Barbecue time!

May 28, 2017

Dinner. Yes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

It’s pretty much canonical, in this part of the world, that Memorial Day weekend, sometime, you need to consume some meat that’s been up close and personal with a grill or a smoker.

I will wager that not too many folks got as good a taste of that as I did today. Not that I can claim any of the credit for the barbecue — just the sides — but I had what I believe is just about as good a pork barbecue as I’ve ever had in my life.

How it was, was, like this. A month or six weeks ago, when we had all the flooding in Northeast Arkansas, some friends of mine who live an hour or so to the north of me had 5 1/2 feet of water in their home on the Eleven Point River. This is the third time they’ve gotten water in their house, which is built well above the 100-year flood level; the other two times, it was a foot or so, and they’d elevated everything on blocks and moved everything moveable upstairs. A pain in the butt, but manageable.

Oh, and the insurance company cancelled their flood insurance after the second event.

So they have, essentially, their dream retirement home they’re trying to repair, but planning to abandon and build a new one further up the hill. With no insurance. So a bunch of their friends got together and organized a few fundraisers to help them out.

In these parts, when you hear the word “fundraiser,” there’s a better than even chance barbecue is involved. I can’t tell you how many Boston butts and slabs of ribs I’ve bought from softball teams, cheerleading squads, high school bands, churches, volunteer fire departments and Lord knows what other endeavors over the years. So when they announced they’d be cooking butts and ribs for my friends, I signed up. Ordered a butt. Ordered a second one for a friend who wanted one. Ordered a slab of ribs for good measure.

And Friday was pick-up day.

The leftovers. Must be at least three pounds of meat.

Dear Sweet Baby Jesus. First, those butts were HUGE. One of them weighed 5 3/4 pounds; the other, just over six. Second, they smelled Ah- MAZ- ing, coming out of the refrigerator, fergawdsakes. Third, after a long, slow warm-up in a 250-degree oven for a couple of hours this morning, they pulled like a dream and tasted like one, too. Salty, spicy, smoky, meltingly tender; ribs were literally falling off the bone.

Have mercy! Four of us ate the whole slab of ribs and did not pass lightly over the butt, either. I sent Child C and SIL 2 home with a gallon zip-lock bag full of meat, along with all the leftover rolls. Then a while later, when I had to some point recovered from my bout of excess, I pulled the rest of the butt, and wound up with a MASSIVE platter of pulled pork that I will, eventually, as in later on this evening, stash into one-pound portions in zip-locks and freeze.

Spent much of yesterday cooking, so I wouldn’t have to today. I made potato salad, I made deviled eggs, I got the beans ready to go in the oven, and stashed them in the fridge. I had some jail slaw in the fridge already. I made some shortcakes for the strawberries and/or the peaches I’d worked up and stashed in the fridge. Made some creme fraiche to go on top.

Got up this morning, stuck the beans in the oven, let them bake, pulled them out, turned the oven down, put the meat in, and went to church. Came home to the most heavenly smell in the house. Ran some frozen rolls in the CSO, added some pickles to the plate with the deviled eggs, gave the beans just a touch more of a warmup, and we were ready to eat.

We ate well. Well enough I was the only one who ate dessert, and I didn’t do that until about five hours after we’d eaten lunch. The asparagus spears I’d pickled a month ago and promptly forgot about came out and accompanied the deviled eggs — those babies are GOOD, I tell you, though I’ll cut back on the red pepper flakes next time I make them. If you have a notion to do them — blanch your asparagus spears, just for a minute or two, and shock them in ice water. Get tall jars ready with a couple of crushed garlic cloves, a bay leaf, a half-teaspoon of red pepper flakes (I used a teaspoon and they are…warm…) a teaspoon of dried dill and a tablespoon of salt. Stand the spears up in the jars, fill three-quarters of the way with white vinegar, finish off with water, cap and shake to dissolve the salt. Keep in the fridge. These babies are GOOD, I’m here to tell you. I think you could do green beans the same way, as you could zucchini spears if you cut the seeds out of the middle. I may be pickling lots of things this way this summer.

In any event, if you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em missed your barbecue fix this weekend, come on by and I’ll fix you right up. We’ll take a break from ‘cue tomorrow and cook a burger, I think, along with maybe some more salad-y things, and I am in something of a notion for some watermelon-tomato gazpacho, too. Drop by and see what I wind up with.




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