Pesach Special: A Matzoh ‘Cue Sandwich from New England

A buddy of mine, let’s call him The Jewish Gentile, sent me an email a couple of days ago that was too good not to share on this website.  TJG wrote, “I’m keeping Passover this year, but I really wanted a pulled pork sandwich. So I went to Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington, MA and got the North Carolina Pulled Pork Platter. Then I made myself this sandwich (see attached photo). And it was delicious.” 

Far be it from me, a much less observant Jew than TJG despite my bloodlines, to question whether he was abiding by the letter but not the spirit of Passover laws when he indulged in this multi-cultural treat (I’ll leave that discussion to him and his wife).  And let’s leave aside that the barbecue in between the matzoh was purchased in Massachusetts (I’ll leave that discussion to him and G-d).  The important thing is that TJG was inspired by the divine, acted on that inspiration, and documented his work the old fashioned way–with the digital photograph shown below.

A Passover delight.

A Passover delight.

Backyard BBQ 2: Electric Boogaloo

When we heard that the Backyard BBQ Pit was opening a new location, we BBQ Jews were excited and surprised (with an emphasis on the latter). And so we had to check it out for ourselves.

Will there be another Backyard BBQ? All signs point to yes.

Will there be another Backyard BBQ? All signs point to yes.

Sure enough…Bingo:

The new Pit will be dug in the old Pizza Palace location. While it will likely be a win for barbecue fans (as long as the owners bring some of their wood pile north to Guess Road), it’s a bummer to see the Palace’s coffin sealed shut. After all, they made a decent pie and had a…swingin’ vibe.

For us, though, it’s a fitting transition. The Palace was a real karaoke hot spot. By the power of “Copa Cabana” and “Sweet Caroline,” that means the spirit of Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond still haunts the building.

And that’s appropriate as they’re both true BBQ Jews. (Well, at least they’re Jews).

Anyway, we’ll be among the first in line when The Pit II opens. And yes, we’ll be humming “Sweet Caroline.”

Passover Swine

It’s now passover, but I can’t seem to pass over any barbecue…

And that has led me to conclude: a barbecue plate fills in nicely for the Passover seder plate. Once you get past that kosher thing, that is.

The seder plate (courtesy of Sam Felder)

The seder plate (courtesy of Sam Felder)

What the barbecue plate lacks in tradition(!), it more than makes up for in taste. And it’s not hopeless on the symbolism front, either.

First off–the barbecue (or pork, for you heathens). You can’t tell me that some finely chopped N.C. barbecue doesn’t look a little like haroset, the apple-walnut-wine concoction meant to symbolize the mortar used to build the pyramids. Barbecue can play that role.

I’m willing to accept either slaw or fried okra as the karpas, symbolizing springtime and renewal. Best of all, you won’t have to dip the okra into salt water (representing the tears of our ancestral slaves in Egypt) because it’ll already be salty as heck. Meanwhile, collards can serve as the bitter herbs. Although they’ll probably have been boiled with enough pork to eliminate all bitterness and kosherness.

the barbecue plate (courtesy of Alaina B.)

the barbecue plate (courtesy of Alaina B.)

Hush puppies don’t really work with the whole not using flour modus operandi, unfortunately. While matzah meal hush puppies would be wrong on many levels, they might be worth asking for just to enjoy the blank stares.

For beverages, a glass of Cheerwine would substitute nicely for that tired old Manischewitz wine. And don’t forget to enjoy 4 cups, as we’re commanded!

On a final note: Good luck finding anything resembling a shank bone (in place of the lamb shank), or any kind of bone, for that matter, at a N.C. barbecue joint.

Happy Passover, y’all. Enjoy your “seder.”

BBQ Jew’s View: Bullock’s Bar B Cue

3330 Quebec Dr., Durham, NC
919.383.3211
No Website
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C
Porky Says: “Never mind the Bullock’s.”

Not Really a Barbecue Joint
I think I’d like Bullock’s more if it didn’t serve barbecue.

It’s not that Bullock’s barbecue is bad, but it seems like an afterthought on a huge menu that does a good job serving southern food from fried chicken to fish to ham, with all the sides you could ever want.  Bullock’s is a pretty good southern style restaurant that also serves so-so, Eastern-style electric-cooked barbecue (they long ago abandoned cooking over wood). The barbecue is pretty non-descript, standard fare for wood-free, Eastern-style ‘cue, though it is available either chopped or sliced, which adds some variety.   Frankly, I’m not sure what else to say about the barbecue, especially after seeing how Bullock’s attorneys have reacted to comments H. Kent Craig made about rumors regarding the source of Bullock’s barbecue. 

Family dining at Bullock's.  From http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3597/3321910552_25fd70ac3c.jpg
Bullock’s spacious dining room.  Picture taken from http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3597/3321910552_25fd70ac3c.jpg

It’s A Family Affair
Bullock’s is a family-run business that draws a mixed crowd of Durham natives, Duke students who have likely never tasted barbecue anywhere else except for possibly the Original Q-Shack, and the occasional celebrity.  (The vintage 1980’s picture of Bono and U2 with the classic, underwhelmed caption “Band from Ireland” is far and away my personal favorite.). There is actually much to like about Bullock’s, especially the “family style” dinners where everyone in your dining party agrees to eat what amounts to a buffet brought to your table—bottomless bowls of barbecue, chicken, vegetables, etc. And the endless supply of sweet, soft hush puppies that accompanies every meal is hard to resist, even if it is a wee bit unnecessary.

Closing Thoughts
Bullock’s has probably helped spread the gospel of barbecue to tens of thousands of folks over the years, especially given the number of out of town visitors who find their way to Bullock’s through Duke or other connections.  Hopefully many of those folks have gone on to try some ‘cue from other joints that do more justice to the ‘cue NC has to offer.  Still, if you can manage your expectations, you shouldn’t be disappointed by the overall dining experience at Bullock’s.  I’ve always enjoyed my trips there because of the friendly atmosphere, the large and diverse crowd of diners, and the fact that Bullock’s really is a Durham institution.  As long as you don’t go to Bullock’s looking for a great plate of barbecue you’ll enjoy yourself.

For an interesting post on the history of Bullock’s Bar B Cue, see our pal at Endangered Durham’s post here.

“BBQ” Chicken

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night
No, really, it was.  It was a cold, rainy night in mid-March when I found myself in a predicament.  I was craving ‘cue, my wife was 900 miles away, my daughter was asleep for the night in her crib, and I had some near-expired boneless, skinless chicken breast in the fridge.  What was a BBQ Jew to do? 

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
I opened the fridge and took out the chicken.  Next, I opened the pantry where by fate (or mispent divine intervention?) I spotted a half-empty bottle of Eastern-style BBQ sauce.   Problem solved.  And then one more pantry discovery: canned collards waiting patiently but hopelessly to be eaten by my vegetable-averse daughter.  A pseudo-BBQ plate was emerging (alas, sans hush puppies).  I doused the chicken in the BBQ sauce and baked it in the oven; no need to wood cook faux ‘cue, after all.  Once cooked, I chopped the sad-looking bird meat up to resemble barbecue as best it could and drenched it with more sauce.  There was no turning back now.

Moral of the Story
There may be a reason chopped chicken breast with barbecue sauce is not a staple of menus across North Carolina.  Most likely because it has no flavor.  (Interestingly, turkey barbecue is served at some NC restaurants, or so I’ve been told.)  Oh well, at least the chickens of North Carolina can sleep a little easier knowing they are no replacement for hog…

The End.

Tastes as good as it looks, but that's not saying much

Tastes as good as it looks, but that's not saying much

Smokin Grooves and Hooves

BBQ Jews don’t spend all of their time lusting after the divine swine. We have our diversions, too. Like finding barbecue music.

On that note, there’s just something cool about a musician with a backing band called the Barbecue Swingers. Such is the case for Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers.

But these cats don’t just talk the talk about the hog. Not only do they have a song called “Smokin with Some Barbecue,” but in the video we see Kermit and the guys “swinging” some ‘cue from the smoker.

OK, so it’s not the best song in the world. But can you blame Kermit for getting distracted by the topic? His other work is better–real classic New Orleans Jazz. And with that many gigs scheduled, it’s no wonder the band took that name. Talk about working up an appetite for ‘cue!

The Gospel According to Keith

As we’ve said before, we are big fans of Allen & Son Barbeque in Chapel Hill.  Here are some beautiful words from the man himself, Keith Allen, to help you BBQ Jews out there get through the work week:

Interviewer: “Can you describe what that taste is that you’re looking for?”

Keith Allen: “Well when—after I chop the barbecue by hand and I put that sauce on it and I put that bite of meat in my mouth and my taste buds start watering and they come alive and that tang reaches out and almost brings tears to your eyes, you know, that you’ve gotten what you’re after. Because if you don’t do all—if it doesn’t do all those things to you, you’ve missed it by a bit. And if—if you come in here and taste that barbecue right off the table, and you put it in your mouth and your taste buds doesn’t just wake up and—and you’re not tasting everything—all aspects about it, not just the sauce but the meat and all—it’s not covered up with really hot—if you’re no tasting all aspects of it, then I’ve missed the boat.” 

Read the rest of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s interview with Keith Allen, and listen to audio excerpts, here.  Click on the Documentary link on the Southern Foodways Alliance website for more great oral histories related to southern food and culture.