Since I had to trot off to work on Sunday night, taking one good holiday evening away from me, I decided to go all-out on Friday and Saturday evening.
I had a plan.
Grilled skirt steak and potatoes, salsa verde, simple salad, cold beer and wine
Six tomatillos, medium onion (quartered), red anaheim chile, two garlic cloves are coated in olive oil and salt and roasted in a 400F oven until browned, about 20-25 minutes. Once they cooled, they went into the blender with a big handful of cilantro, the juice of a lime, a splash of red wine vinegar, two tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Easy dessert: Whisk together 8 ounces of mascarpone cheese and a little milk until smooth, then add 3/4 cup of store-bought lemon curd, a shot or two of limoncello and healthy teaspoon of lemon zest. Meanwhile, slice a store-bought pound cake into eight pieces, put them on a platter and splash a healthy amount of limoncello over them. Spread the lemon-mascarpone mixture over the sliced pound cake, top with variety of berries. Put it in the refrigerator to soak and set.
I then boiled large red-skinned potatoes sliced in half the long way, in salted water for 15 minutes. Drained and cooled, I put them on a platter, drizzled with olive oil and heavily seasoned them with salt and pepper.
With the skirt steaks on a half-sheet pan, I coated them with olive oil, salt and pepper, cilantro leaves, crushed garlic and ancho chile powder for a good massage and rest at room temp. Filled the chimney starter with natural wood charcoal and, once hot, poured them onto one half of the bottom grate of my old workhorse, a 22-inch Weber kettle grill. Replaced the cooking grate and brushed it clean, then dropped the steaks on the hot side until seared (4-5 minutes per side) then moved them to the cooler side grate to finish while I grilled the potatoes, cut side down.
Once the steaks hit about 120-125F on the instant read thermometer, I took the steaks off to rest 10-15 minutes while the potatoes finished and threw together simple salad of green leaf lettuce, chopped tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.
Steak and potatoes: check. Salsa verde: check. Lemon-cream pound cake: check. Dinner: done.
At about 10 that night, after clearing dishes, cleaning up and saying goodbyes to our guests, I took the 6.5-lb. pork shoulder out from the icebox and liberally dry-rubbed it with a combination of ancho chile powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger, ground allspice, salt, pepper, mustard powder and white sugar. Then I wrapped it snugly in plastic wrap and popped it back in to the fridge.Pulled pork sandwiches, vinegar slaw, key lime pie, cold beer, wine, grapefruit margaritas
Pulled pork sandwiches, vinegar slaw, key lime pie, cold beer, wine, grapefruit margaritas
Pork shoulder (6.5 pounds) out onto the counter to loosen up and shake off the chill. I put about four cups of hickory wood chips into an old metal bowl and filled it with water until the wood was just submerged, soaking them for at least a half hour. Meanwhile, out on the deck, surrounded with the adolescent potted herbs, I put about 15 charcoal briquettes into a chimney starter, balled up two sheets of the mostly useless daily paper and shoved them into the bottom, lit the paper and let ‘er rip.
When the charcoal was about three-quarters gray, I dumped it into the grill and shoved the hot coals to one side at the bottom of the grill. I added two handfuls wet wood chips and placed a disposable aluminum roasting pan onto the empty half of the bottom of the grill, replaced the cooking grate, and put the shoulder, fat side up, onto the opposite side, away from the burning coals and smoking wood.
Threw together an easy slaw of cabbage, onion, cider vinegar, sugar, celery seed, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, which I would stir every hour or so until dinner.
After about 45 minutes, I dropped three more briquettes, gave it five minutes to grab the heat with the lid off, tossed in another handful of soaked wood and closed the grill again. This process repeated itself over the course of about three hours. By then, the shoulder had a decent bark (dark, beyond-mahogany crust on the outside) and some of the fat had already rendered.
So, while the shoulder was cooking and the cabbage marinating, what else did I have to do?
I made a key lime pie, something I can practically do with my eyes closed: whisk together the four ounces of fresh lime juice, six egg yolks, one can of sweetened condensed milk, pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest, pour it into a graham cracker crust and bake it at 325F for about 20 minutes until barely set, cool it on a rack then chill it in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
The work of the smoke was complete. I took the shoulder out and put it onto a half-sheet pan lined with heavy foil. Wrapped the shoulder tightly with the foil and put the works into a 250F oven… for five hours. Now, it could cook in a temperature controlled environment and I could do other things. I could feel the Carolinas shudder, but this was New Jersey. Too bad!
Two more accompaniments remained: 1) A ton caramelized of onions; 2) The juice of eight pink grapefruits and four limes, because you can’t have grapefruit margaritas without them, along with blanco tequila, agave nectar, pinch of salt and a lot of ice.
About an hour before I rang the dinner bell, I took the pork shoulder out to rest, stirred the slaw one last time, and started slicing hard-rolls in half. Once the shoulder was cooled just enough to handle, I pulled out the bone and started pulling and shredding the meat into a bowl, kissing it with cider vinegar and some decent barbecue sauce.
On Monday, we went out.