Right now I’m sitting in my apartment. The baby has just drifted off, the air conditioner’s humming along, and in the distance there’s an ice cream truck–the new kind with the annoying voice that says “HELLO!” periodically. And as my afternoon fluctuates between stillness and chaos, I’m typing, breathing, and enjoying this moment just as it is.
As I mentioned in my last post, I spent last weekend in paradise, or my version anyway. I attended the Big Summer Potluck, an intimate food blog conference in rural Pennsylvania. read more »
In late August Hurricane Irene hit the Northeast hard, and then, a week later, Tropical Depression Lee dumped even more rain. We went on the have a thoroughly soggy September. And the harvest? Wiped out. Whether underwater, or just drowned, farmers across the region lost almost all of their crops just as they were preparing to harvest. Many farmers have lost an entire season’s worth of investment and work. read more »
Q: How did the man stay alive on the desert island?
A: By eating the sand which is [sandwiches] there.
Of course, that man died. That may be hard for you to hear, but there it is. It was just bad luck that he ended up on that island. That’s all. The man was so desperate he ate sand. And he starved. And as he breathed his last, he thought of that little pun and it brought a faint smile to his lips.
We’ve had a run of bad luck at Brooklyn Supper lately, too. First, we had a fire in our building. Then, our renter’s insurance put us up in a hotel across from Madison Square Garden, where we had to stay for six weeks. Then, the current economic crisis punched us square in the nose. Square in the nose. Then, some dude sat outside our window and played Camptown Races on the fife(?) for a good half-hour one day. Then we got back into our apartment but we had no heat. But you know what? As bad as things have gotten, we can still eat sandwiches and not just the sand which is there.
And we really needed some sandwiches last week.
I pretty much live and die by North Carolina men’s basketball. I inherited it from my mom’s side of the family, which comes from Burlington, NC. One time I looked up my mom’s maiden name on a genealogy website and in the 1880 census, the professions listed for every single person with that name were: farmer, works on farm, farm, farming, farmwork, farms.
Those people were a little more connected to a place than I am. I’ve moved around a lot, inside the South and outside of it. I live in Big East country now, and Carolina games aren’t even always on TV, so I just have to watch the box score update on espn.com. I also have to worry that my daughter won’t grow up saying “sir” and “ma’am.” If Andy Griffith is on, I watch it, even though I never watched when I actually lived in the South. I’d probably watch Gomer Pyle, too, if that came on.
So living up north has made Carolina basketball even more important to me. Watching the Tar Heels takes me back to middle school in Greensboro, when they actually stopped class during the ACC tournament and brought bunch of us into Mr. Dillard’s class where there was a TV to watch the games. I know when I’m watching the game that my mom and dad and brother and sister and aunts and uncle and everybody are all watching, too, even if I can’t be with them.
And with my recent string of bad luck, this year’s NCAA tournament was especially important to me. I need to know that I still have some luck left in me and I needed to know that the luck ledger is going to balance out in the end. As everyone knows, you can influence the outcome of televised sporting events by doing lucky things and avoiding jinxy things. So for the tournament, I wore my unwashed and filthy (but lucky) Carolina t-shirt and my UNC hoodie (hood up at all times after the Sweet 16), put my daughter in all her UNC gear (obviously), sat perfectly still when I needed the Heels to go on a run, shouted “Brick!” at the TV when I needed the other team to miss, etc. But for the final, I felt like I need something extra. I wanted to make something lucky. And what could luckier for North Carolina than pulled pork sandwiches?
It’s wasn’t barbecue and it wasn’t Carolina style, but get off your high horse, bbq snob. Because it was awesome.
This recipe was adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, which is pretty much my favorite cookbook for when you’re having people over.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
serves 8-10 with some leftovers
7 lb. (give or take) pork shoulder (we used Boston butt, but I think it would be really good with the picnic shoulder. In our case, though, you had to buy a whole picnic shoulder and that was more pork than we needed.) I got the skin removed at the butcher, but if you have skin on it, you’ll have to cut it off yourself.
28 ounce can of tomatoes
3 tsp. Hungarian paprika
2 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. honey
6 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 medium onion, quartered
cole slaw (hopefully a friend brings this over)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Put a Dutch oven that’s going to be big enough to hold the shoulder and everything on a burner. Add the tomatoes and about half the juice. Crush the tomatoes with your hand. Hold them low in the pot because they will totally squirt juice all over the place. Add the paprika, molasses, honey, and vinegar. Put the burner on medium high. Turn it down when it all starts boiling.
Cut some of the fat off the shoulder. I made this twice. The first time was a small batch and I left most of the fat on and it made it so rich you felt like you’d just eaten Thanksgiving even though it was only a little bit. The second time, I had to cut most of the fat off to ge it to fit in the Dutch oven and i think that was the right way to go, but you can make your own decision.
Rub some salt and pepper on the pork, put some oil in a skillet and turn it to high heat. Brown the pork on all sides. Move the pork to the Dutch oven.
Turn the burner with the skillet to medium. Add the onions and cook them until they are soft. Add the onions to the Dutch oven with the pork.
Cover the Dutch oven, put it in the oven and let it go for a half hour. Take it out, baste it, turn the heat down to 300. then take it out and baste again every half hour or so. Give it at least three hours in the oven, but the longer you can do it, the more awesome it will be.
When the pork is really tender and comes of the bone easily, remove it to a cutting board and let it sit for a while. Pull the pork from the bones and put it in a bowl. Set the bones aside to make broth or throw them away.
Taste the sauce and in the Dutch oven and see what you think. Add more paprika, salt, pepper, honey, whatever.
Serve the pork on potato rolls with sauce and cole slaw. Watch out because there’s probably some little bone bits in the sauce.
Since we last spoke Brooklyn Supper has been busily making food. First, we were home for the holidays and made butter cookies (twice), a gingerbread house (from a mix, but at least I hand-rolled the ginger bread), a pork roast, cauliflower gratin, and apple pie. Then, we came home and made not-so-great baked beans with pretty good cornbread. Don’t worry, I am determined to get you the perfect baked bean recipe in time for the Superbowl.
A couple days after the baked bean debacle, we stopped by a new butcher shop in our neighborhood, Marlow and Daughters, brought to us by the Diner guys. A butcher shop with a focus on happily raised, natural meats has been something sorely missing in Williamsburg, and we are glad to have an alternative to the farmer’s market. Sadly, they kind of ruined Brian’s long standing butcher shop idea. He was even planning on calling his totally hypothetical shop “Campbell and Daughters.” Now he will have to find some other post-office dream job. We thought they were going to be really expensive so we went there expecting to browse only. It turns out they have good meat and great prices (slightly lower than at the McCarren Park farmer’s market). So far we have purchased and enjoyed rosemary and red wine sausage, lamb shanks, a hunk of gruyere destined for mac and cheese, and a whole chicken. They have a small grocery and a few seasonal vegetables. We sampled some kale and it was surprisingly tender for this time of year.
Back to the lamb shanks. We were a little late in starting dinner since we had decided to braise, but really, we eat dinner at 10pm pretty regularly. I think I would be at home in Spain where 10pm seems to be the official dining hour. The shanks turned out well and would have been even better if we had given them an earlier start. We used turkey broth (frozen from thanksgiving) and red wine for the braising liquid. The shanks had an earthy, glad-to-be-home flavor. In addition, I had roasted some carrots in order to make this simple and delicious carrot soup. This led to a two bowl meal, with the shanks in a big bowl and the soup in a small bowl. This is not ideal from a presentation point of view, but who we are trying to impress? Except you, of course.
Braised Lamb Shanks with Kale
(2 generous servings)
2 decent sized lamb shanks
2 cups of broth (we keep various broths in the freezer for this purpose)
1-2 cups wine (red, in this case)
1 medium sized red onion, diced
1 bay leaf
fresh herbs of your choice (thyme is always a winner)
1-2 cups kale, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil
In a large saucier or small dutch oven, drizzle the olive oil and cook lamb shanks over medium-high heat, turning them to brown on each side. Cook time for browning should be around ten minutes. Set them aside. Saute the onions over medium heat until they are translucent and just starting to brown. When onions are almost done, throw in the kale and stir. Leave everything in the pot and add the shanks, broth, wine, herbs, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Make sure the liquid is covering the shanks; if not, add broth, wine, or water. Bring everything to boil, then turn heat to the lowest low and cover. Simmer for three or so hours until the meat has shrunk up and is starting to fall away from the bone.
If you are pressed for time, cook on low for an hour and then turn heat up to medium low (look for bubbles, but not a full simmer), tilt the lid to allow the steam escape, and cook for another hour. Of course, the secret to a good braise is time, so any time compromised will lead to slightly tougher meat.