Monday, May 31, 2010

Make-ahead (mostly) barbecue picnic

  • Pulled pork, for sandwiches or otherwise
  • Potato salad
  • Slaw for people who aren't fans of coleslaw

All of the hard work can be done the day/night before, and it's a good idea: The pork takes a really long time to cook, and if you cook and refrigerate the potatoes, they don't crumble up when you're dicing them for the potato salad. It's pitifully easy to do the finishing touches the next day.

Day 1

Pulled pork for sandwiches

6-8 pound pork shoulder, also called "pork butt" but it really is shoulder! It should be at room temperature, which means, take it out of the fridge while you mix up the rub and get the foil ready.

Aye, there's the Rub
You can buy a rub or make your own from paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, thyme, oregano and anything else you want, like cumin -- there are recipes all over the Web and none of them are the same! I made a batch using

2T sweet Hungarian paprika
1T smoked Spanish paprika
1T cayenne pepper
2T garlic buds
1T pepper
1T dried thyme
1T mixed dried Italian herbs (mostly oregano)
1T onion powder
1tsp. cumin
1 tsp black pepper

This makes way more than is needed for this one pork shoulder, but keeps well in a jar. I didn't add salt to the mix because I add the salt, and often more black pepper, separately when I'm making something, so this is just the "spice mix" part.

Curses, Foiled Again
Make two double-width sheets of aluminum foil about 2 feet long each by stacking two pieces, folding over one long side TWICE, and then opening the top sheet back and creasing at the seam. Repeat. Now you have two big pieces of foil.

Put the roast on one piece of foil and rub it all over with salt, pepper and the rub, obviously turning the roast to get all sides. This works better if your hands are not wet!

Cover with the other sheet of foil and crimp both sides and both ends -- but fold the ends VERY neatly so you can unfold them easily later.

Place the whole package in any roasting pan you have that's big enough, fat side up so it will drip down through the meat as it melts. Ummmm.

Cook at 300F for 4 hours. Then open up the foil packet and cook for another 2 hours. Then let it cool enough to work with and pull apart into bite-size shreds with two forks. Try not to eat too much of it.

Taters, hot

Since you have the oven on anyway, scrub and "poke" some red potatoes and tuck them in the oven anywhere you have room. They'll make great potato salad to accompany the pork later! Piercing the spuds with a fork or even a paring knife lets the steam escape, or so I'm told. Anyway, it seems to work. because when I poke them with a fork later to test for doneness, they do not explode, which is a good thing. This is one time I do not put butter or oil on the skins, because I'm not going to eat them as baked potatoes, but rather will turn them into potato salad and I don't really want the skins to be crispy. Check them after an hour -- if they're in with the pork at 300F, they will take longer than if you usually bake them at 400, as I do. Mine took about 80 minutes; it will depend on the size of the spuds, of course. I think red potatoes are better for salad, but any kind would really do, especially if you cook them ahead and let them cool and "solidify." You could boil the potatoes instead, but that's so silly when the oven is on already.

Doctor, doctor
You can use any good barbecue sauce, make your own, or do what my Dad always did: Start with a bottle of good "store-bought" sauce and doctor it up over medium heat to make it even better. What I added: one caramelized onion, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic buds, a little of the"rub" mix, one small can of tomato paste. You do it by taste. I like mine a little on the sweet side (surprise, surprise!). Some people don't want tomato at all, and that's cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Make hard-boiled eggs for the potato salad and refrigerate overnight. How many? About one egg for each potato, although less will work. You could boil the whole dozen and use the rest for deviled eggs, but I didn't this time.

Day 2
This is pitifully easy.

Pulled pork
Warm up the pork in sauce, adding a little liquid, such as leftover wine, to allow for evaporation. Just simmer it. Meanwhile:

Potato salad
Cube the potatoes, peel and dice the eggs. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and a little dill weed if you have it and like it. Or any other herbs you want, like basil. Avoid cilantro: People with good taste don't like it. Add sweet pickle relish or chopped pickles and Miracle Whip, or if you must, mayonnaise. For three red potatoes and three eggs, I used two good dollops of MW and a heaping tablespoon of relish.
I love the slaw mix from Trader Joe's that is shredded broccoli stems and shredded carrots. If you can't get that, by all means shred your own, preferably the night before, while waiting on the pork! I used:
  • 1/2 package of slaw mix, which is 6 ounces or about 2 cups
  • 1/2 package, or 4 ounces, of dried cranberries (about 1/3 cup)
  • about 1/2 cup of sesame-honey cashews, or any nut you like but these are the best, from TJs.
  • 2 T each of blue cheese dressing and Miracle Whip. Or any salad dressing you like, enough to coat the slaw without being soupy. Salt and pepper to taste, if needed; this dressing was salty enough for me.

By now, the pork should be hot. Dig in. Refrigerate leftovers. Repeat.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lobster tails with pasta and leeks

Lobster tails on sale at my store!
Organizing the pantry, discovered I still had some dried tri-colored pasta. Baby leeks and arugula in the crisper. Red grapes in a bowl on the counter; they're a little tart/acidic. White wine in the fridge. I figured it should work. It did.

So, for two tails, which I consider one serving (!):
Boil a big pan of salted water and add the pasta. (Obviously, you could boil the lobster tails, too. I like to broil mine. Although boiling the lobster would let you use the stock to cook the pasta, which would be good, too.)
Melt 3T butter in a smallish saute or saucepan. Add the clean and chopped baby leeks -- I used the "fat" part from two small ones -- and sweat them. Which means don't brown them, just get them a little soft. Add a little white wine and let simmer on low.
Broil the lobster. Depending on size, probably 4 minutes per side. Let it cool enough to handle, then pop it out of the shells. I find snipping down the middle with a kitchen shears is the way to go.
Clean and dry the arugula and arrange on a plate.
When the pasta is done, which you tell by fishing one out, cooling it off and eating it (!), drain it. Put it on top of the arugula, and put the lobster on top of it. Spoon on the sauce, and garnish with some grapes.

If you don't have grapes, or yours are really sweet, something else acidic or tart would work, lemon or lime being the traditional ones. I like that the grapes mirror both the slight sweetness of seafood and of course the wine in the sauce, but still help cut the richness of the butter. The leeks are mild enough to not overpower the lobster but still add lots of flavor. Same with the arugula; it's a little peppery without being a distraction from the star of the meal.

If you don't want to use butter, I suppose you could use olive oil or something, but to me, lobster and leeks both want to be eaten with butter. And pasta with butter is pretty darned good, too.

If your store doesn't have lobster tails on sale, I'm confident this would work with shrimp or scallops, and probably with many kinds of fish (especially if the description of the fish is, "it kind of tastes like lobster"). Rockfish, for example.

The only "bad" thing about this recipe is that it uses three pans, counting the broiler pan. I usually manage with one or two, which is another reason to try it with the boiled lobster alternative.


About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.