will be pain in their future. I’M the only one who gets to mock my lack of social acumen. Well, occasionally Adam too.


Plus, excuse to try out a new dessert recipe – it’s an event, dessert is totally justified and we don’t end up munching on way too many sweet things for the next 3 weeks.

Mini Baked Apple Fritters

Recipe Count – 40 left
Section Count – Dessert: 10 left
9 fritters

MEH. So much meh. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t… anything. No wow, no interesting texture, no interesting sweet, or spices, or tastiness. They were entirely composed of food. And my dessert binder is full of dessert recipes that are composed of tasty goodness that are entirely worth the a) effort and b) nutritional downsides of the occasional food indulgence composed of all the sugar and butter.

This recipe has earned a trip to the recycling bin, not a place in my binder of sweets.

Which means I am totally not inflicting it upon y’all, who deserve good sweets in your lives. Tasty goodness in recipe form to follow below, of something actually worth your time.

So, the original plan was that I would make the dinner rolls and they’d be the bread to our sandwiches… Yeah, I’m still getting the hang of using whole-wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose flour. The rolls were tasty, but not fluffy/big enough to be sandwich rolls. Luckily there’s a Harris Teeter close enough that wonderful husband Adam could run out and grab some sandwich rolls from their bakery. Also, all-purpose flour. Somethings are just better that way (like pie crust). Also, I’d made the rolls by 4pm. So, you know, enough time to fix things.

The carrot salad is a cold one, and thus could be made early that morning, hanging out in the refrigerator until dinner time. Also, totally not over-chilled by hanging out so long in the fridge, which was nice. Also nice? The cumin and cayenne spices – just enough kick to make it interesting without kicking you in the face as a greeting and a ‘pay attention to meeeeeeeee!’

Roasted potatoes and kale are quickly becoming my thing, so much so that I am consciously banning my self from using them for a third time in our next Feastly. By this point, I’ve actually made them three times – first was just before the break-in and thus, I lost my write up and pictures but taking the pictures was ticked off on my mental list and I have yet to take more photos. Which y’all totally deserve because this is a tasty recipe. Which Adam informs me that I ‘need to make again’. Every. Time. The man bans roasted carrots for about a year (and counting….) after one unfortunate week of trying out all of my roasted carrot recipes (3 or 4….) to cut them down to a reasonable amount, but still wants these? Timing is, apparently, everything.


Roasted Potatoes and Kale

Adapted (minorly) from What’s Cookin, Chicago?

  • 1 lb potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    • different varieties will give this recipe slightly different textures/tastes – experiment and find your favorite is my best advice
  • 1/2 lb fresh kale, rinsed, stems/tough ribs discarded, and roughly chopped
  • cloves of garlic, minced
    • pick a number of cloves to your taste
    • Adam and I have been influenced enough by several friends of Italian cooking traditions that the answer to ‘how much garlic?’ is usually ‘Yes’
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper, to taste
    • pepper is best as freshly cracked/ground from peppercorns
    • if using peppercorns, pick your favorite type/color. or mix it up and try out different types for slightly different tastes each time
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, non-stick cooking spray, or your favorite food don’t stick here method.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chopped potatoes with 1 tbsp of oil, the minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Transfer potatoes to the baking sheet; bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  3. In the same bowl, toss the chopped kale with 1 tbsp of oil, salt, and pepper, to taste. After potatoes have roasted, add the kale on top – do not worry if it looks like a huge mound on top of the potatoes. The kale will shrink/flatten out as it crisps. Just mound it in such a manner as it will not fall off the baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, or until kale is crisp.
  4. Serve hot or at room temperature, but not cold.

Check back in next Tuesday for my write up of the Shredded Slow-cooked Savory Brisket Sandwiches