Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Make a wish!

What does a mother do when her little girl who lives in St. Thomas visits for a week? If that mother happens to be part Italian, she cooks. This mother was disappointed that she only had a limited opportunity to coddle her little girl, but thrilled when she made a request.

It was her last night at home, and some of her friends were going to stop by. I had already made pizza and fried dough boys. I had already made manicotti. This time, she wanted pulled pork sandwiches.

Ordinarily, pulled pork requires at least two days, a full 24 hour session with a spicy rub to let it really seep into the muscle of the meat, then a long, slow cooking period, then an hour's rest before finally pulling the pork into shreds and simmering it in a light gravy. Instead, I had six hours to shop, cook, and prepare. I wasn't sure of the results of hurrying the process, but I had to give it a go. After all, she asked.

I found an 8-pound shoulder roast that had a generous coating of fat. I sprinkled it generously with garlic powder, hot paprika, fresh-ground pepper, and salt. I added a few shakes of cayenne pepper for oomph. I coaxed slivers of fresh garlic into slits all over the roast, and I browned all sides.

I crossed my fingers, set the oven to 350 degrees, and put the roast in a large Dutch oven. Before I put on the lid, I added three big sprigs of fresh rosemary and a dash of white wine. After an hour, I adjusted the oven temperature to 325 degrees. The aroma of garlic and rosemary filled the house. After another two hours, the fat on the top was golden brown and the meat was falling off the bone. After it sat for 15 minutes, the meat all but pulled itself into shreds. I strained the jus that was left in the Dutch oven, added another splash of white wine to deglaze the pan, then returned the jus and the pork and let it come to a slow simmer. It was tender and tasty.

Now I know I can make a family favorite in an afternoon.

Original Recipe
This is the rub recipe that I always use. My father asked the man who made pulled pork at his favorite grocery store for his secret recipe. After a little coaxing, the man shared it with my dad.
1 Tablespoon garlic salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon fresh ground pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste

Pulled Pork
6-8 pound roast pork (preferably with the bone and from the shoulder--the loin is too lean for this dish)
1 recipe of the rub
1 head garlic
1 cup white wine (divided)
several sprigs fresh rosemary
canned beef broth (optional)

Rub the roast with the spice mixture. Sliver 4-5 cloves of garlic, and insert it into the meat with a sharp paring knife--cut into the roast with the knife, then use the knife as a lever to push the garlic into the roast. Place in a shallow bowl and refrigerate 12-24 hours.

About 8 hours before you want to serve the pork, remove it from the refrigerator. Heat a large skillet (do not add oil) over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, then put in the roast, fat side down. Allow to brown undisturbed for 5-8 minutes. To see if it is brown enough, see if the roast turns easily. If not, continue browning. Repeat on all sides.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Yes, that is an EXTREMELY slow oven, but it works best. Remove the browned roast to a Dutch oven large enough to hold it comfortably. Deglaze the pan you used to brown the meat with 1/2 cup white wine. Add the wine to the Dutch oven along with several sprigs of fresh rosemary and the remaining cloves of garlic (peel them first). Cover the pot and put into the oven. Don't open the oven door for the next 4 hours. Patience is a virtue!

During the 4 hours, the house will begin to smell wonderful and you can go about your business. After four hours, you can peak at the roast. If it looks golden brown and if there is a lot of juice, you can pull it from the oven, take the roast from the pan, and let it sit. If it isn't brown and falling apart, let it continue to cook for another hour. If the pan is dry, add more white wine.

After the meat is sufficiently cooked, let it rest for at least 15 minutes, then pull the meat into shreds, removing fat and bone. Strain the liquid left in the pan, and reserve. Deglaze with remaining white wine. Return the shredded pork and the reserved liquid to the Dutch oven. Allow to simmer until warm.  It can simmer longer if you are waiting for late arrivals, and it can be made a day in advance. If it is too dry, add beef broth.

Serve in crusty rolls with horseradish.  An 8-pound roast serves 12 people generously.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tea Time

The clink of ice in a tall glass of tea is one of the most welcome sounds of summer. It brings back memories of sitting on the glider on the front porch and watching the cars go by on Lincoln Highway, memories of listening to my parents’ friends chatting around the kitchen table, memories of playing endless games of Monopoly with my brothers in the cool basement.

My mother did not make instant tea or buy tea already made and sweetened. She boiled a big pot of water, steeped bags of tea while it was still hot, added a generous mountain of sugar, and then put it in the refrigerator to cool. We had no icemaker then, so she poured water into aluminum ice-cube trays. Does anyone remember carefully transporting the trays into the freezer to avoid spilling water? Back then it made a huge difference because the freezer had to be defrosted when ice built up. When the cubes were hard, Mom pulled the lever to release them—and what a horrid sound that made, like fingernails on a chalkboard. She tipped the cubes into an ice bucket and deposited two in a glass before pouring the chilled tea over them.

Iced tea was more special then, perhaps because it took more time to make and more effort to give it a frosty chill. Maybe that’s why the memories of iced tea from my childhood are so vivid and special.

Now that summer is here, there is always a pitcher of iced tea in my refrigerator. This month’s BonApp├ętit has a recipe for making tea without boiling water and another for a peach syrup to flavor it. You really should check it out.

Here’s my version of this summer staple:
 Linda’s Ten-Minute Iced Tea
2 cups water
5 bags of black tea
generous handful of mint leaves
¼ cup sugar
Additional water
Put two cups of water, tea, and mint leaves into a 4-cup glass measuring container. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Remove from microwave and let sit for 5 minutes to brew. Put sugar into a half-gallon Tupperware pitcher (or other heatproof container). Strain the steeped tea into the pitcher and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add about 3 cups of ice cubes to the container and continue to stir. Fill container with water. Serve.