Holiday eats

July 4, 2011

Independence Day has been duly celebrated.

Happy edible birthday, America!

And in a rare exhibition of perfect timing, I made it up the hill from the  lake, snatched the Boston butt off the grill, and got it in the house a good 10 minutes before the heavens opened and the rains came. It went in the oven for a final two hours at 200 degrees, and got pulled and voraciously wolfed down along with potato salad, slaw, black bean and corn salad, mac and cheese and corncakes. I had a tomato to slice, but no room either on my plate or in my tummy.

Why do holidays mean eating too much? Because they do.

I am replete. I think the kids are, too, the two male variety of same having retired to the bedrooms to watch something other than the Cardinals, which Child C and I are watching. No traditional gender roles in this house.

We’re resting before starting on Round Two, which would be the patriotic raspberry cream cheese pie. I don’t get cute with food too often, but the Food52 challenge this week was raspberries, and it was Fourth of July, so wtf not?

The Boston butt was a thing of beauty. An eight pounder, he’d been reposing in the fridge in a dry rub since Saturday afternoon. About 8:30 this morning, I cranked up the old barrel grill with a heap of coals on either side, and plunked the butt down in the middle. Turned it once, about an hour into the cooking process, and just left it alone, except to add a few briquettes about noon. I swooped down ahead of the thunderclouds and got it off about 2:45, covered it with foil, and plunked it in the oven at 200. About 4-ish, I pulled it out and dug into it with a pair of forks to pull it.

Sweet Baby Jesus. It was so good I didn’t even use sauce on mine. This was barbecue like my Daddy used to make, and that’s about the highest praise I can bestow on any combination of pork and coals, no matter if I DID do it my ownself.

The dry rub had salt, ancho chile powder, paprika, coriander, allspice, a little sugar, garlic powder, cumin….and I think that was all. I make my dry rub differently about every time I do it, so I can’t say for sure. The butt had a good deal of marbling running through it, but not enough that there were big chunks of fat to pull out. It cooked up with a lovely char on the outside that, when distributed through the meat, gave it a gorgeous flavor.  And there’s a ton of it left; enough to freeze, some to have tomorrow, and plenty to go on quesadillas later in the week.

LATER: And just to keep myself in the Sweet Baby Jesus zone, this pie was among the best desserts I’ve ever made, and pretty doggoned simple. It’s a riff on the church-dinner-on-the-ground standby, the cherry cheese pie, which all of us learned to spot on the table and stake out a spot close to so we could snatch a piece before it was all gone. Minus the gooey cherry pie filling topping, and plus some really good, fresh raspberries, with blueberries and sweetened whipped cream for decor purposes, it’s a fit birthday card for a nation.

To make it:

  • 2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese
  • 2 14-oz cans condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer or graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 pints fresh raspberries

Let the cream cheese come to room temperature. In a stand mixer with a paddle blade, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s light and fluffy; add the lime juice and beat until smooth. Add the condensed milk in a steady stream while the mixer is running. Add a pint of the raspberries; they’re so delicate there’s no need to pre-cook. You can just beat them right in.

Melt the butter. In the bottom of an 8 x 12 baking dish, mix the sugar and crumbs with your fingers; drizzle the butter over, and work it in to the crumbs with your fingers to a crumbly mixture. Press that into the bottom of the pan. Pour the filling over the top, and smooth it out.

Decorate as suits your fancy; for the flag pie, I used blueberries for the canton, made stripes out of raspberries and filled in between with whipped cream, which I also used for the stars. I whipped about a half-cup of whipping cream with a couple of tablespoons of sugar, put it in a Zip-Loc, and snipped off the corner, being that I have no pastry bag.  I was quite proud of the finished product, and carried away by the taste. It still had that church pot-luck taste to the filling, with the added kick of raspberries, as well as subbing lime juice for the lemon juice. It’s a keeper, and I’ll be making it again.

Unfortunately, now all the leftovers have to be put up, and the kitchen will not clean itself. Sigh. Such is life when you’re the cook. I hope you and y’mama ‘n ’em had a most pleasant Independence Day weekend, and didn’t set any fires with your fireworks.

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