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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Barbecue or Slow Roast?

According to the Oxford Companion to Food (1999), barbecue is defined as:
“meat (or other food) cooked in the open air on a framework over an open fire; or an event incorporating such cooking; or the framework and accompanying apparatus required for this.
The word comes from the Spanish barbacoa, which in turn had probably come from a similar word in the Arawak language, denoting a structure on which meat could be dried or roasted. When the word first entered the English language, in the 17th century, it meant a wooden framework such as could be used for storage or sleeping on, without a culinary context. However, by the 18th century it took on the first of its present meanings, and – at least in the USA – the second one too. The third meaning, like the apparatus itself became commonplace in the letter part of the 20th century.
Barbecues, naturally, occur most often in countries where the climate is right for outdoor cooking. Texas (and N. America generally) and Australia are examples of regions where the cult of the barbecue is most noticeable. In the southern states of the USA the traditional barbecue was of pork. Traditions everywhere have been expanded in recent times to accommodate other meats (emphasis on spare ribs and sausages, steaks and chops) poultry (especially chicken), fish, and various vegetables (usually as an accompaniment). Rivalry between different kinds of barbecue sauce is intense. The barbecue scene and the atmospherics surrounding it are considerably affected by a cultural circumstance, to wit the general practice of having men rather than women do the barbecuing.”

O.K. Let me just add to that:
1. Barbecue (not Bar-B-Q, or any other variant) does not come from the French Barbe à queue, “from beard to tail”. If you are a Francophile you may wish it was true but it’s not, and if you don’t believe me check the OED (Oxford English Dictionary).
2. I do barbecue on occasion and I don’t believe I belong to “the Cult of the Barbecue”.
3. Also, to the issue of the intense rivalry between different barbecue sauces, I would also add the variant of the spice rub; both dry and wet.
4. Oh. And to you women out there, please feel free to barbecue at will. It may have been a man’s world but it’s not necessarily anymore.

I read an article by Jeffrey Steingarten called "Going Whole Hog" from his excellent and entertaining book The Man Who Ate Everything: And Other Gastronomic Feats, Disputes, and Pleasurable Pursuits, from which I gather that what most of us, outside of the Southern US, call barbecue is really grilling. That is quick cooking over dry heat of around 500 degrees or higher on an open grill.

Barbecuing is really cooking very slow, between 170 and 250 degrees, often over indirect, moist heat, usually produced by hardwood, and producing a good deal of smoke to flavor the meat. In fact what most of us call a barbecue is really a grill; while what we would refer to as a smoker or a pit; that is a covered cooker with indirect moist heat provided, most often, by hardwood coals, but sometimes supplemented with gas - produced in a separate chamber called the firebox – with the heat piped into the main cooking chamber is a real barbecue. Sometimes a water pan is used to humidify the air inside the cook-chamber and to catch the drippings, but often the meat itself provides enough humidity.

A whole hog can take twenty-four hours to barbecue, a shoulder or Boston Butt ten to fourteen hours, and ribs about five or six hours to barbecue. With this slow moist heat, the fat renders and the connective tissue dissolves leaving the meat literally falling off the bone. If the meat sizzles when you put in on you are grilling, not barbecuing.

For the pulled pork recipe, which follows, if you are lucky enough to have a real barbecue at hand, by all means, use it. If not, slow oven roasting will suffice. If your cut of pork does not have much fat on it, you may want to put a small pan of water on a shelf below the meat to bring up the humidity.

Pulled Pork

This pork is used with the cider vinegar BBQ sauce and the spicy slaw to make a classic Southern pulled pork sandwich on a bun. I like to serve open faced on a toasted bun or a good sourdough bread, sliced thick. Kevin & I make it on the weekend and we have a delicious lunch for part of the week.

If you are entertaining guests, the pork can be in the oven and the sauce and slaw can be made ahead so you can spend the time with your guests instead of in the kitchen. And the smell of the pork cooking will whet their appetites.

Dry Rub:
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon (or more) cayenne
1 (6 to 8 pound) pork roast, preferably shoulder or Boston butt

Mix the paprika, garlic power, brown sugar, dry mustard, and salt and cayenne together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork and marinate for as long as you have time for: as little as 1 hour or, preferably as long as overnight, covered or in a large plastic bag, in the refrigerator.

Dry Rubbed Pork Ready to Marinate

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan. If there is a layer of fat on one side, put that side up, this will keep the meat moist. If there is very little fat, place a pan of water on a shelf below the meat.

Marinated and Ready to Cook

Bake for about 6 to 7 ½ hours. Basically, roast the pork until it's falling apart (most important) and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 170 degrees F.

Remove the pork roast from the oven and transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes.

Fresh From the Oven

While still warm, take 2 forks and "pull" the meat to form shreds: if there is large layer of fat, it can be scraped free with a knife and discarded. Using the 2 forks shred the pork by steadying the meat with 1 fork and pulling it away with the other. Put the shredded pork in a bowl. Pour 1/2 of the barbecue sauce (see below) on the shredded pork and mix well to coat.

Served by spooning the pulled pork mixture onto the bottom 1/2 of a firm hamburger bun, and toping with the spicy slaw (see below). Serve the remaining sauce on the side. Or, as I prefer, place a 1 inch thick slice of your favorite sour dough bread (lightly toasted) on a plate, top with pulled pork, a little of the leftover BBQ sauce and top with the spicy slaw and eat with a knife and fork.

Pulled Pork with Barbeque Sauce with Cole Slaw Openfaced on Buns

Cider Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

1 ½ cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow or brown mustard (or ½ cup of each)
1 ½ cups ketchup
½ cup packed brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped (or more to taste)
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cayenne (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 15-20 minutes until the sugar dissolves and it is somewhat thickened.

Spicy Slaw

1 head green cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, sliced into very fine matchsticks
1 red onion, halved pole to pole, thinly sliced
2 green onions, chopped
2 red jalapeňo chilies, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
¼ cup Creole or brown mustard
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
Pinch sugar
1 ½ teaspoon celery seed
A pinch of cayenne
Several dashes hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the Slaw

Combine the cabbage, carrot, red onion, green onions, and chile in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and cayenne: stirring to incorporate. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss gently to mix. Season the cole slaw with celery seed, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Chill for 2 hours in refrigerator before serving.



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