Tuesday, November 15, 2011

North Carolina

We've been looking forward to this meal for a while. Years ago, Marc and I lived in Maryland and several of his colleagues were transplants from North Carolina. Two gentlemen in particular--Willie Smith and Linwood Williams--knew where to find all the best food in the area. One day for lunch they went out for Carolina barbecue and promised Marc they would bring some back for him. Mr. Smith described the shredded pork and vinegar sauce and informed Marc that the sandwich would include cole slaw. Marc was not pleased--cole slaw, in the Midwest, is a side, not a sandwich topping. Not to mention, he doesn't even like mayonnaise.

But, Mr. Smith ignored his protests and told him to sit down and eat the sandwich. Marc talked of nothing else for days. In fact, I think that specific event may have been a turning point in his foodie career.

This is most certainly not a quick meal. It's an all day event for man and grill alike. The goal is to get a hunk of meat up to a temperature of 185 degrees as slowly as possible. As it cooks, it develops a deep smoky flavor and a crisp charred bark on the outside. Good stuff.

Start with a bone-in pork shoulder (this one was about 8 1/2 lbs), with a good, thick fat "cap" on one side. Generously season with salt and pepper. Heat charcoal and soaked hickory chips and try to maintain a temperature of about 225 degrees. Smoke the meat for 8 to 9 hours, replenishing the charcoal and chips every hour or so. Remove the meat from the grill and wrap well in foil to rest for about 45 minutes.

The shoulder blade should slide easily out of the roast:

Remove any excess fat, and finely chop the meat.

Finish with cider vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Use enough vinegar to thoroughly coat and moisten the meat.

Now for the slaw. Traditional Carolina slaw is not mayonnaise based (much to Marc's surprise years ago!). In the past, I've used this recipe, and it's very good. I've recently been converted to Rick Bayless's version, which is quicker to prepare:

Hickory House Sour Slaw
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 T dry sherry
1 T sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt

1/2 medium head green cabbage, shredded.

Blend the dressing ingredients with 2 T water and pour over shredded cabbage. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

You'll noticed there are no "plate" pictures--I was in too much of a hurry to eat!

Lucy was initially skeptical, as she was not a big fan of the brisket we prepared for the Missouri meal. We assured her that this was nothing like brisket. She liked the slaw well enough to agree that this meal is pretty good. Maia also liked it, and was looking forward to concocting another Arkansas barbecue salad with the leftovers.

We (finally) got to draw our next four states: Alaska, Delaware, Nebraska and Colorado!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Yes, we're here! We haven't completely fallen off the wagon! Somehow, these past few weeks have been busy, but we're finally coming up for air.

Nevada had us a little stumped. I suggested we set up our meal buffet-style and charge the kids a buck each to eat, but all I got were a few eye-rolls in response. Instead, we opted to highlight a little of Nevada's ethnic diversity. Nevada, California and Idaho all have sizable populations of Basque-Americans. Many of these people immigrated, via South America, to the American West where their shepherding skills provided meat for mining camps in the late 1800s. With origins in Spain and France, you can imagine that the community has a strong culinary tradition!

Lamb and mutton dishes are popular, but we also managed to find a good pork recipe (we do like pork in this house!). Our recipe came from a restaurant in Carson City, Nevada. After the pork loin went into the marinade, the rest of the meal was quick and easy to prepare. We grilled outside over charcoal, even though the weather is quickly approaching official-winter here in Iowa.

We purchased a jar of roasted peppers, rather than roasting our own, which made our Thursday night meal even easier.

On the side, I put together a salad, found here.

The dressing for this was exceptionally good--and so simple! Olive oil, garlic, cider vinegar, salt and mayonnaise. It was rich and satisfying, and the boiled egg balanced the intense garlic flavor.

Everyone liked this meal. Maia was initially suspicious of the salad, but consumed it at a rate that indicated she liked it. Lucy liked the pork and dipped hers in bottled barbecue sauce. Marc, who does not generally like mayonnaise, (how we've been married nearly 12 years I'll never know) really liked the dressing.

I was initially a little intimidated by cooking an official "Basque meal." Hopefully, we've done it justice. Even if we haven't, we'll eat this meal again in our house.

Next stop: North Carolina