Shylock’s Simple Collard Greens

Collard greens are a common side dish at barbecue joints in Eastern North Carolina, and winter is prime collard green season.  Cooking collards is surprisingly easy so stay away from the nasty canned stuff at the grocery store and cook ‘em up yourself. It takes a little more than an hour start to finish, but most of that time is spent waiting while the greens cook–in that time, you should make some cornbread and drink a beer.  Here’s my collards recipe, but please feel free to submit your own in the comments section or just tell me why my recipe is inferior to your’s.

2 pounds collard greens (about 2 bunches)
3 cups of warm/hot water
1 cup of chopped/diced pork of some sort (anything from leftover cooked ham to a pork chop to raw bacon will work)
2 tablespoons basic oil (no EVOO, for god’s sake) unless you are using uncooked bacon or other pork that provides its own fat
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Vinegar for seasoning at table

Thoroughly clean collards and remove stems, then chop into roughly 1″ pieces or smaller. Heat oil in large stock pot and cook the pork for 5 minutes if cooked already or until cooked if raw. Add warm/hot water (cold water and a hot pan gets a bit dicey and takes longer to heat to a simmer) and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pork and set aside. Add collards, salt and optional Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil, then turn to low and cook for 60 minutes or so (depending how tender you like the greens, you may want to taste at 45 mins).  Add the pork back in a few minutes before you finish cooking. Add water to keep the collards moist during cooking if needed, but it shouldn’t be if you cook at a low temperature.

Be sure to make use of the soupy liquid in the pot, aka “pot likker” or “pot liquor”, either to serve with the greens or dip cornbread in.  Also, add some vinegar to the collards at the table if you are into such things; hot pepper vinegar is best but plain old cider vinegar or Texas Pete will suffice.  Recipe makes ~ 6 servings.

Swine & Wine

I’ve had a lot of different drinks with barbecue over the years: beer, water, lemonade, Cheerwine, Pepsi and yes, of course, ice tea, to name a few.  But I’d never thought seriously about pairing wine and barbecue.  Somehow it just didn’t seem right: humble barbecue and that snooty vino stuff.  As far as I was concerned wine belonged with barbecue about as much as lobster belonged on a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.  But a recent experience made me think again.

A wine distributor contacted me and offered to send me a couple bottles of Argentinian wine if I was willing to have some friends over to sample it alongside barbecue.  (Generous offer, not-so-subtle attempt at free advertising, bribe?  You decide).  I was going to say no thanks but curiousity and the willingess to do anything for a free bottle of alcohol swayed me.  Plus, it occurred to me that the people of Argentina are notorious meat eaters and undoubtedly pair wine with their carnivore diet all the time.

The wine I received was a 2008 bottle of Broquel Malbec from Trapiche, which is Argentina’s largest premium wine exporter.  (See this link for some interesting background on Malbec.)  Because Broquel Malbec has a rich, complex flavor Trapiche recommends pairing it with flavorful foods like “stew made of game, lamb, or wild boar.”  Given the surprising lack of availability of wild boar at my local grocer (when is boar season ’round here anyway?), and my distaste for stew in 100 degree August weather, I figured barbecue would be a good substitute.

I invited some friends over for NC-style barbecue pork butt and Texas-style beef brisket.  I told my friends not to bother to bring drinks, since wine was on the menu.  My wine loving friends didn’t flinch but the alert barbecue lovers voiced some concern.  Luckily, free booze and ‘cue is hard to resist. 

The results were great. I can vouch that the complex fruit flavors of the Broquel Malbec paired well with the smoky, rich meaty flavors of the barbecue.  Perhaps because the beef brisket had a stronger flavor, the wine worked particularly well with it.  Still, even the relatively subtle flavors of the pork were not overwhelmed by the Broquel Malbec.  Live, drink and learn.  I’m not giving up ice tea as my preferred BBQ drink but I’ll catch myself next time my eyes roll at the mention of wine and barbecue!

Friday Fountain Fun

Check this link out, a fountain full of barbecue sauce–not the good, thin vinegar stuff we prefer here in NC (inset) but pretty darn cool anyway.  Thanks to burgeoningfoodie for telling me about it.  Oh, and since this post is only three sentences long you should have plenty of time to read the post from Wednesday about the Museum of North Carolina Barbecue.  I’m thinking maybe the museum needs a fountain… (four sentences, sorry).

This Wednesday: The Barbecue Sundae

I thought I’d seen it all until I saw this: the barbecue sundae.  Rest assured, this sundae doesn’t involve any chocolate syrup or chopped walnuts.  This sundae involves chopped pork and looks pretty damn good.  The sundae includes beans, ‘cue and slaw, and is served layered in a plastic cup.  I’m not sure how I feel about the beans but I like the sundae concept.  I wonder if substituting hushpuppies for beans would make this dish even better.  On the other hand, it’s hard to improve on the classic slaw-pork BBQ tray.  Still, off to my BBQ tasting lab to experiment…

One Word: Livermush

Livermush: Click the image to read about it!

If you frequent barbecue joints in Lexington, Salisbury or other parts of the state where the barbecue tradition is closely linked to German settlers,  sooner or later you are likely to run into something called livermush.  Although it sounds like a Dr. Seuss-invented food, livermush is very real.  Heck, it exists on Wikipedia so it must be real.  Also, I’ve seen it in person so I can personally attest to its existence.  Full disclosure: I have yet to work up the nerve to taste livermush, largely because it is, according to Wikipedia, “composed of pig liver, head parts, and cornmeal.”  It’s the vagueness of “head parts” that has me quaking in my boots.  I am also a bit nervous of the food because it is served both at breakfast (often with grape jelly) and at lunch (with mustard).  Odd. 

Actually, I am planning to eat livermush some day soon.  Truth be told, I only noticed livermush on BBQ menus very recently.  Apparently my usual laser-like focus on the barbecue portion of menus has limited my awareness of certain items.  See a nice picture of a livermush sandwich at the foodie blog Pretty by the Bay, run by a North Carolina ex-patriate who now lives in San Francisco.  Next time I get the chance, I will order livermush and report back to you.  In the meantime, do any of you readers have anything to say about livermush?

Allen’s Update Part II

Happy ‘Cue Year! And what better way to start 2010 than by talking about one of our favorites–the original Allen & Son.

You may recall Porky’s post from the previous decade lamenting two changes at Allen and Son–cost and cole slaw. The price increase was indisputable, but the cole question was downright subjective.

Given the special place Keith Allen, slaw and Keith Allen’s slaw hold in this BBQ Jew’s gullet, the only question was when I’d head to Orange County to see for myself. My partner in pork wanted to get a second taste, so Porky and I lunched at Casa Allen.

The infamous cole slaw

I got a side order of slaw to go with my barbecue sandwich to get an unadulterated taste and my first reaction was that it was a tiny bit different. But not due to more mayo, as Porky had suspected. It just tasted a bit different than I remembered. But after a few bites, those concerns washed away and I chalked up my take to the placebo effect.

Still, like true ‘cue hounds, we had to research it a bit further. I asked our waitress if they’d changed anything about the slaw and she said they hadn’t. Later, Porky asked a long-serving waitress the same question, but in this way: “Excuse me, I know you’ve worked here awhile. Is the coleslaw creamier than it used to be or am I losing my mind?”

The waitress, in a sense, called him crazy: “It’s the same. It’s still made by the same man.”  We both got a chuckle out of that.

As for the price change, I’ll echo Porky’s sentiment in saying: While it doesn’t exactly put a smile on my punim, I understand. I’m sure the cost of ingredients’ cost has gone up, even if it’s a very short list. After all, I’m sure swine is more expensive after the Aporkalypse.

One thing you can’t blame the price increase on is a drop in business. It was packed the day we visited! That’s probably because Allen’s aficionados, like myself, are OK with paying a bit more for a barbecue plate if it means Allen and Son keep cooking ‘cue the right way.

May your 2010 be filled with good health, good cheer (and Cheerwine) and good barbecue.

Porco Pizza: “Wise person who if dealt with a stuffed pig”

Do any of you BBQ Jew readers speak Portuguese?  If so, your help is needed in figuring out what the heck is going on in this video about a Portuguese pig pizza.  According to the website Boing Boing (surely a reliable source judging from the name), the video “documents the creation of the revolting Porco Pizza, a pizza whose crust is an entire, flattened suckling pig.” (Thanks to reader/BBQ buddy Eric “Raw Food Hog” Calhoun for the story idea.)

Unfortunately, I speak no Portuguese and I have no time to learn given my busy barbecue eating schedule.  Luckily, I discovered an article on the porco pizza to help explain things.  Unfortunately, like the video the article is also in Portuguese.  Luckily, I was able to find a free web-based translation service.  Unfortunately, the translation is a wee bit confusing, as this abridged transcript reveals: 

“Today the Oba presents an unusual plate at least. This Saturday I was invited for a confraternização of a group of friends intitled “the Eaters,” heading given in function of all the fridays to go in a different restaurant… The offered cardápio was the “Paraguayan Pig” or “Pig Pizza “, as some had called. Wise person who if dealt with a stuffed pig, but did not imagine the content of the filling….  Arriving at the mansion, I was to know the process of the preparation. In the reality, it was a boned and open wild boar, that rested in the grate with a golden one to full the eyes… 

1 – The pig (or in the case wild boar) boned is tempered with left pickling brine and on of paper aluminum, with the leather for top, until dourar.
2 – Then it is turned for another grate, of this time with the leather for low e without aluminum.
3 – The grate is returned to the fire.
4 – The wild boar is covered by one mixture of cheese, ham, tomatoe, maize, peas, olives, palmito, onion and orégano… Then it is served, abundantly served (he is enough to see my plate).

…Difficult to explain the delight that was. The meat baked in the accurate point… Detail that beyond the wild boar, still had a rib made in soil fire, melting of so soft….”
 
Here’s my summary: Dude went out to eat with some other dudes.  Dudes who knew dude’s dudes made some crazy pig pizza dish for all the dudes.  Dude thought pig pizza tasted pretty dang good.  Dude ate his fill of pig pizza.  Dude wants to share his love for pig pizza with the world, but not many dudes in the world speak Portuguese. 

Porco Pizza!

Allen’s: Minor Changes

Just a quick update for any Allen & Son’s devotees out there.  (I’m talking about the Chapel Hill location, of course.) I visited for the first time in close to a year and discovered that their prices have gone up yet again.  Allen’s is now pushing $10 for a barbecue plate, which is a bit ridiculous but it doesn’t seem to be hurting their business so it’s hard to fault them.  As long as Keith Allen keeps cooking over wood and making everything from scratch, I’m willing to pay a premium.

As for the food, the pork was good as ever. I did notice a minor change to the hush puppies though.  They seem slightly smaller. I always assumed that one of the reasons the hush puppies often taste over cooked is that they were so large.  Well, so much for that theory, as the reduced size had no impact on the taste.  The puppies are also served with “butter” (margarine really) these days, something they didn’t do back in the day… and a waste if you ask me.  Finally, and most importanly, I believe the Allen’s slaw is a good deal creamier than it used to be, which is a disappointment because their old ‘cue was just about perfectly tangy and nearly mayo free.  Picky comments, and maybe my memory is failing me, but I’ve been going to Allen’s for 20 years so I take these changes personally!

On the Origin of Brunswick Stew Species

For those of you who believe in evolution, I thought you might be interested to learn about the origin of Brunswick Stew, that classic accompaniment to Eastern North Carolina barbecue.  But then it seems Brunswick Stew’s story is as much a creationist one as it is a story of evolution.

As served today in North Carolina barbecue joints, Brunswick Stew’s recipe varies significantly from place to place.  Common ingredients include chicken, pork, corn, lima beans, tomatoes and more.  The consistency ranges from quite soupy to rather thick, and the texture from chunky to almost baby-food soft.  Even the color ranges from bright tomato red to a sickly brownish-gray.

Although present day species of Brunswick Stew have evolved over the years to adapt to whatever niche they fill, with ingredients varying widely from region to region and cook to cook, all the Brunswick Stews seem to have a common ancestor.  Or maybe two.  The origin of Brunswick Stew remains in dispute roughly a century and a half after it emerged from the primordial soup of southern culture.  Continue reading

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