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Cooking
Volume 38 Issue 5, - May 29 - June 4, 2008
now in our 38th season

Cooking in the Vernacular

by Maryjane Mojer
Executive Chef, Bartlett's Ocean View Farm

I am a chef who was trained on the job.  On the line, in the kitchen and by the seat of my pants (sometimes quite literally, as when I tried to light the pilot on an uncooperative range, and the chef grabbed the seat of my pants and hauled me upright..saving my eyebrows and more..) Some might say it was baptismal by fire.  (I would agree).  I learned what I know and learn more all the time by experience, by talking to people who love food, and by reading.  I have a pretty decent working knowledge of food and am excited at the prospect of learning more.  Every so often, however, something takes me by complete surprise.

I’m from the northeast; Nantucket specifically.  I grew up having “cookouts” where we “grilled” on the “barbeque.”  On occasion, we would slather something with barbeque sauce that was always tomato-based, pungent and sweet and sticky. The same concoction was used on ribs, chicken, and beef, rendering them all very much the same dish with each one a slightly different texture.  This was still a cookout, and we were eating grilled food—it simply became barbequed instead of grilled.  That was what I knew as barbeque. Oh, how I’ve learned.

A few years back, I went to Virginia for a graduation.  As I was helping to set up for the party, I asked what we would be serving.  “Barbeque” was the reply. “Great,” I thought.  Burgers, dogs, maybe some chicken.  A short time later, the delivery van arrived.  This in and of itself was a bit disconcerting. What could they possibly have delivered?  Perhaps the burgers and dogs?  I knew they did things differently in the South, and as they say, “when in Rome.”  I kept looking for a grill, planning to help to set up and cook.  No grill.  Box after box and various sized buckets began to fill the dining room table, and I started to poke around to find a snack. (Only thinking of my hosts; quality control is so important.)  The boxes contained white bread, the small buckets allegedly contained a cole slaw, (or so I was told) though certainly not like any I had seen.  The larger buckets held shredded pork.  It looked kind of overcooked and plain.  “Well,” I said to my daughter, “we can run out and grab a pizza later.”

Wow!  Lesson learned.  No pizza needed.  The white bread was the perfect vessel for this incredible sandwich.  This was my introduction to Barbeque the noun as opposed to barbeque the verb.  A big scoop of incredible, powerful, flavor-filled pork, topped with a vinegary, sharp slaw on soft white bread washed down by an icy cold root beer.  Oh my!

I called my husband right away.  “You’ll never believe this amazing sandwich I just had!  Incredible!  So different, delicious, etc. etc.”  I described it in detail from the white bread to the vinegar slaw.  “Yeah, barbeque” was his reply.  Boy, just when you think you know someone. 

“You know about this stuff??” I asked.  “Of course” he said.”  Everyone knows what barbeque is.”

I am married to a man whose family (on one side) is from North Carolina. His grandmother often made barbeque, and his memories of the scent and the flavors are strong and happy.  He searched for just the right recipe so that he could create the memories for his daughters and enjoy the thoughts of his childhood.  Through trial and error, he concocted this pulled pork recipe. When he’s made a batch, if he happens to hear a southern accent around, he makes sure to get a batch to them.  This is food that’s made to share.

The recipe can be made in a slow cooker or in an oven.  It is deceptively simple and ridiculously flavorful.  In the oven, cook covered at 375 degrees for three hours.  In a slow cooker, cook on high for six hours.

Steve’s Pulled Pork

Start with one five- to seven-pound pork butt

Pour one-half cup of apple cider vinegar, mixed with two tablespoons of molasses over the pork butt.  Cover and cook.  Yes, really, that’s it.

Cool the pork butt completely.  I like to leave it in the pan that it was cooked in.  The next day, gently pull the pork out of the pan, and remove the fat from the pan.  Using your fingers, pull the pork into shreds.  The drippings will be the base for the sauce.

Heat the drippings until simmering.  Whisk in one-half cup of ketchup and one tablespoon spicy mustard.  Remove from heat and pour over your shredded pork.

Cole Slaw

  • One medium head green cabbage, shredded
  • Four carrots, shredded
  • One red onion, shredded or grated. (I prefer shredded onion because I like the texture better.)

Dressing:

  • One cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 3/4 cup sugar 

Whisk all dressing ingredients together and bring to a boil.  Toss over shredded vegetables while hot.  Mix to combine and chill. 

Traditionally, these sandwiches are made on white bread or white hamburger buns.  Just once I tried to make one on a gorgeous, whole wheat burger bun that I had.

Lesson learned.

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