Dude Food, or How To BBQ Without A Barbecue?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Eight hours' sleep and several hastily discarded resolutions later, the Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches that rang in our New Year made an encore appearance at the breakfast table.

I am a weak, weak woman, easily undone by soft white rolls, tender meat and the sweet tang of simmering sauce. 

Dude food may be the flavor of the month (see Matt Preston on this trend), but for me, this little piggie is all about nostalgia. 

Lately, I've had a taste for a bit of barbecue - specifically, Rocklands BBQ & Grilling Company, a staple of my twelve years spent south of the Mason-Dixon line. 

Their signature sauce, poured hot over a beef brisket sandwich and a side of roughly mashed potatoes, sustained me on many a night (and morning after).  My carnivorous madeleine.  Sigh.

But what is a girl without a Webber, let alone a hickory-fed smoker, to do?

Improvise, with North Carolina-style Pulled-Pork Barbecue done in the oven (see the Cook's Note at the of the recipe, and my notes below). 

That's right - the oven.

Apartment dwellers and suburban rebels alike, heed my call:  you do not need a barbecue to make great barbecue. 

Never mind digging a pit for a whole pig or firing up the barbie - just whack what you need in a roasting pan, cover with brine and parchment, seal with foil, and away you go.  With a lot of time (largely unattended) and a little basting, the pork, cooking in a cider vinegar and it's own fat, will be falling off the bone and ready to be pulled into bite sized pieces.  Too easy.

For the all-important sauce, I played a bit of regional hop-scotch and jumped over to Kansas City, where they like it thicker and sweeter (the North Carolina version is bit thin and vinegary for my liking) and some simple, tasty coleslaw. 

One non-negotiable that both regions can agree on: soft white rolls.  This is not the time for anything vaguely 'organic', 'granary', or 'artisan'.  Think Bubba, not Buhdda. 

So, visit your butcher, mix up some brine, fire the oven, put your friends on notice and the beer on ice.  

It's barbecue time.

Note: although the Cook's Note indicates that oven roasting will take between 5-6 hours, depending upon the size of your pork shoulder, mine (3.5 kgs/7.5lbs) took the full nine hours - five in the oven at 180C, followed by four hours at 100C.  I also dispensed with the "remove the skin and roast on a tray, while you brown the meat" step - I didn't see the need.  Not that I don't love pork crackling, I do, but I didn't want to risk drying out the meat with the browning step, nor did I see the need - pulled pork is more about moist, succulent meat, not browned edges.  Otherwise, I followed the all the recipes (North Carolina pulled-pork,sauce and coleslaw) to a tee (though I did use a mix of green and purple cabbage for the slaw - a girl's gotta have a bit of color!).


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