Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat November 2, 2013

(S)wine Snobs

Click the play button to hear the radio version of this post by Norman Van Aken.

When the woman at the butcher counter asked Jimmy the Cutter, “do you have a nice butt?” Jimmy didn’t hesitate and said, “My wife kind of digs it.”

The lady pushed her walker aside to get a better look at the pork in Jimmy’s case, pretending not to hear him. Her faded alligator purse fell open to reveal a half empty carton of Lucky Strikes and a copy of Reader’s Digest. He looked at me and rolled his eyes toward the crease of his paper deli hat.

“That joke used to work,” he sighed. He swung a stained cotton towel over his shoulder, reached into his case, pulled out three beautiful Niman Ranch pork butts and let me choose.

From 30 years of cutting swine, his forearms were almost as large as the pork. The woman was busy squinting into the fogged up edge of the meat case to smear some indigo lipstick on her small mouth. She smacked her lips together three times in hopes of some even application. She might have been disappointed if the mirror were any better. She smiled satisfyingly into her fuzzy reflection. I bought all three butts. Everyone was happy now.

Pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world. The most beloved way in America just might be "low and slow" barbeque. And we here in the relative easy reach of the Caribbean have some history with the beasts.

The Caribe Indians on the island of Hispaniola taught the Spanish how to use the green wood lattices to make barbacoa — or what we now know as barbecue. A staple of the islanders’ diet was the wild hog—the locals called the animals boucan, and that word eventually came to be applied to many of the wild, seafaring island men: buccaneers.

Barbeque has become one of the most favored foods in the world. North Americans have been grilling and smoking pork as if it were an article within the U.S. Constitution. Few culinary subjects stir such rabid debate from Texas to Memphis to South Carolina and back down to the Caribbean and South America.

Some hold forth the theory that barbeque may have originated in China many centuries ago. It’s said that a devastating fire burned down a barn and the pig farmers, who had previously never cooked meat in a fiery fashion, solaced their loss by eating well that night!

In the U.S.A we have four dominant kinds of barbeque. They are distinct in style and the four are, in no particular order; Kansas City, Carolina, Texas and Memphis.

It would take to long to get into the details on this show. One day I intend to write a whole cookbook on the topic. But, basically, Kansas City style barbecue is characterized by thick, tomato-based sauces containing sugar. My family on my wife’s side is from K.C. mostly and this is the kind we serve most often. Memphis style tends to be more spicy than Kansas City style. Texas barbeque focuses on beef and the sauces tend to be thin and strong with chilies riding up via Mexico. Carolina barbeque is a sauce-centric one. That sauce is, in general, thin and watery, tangy, and peppery.

Perhaps the most common confusion in regards to grilling and barbeque is... which is which? For my money barbeque is what is done with heat that is “low and slow” and that grilling is done fast and fairly furious. I like them both.

I got home from Jimmy’s and rubbed that butt lavishly with a favored spice rub.

And you know what? My wife….. yeah… she kind of digs it.

RECIPE FOR BICYCLE SAMMY'S RIB MEAT CHILI

Yield: 10 + Cups

Part I

3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes (net weight)

1 ½ Tablespoons chilies molido, (The Spice House or Penzey’s)...or chile powder

½ Tablespoon cumin

Zest of one orange

salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all of the above together in a bowl or baggie and allow to marinate an hour

Part II

½ Cup blended oil or bacon fat

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and minced medium

1 Spanish onion, diced medium (about 2 cups)

1 Tablespoon oregano leaves, chopped

3 guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded

12 ounces beer

1) 15 ounce can tomato sauce

1 Cup Lemon BBQ or your favorite BBQ sauce

2 Cups Black Beans, or other cooked beans you like (if not our Black Beans more stock will probably be needed)

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Remove and discard the stems and seeds from the dried chiles. Roast the chiles in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes, until they become fragrant.

Pour the beer in a small pot and bring to simmer.

Remove the chilies from the oven and place in a bowl. Turn off the oven. Sink the chilies into the beer, and allow to steep for 15 minutes to soften.

Place the chilies in a blender with the beer and pulse. Reserve.

Heat the oil (or bacon fat) in a large pot. When it is hot add the pork meat. Cook until the meat is no longer pink in the middle. Now add the garlic, jalapeño, poblano, oregano and onion and cook until the onion is translucent.  About 10 minutes, stirring.

Add the beer and guajillo mixture and cook down to half.

Add the canned tomato sauce and Lemon BBQ. Reduce the heat and cook at a simmer until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Now add the cooked Black Beans, (or other) and simmer about 10 minutes.

Serve.

Garnish as desired with chopped onion and/or grated cheese. We often serve it with Cornbread, Cayo Hueso

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