Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pig and Pinot

Sometimes the unrelenting nature of the restaurant business gets to us and so it has done the past couple of weeks, October being among the very busiest of times at the restaurant. It is incredibly difficult to have a meaningful relationship when the other woman is a restaurant. And so Ann and I just needed some us-time before I get started on another very busy month that will see us catering two large dinners at Delaplane Cellars.

In my copious spare time at the restaurant, which is to say none, I managed to find time to put together a plan for Sunday, thinking all the while that Carter would be off at Tom's house working to make some cash. I decided to make a frittata for brunch with a Bloody Mary for each of us and then I thought that we could walk around the State Arboretum of Virginia in the afternoon to take advantage of what I thought would be beautiful fall weather. While we were walking, I would have a pork shoulder in the oven going low and slow and that would be awaiting our return. Or so went the plan. Most of it happened, but that's not the important part. The important part is that Ann and I got to spend a great day together without having to be anywhere or do anything.

Brunch: Bloody Marys and Frittata
We ate brunch rather earlier than I wanted because I needed the oven free to roast the pork. For the frittata, I sweated a bit of onion with Surry sausage, then added the eggs, ricotta, chives, and grated pecorino. In no time at all in a very hot oven, it had gone golden brown around the edges and puffed beautifully in the middle. It turned out that Carter would not be leaving so Ann woke him in time to join us for a late breakfast. While the frittata was in the oven, I mixed up a Bloody Mary for each of us and garnished them with skewered lime and olives and a branch of lovage from the back porch. Lovage has delicious but unique celery flavor, stronger than regular celery, and we love it.

The Bloody Mary is something of an art form at our house and our efforts are far from the watery tomato juice cocktails that most bars serve. I made the mix on Saturday afternoon and like many things that need time to come together, it was better for having sat in the refrigerator overnight. I started with tomatoes, celery, and a little poblano chile which I pureed in the big blender. To this I added four elements of heat: chipotle for a little smoky back of the throat stealth heat; red Thai curry paste for a slow burn with vegetable notes of galangal and cilantro root; a small boatload of horseradish for its nasal cavity gymnastics; and for all purpose heat, about a tablespoon of Calabrese chile paste with its smoky lip-stinging goodness. The other ingredients were salt, olive brine, lemon juice, and lime juice.

Pork Shoulder Before Roasting
Just before we sat down to brunch, I put the pork shoulder in the oven for dinner. This is half a shoulder from a Red Wattle x Duroc hog from a farm in nearby Shepherdstown WV. I decided to cook it very simply so that we could taste all its delicious porkiness unmasked, so I rubbed it with my standard pork shoulder rub and put it on a layer of onions on a sheet tray. [Those onions would prove to be the best part of the dish, having been caramelized in pork fat for hours!] I put the shoulder skin side up so that as the inch of subcutaneous fat melted, it would baste the meat. After sealing the whole thing in aluminum foil, I put it into a slow oven (275F) for the next 8 hours. Can you imagine what the house smelled like on Sunday? Pork Heaven for those of you without imagination.

My pork rub is salt, brown sugar, pimentón, cayenne, white pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder and is very similar to rubs used by all competition BBQ teams. Sometimes I add a little ground thyme, but my spice mill died, the restaurant being hell on small appliances. Although you can buy lots of commercial rubs, if you have access to a lot of spices, making your own is trivial.

My Infamous Farmers Market Slaw
What better, I ask you, with pulled pork than some really fresh cole slaw? I make a batch at the restaurant each day from hand-sliced vegetables from the market. Naturally, each day's slaw varies. I kept it simple at home. Our version was red and green cabbage, carrots, and a touch of celery. The dressing is nothing but plain granulated sugar and rice vinegar plus a sprinkle of Kosher salt. Right after brunch, I chopped and mixed the slaw and left it on the counter to work and soften until dinner.

We took our drinks out to the patio to enjoy the fall sunshine, but that lasted only about ten minutes before we threw in the towel and came back inside to watch movies. The temperature was really nice, 50ish, but the wind was screaming out of the northwest at 10-15 miles per hour, simply no fun at all. The wind put an end to my plan to go walk around the arboretum and enjoy the day outside. So we enjoyed ourselves inside instead.

Looks Like the Vultures Got This Pork Shoulder
I had no sooner taken the pork out of the oven than Ann had attacked it! We stood around the counter and rolled little burritos of pork and cole slaw. I also made a little dipping sauce for the pork: rice vinegar, salt, and a squirt of sriracha. This is a sauce typical of parts of Virginia and the Carolinas: no tomato, no sweet, and very thin. It's my kind of sauce, this so-called mopping sauce used for basting pig while it cooks, made without sugar to keep it from burning.

Chief Vulture in Charge
The wine star of our day was this bottle of Sonoma Coast Pinot from William Knuttel. It was just the right bottle at the right time and for us, had a perfect balance of fruit and acid with enough restraint and finesse to satisfy us both.

A Delightful Bottle
A great weekend, all in all. Starting with brunch and bloodies and finishing with pig and Pinot. What more could a person want?

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