Sunday, January 3, 2010

The 8 Hour Meal, or Tempis Fugit

Hello again! I'm so happy I pre-empted this post by discussing the Slow Food Movement and sharing the linked story yesterday. If I hadn't, I worry that anyone reading this might be concerned for my sanity...
Now if you haven't seen yesterday's blog post, please read it, especially the link to "Why I Go Slow". I will admit it freely right now, if you read that, it saves me a lot of explaining and typing. I agree with it completely and it perfectly sums up how I feel about my cooking and baking. It also proves I'm not the only crazy person on the planet.
I do think that even if most people can't "do" Slow Food, they can at least appreciate it. Believe me, I'm not trying to "Convert" anyone. I completely understand that most people don't have the time or maybe the energy to try to live a Slow Food lifestyle. It also helps that I live in an area where fresh, farm-raised meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables are so readily available. We even have several local wineries. Eating locally is NOT a challenge here, it's easy and actually fun. I also admit, if I was still in Detroit, there's no way I'd be doing this! We just do not have the access to the same foods I have here in N.E. Pennsylvania. It's sad in a way. These kinds of ingredients should be available to everyone, everywhere.
It's times like this I wish I could let everyone I know taste the food I make. As they say, the proof is in the pudding (or pork in this case). Or is it "the secret's in the sauce"?, wrong movie...
let's stop joking around and get on with the menu, shall we?

A little background on how I decided to make what I did:
Back in November (2009) I bought a half a pig and half a cow from a local farmer. (that's the short version of the story) Well, you don't get only the meat you normally use, you get all different cuts. I had this very large roast labelled "Pork Picnic Roast". I've always thought I had a quite thorough knowledge of food terminology, but I had never heard of a Picnic Roast. I love searching for recipes so I thought, "this will be fun, I can cook something new and probably wouldn't have thought of making."
I went on my one of my old stand-by sites to search recipes, and found a couple pages of possibilities. The first one listed was "Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Homemade BBQ sauce" That recipe had the added bonus of great leftover ideas like pulled pork bbq pizza and Chinese Bo Buns (one of my favorites, and yes I have a recipe)
So...without further delay, here we go.
My roasting pan, very seldom used, comes out for the occasion.
This is my lovely pork picnic roast.
If it looks better than what you normally see at the grocery store, IS. This meat came from a happy piggy who until last fall was living on a farm less than an hour from my house!
Wow, when I put it that way I kind of feel bad eating/cooking this...I should mention I'm not a big "meat" person. I've flip-flopped with being vegetarian through my whole life. Now my approach is that I will eat meat now and then, but only hormone/antibiotic/cruelty-free, locally raised meat (whenever possible,which is almost always luckily). That's kind of the moral agreement I've made with myself. It may sound silly, but when I use the meat from the big meat order we got (the 1/2 pig & cow) I always think of them and give thanks for them providing us with the meal. Kind of my little "Native American" style appreciation of the animal that has given its life so we can eat. (this is where I picture my male friends who enjoy big nasty drive-thru burgers laughing at me, but no matter!)
My roast, post-spice rub. I added chili powder to mine and wasn't overly concerned with measuring. I just did what smelled/looked good. (the best way to cook!) And. after covering it with foil, into the oven it goes for 6 *yes six* hours (at 300 degrees). The foil only stays on for the first 4 hours by the way. I know it's tough, but resist the urge to peek.

So...(whistling...) what DO you do with that 6 hours?

Well, I decided to try something else new and make my own burger/sandwich buns to go with the pulled pork. I weeded through several recipes and found this one: Hamburger or Sandwich Buns Once you get the dough mixed and kneaded, happily tucked into a buttered bowl, it has to rise for two hours (first rise) so you still will have a lot of time to do other things. This is when I started the homemade BBQ sauce. I wanted the flavors to really blend so I made it and kept it on a very low simmer, stirring every time I walked by the stovetop, just to really make it come together. Also, the cider vinegar smell really needs to cook out of it, and I found the longer I simmered it, the more that mellowed the smell and taste of the vinegar. I didn't want to cut it out of the recipe, so I came up with the extra-long simmering method. It worked great!
This is my bread after about 2 hours. Nicely risen! That's some happy, happy yeast in there!

The sauce, bubbling away, about 10 or so minutes into cooking. You can see how red it is, compared to how it will look after simmering for a few hours.

After letting the dough for the buns rise for 2 hours, then get punched down, then rise again, I formed the buns. THIS PART IS TRICKY if you read the wording in the recipe I posted the link to. I was so utterly confused, but I did what it said and it was amazing how natural it felt, it was like I always knew how to make buns out of kind of surprised me. Maybe it just sunk in after 30-some odd years of watching cooking shows. Let me just say this, it might seem really confusing in the wording of the recipe, but once you start playing with the dough it all makes sense. I am going to make the buns again and have my significant other take pictures while I form the buns (maybe even videotape it). Looking back, I wish I would've had him do that last night, but he was in bed, having given up on ever getting dinner after waiting for about 7 hours...Still, until I do get pictures or videos of that process posted, feel free to email or contact me if you need tips on that particular point.
Here are my nicely formed buns (heehee)

Notice that I don't bake my buns-or any of my homemade bread- on baking sheets or in pans. I've found that my pizza stone gives the best results. It heats well and evenly and nothing ever sticks to it. Every bread or bun or roll I've made on it turns out perfectly, with a perfect crust. If you don't have one, invest in one. It's one thing in my kitchen I couldn't live without. I've been challenged by mine being round, so I'm investing in this one soon: Rectangular Pizza Stone

Fast forwarding again, let's pretend it's been six hours (feels like it from my point of view typing this...) and the roast is done and ready to come out of the oven. (note: this is when you reset the temp and pop your buns in!)Isn't it amazing? This is what six hours of low heat turns a Picnic Roast into: a work of art! The next step is actually really fun. Once the Roast has cooled enough to handle, you "pull" it with two forks. You could use one fork and your hand, or two hands and no fork, but I had the best results with the two fork method. Tip: do NOT use a knife, even though it's tempting. This isn't meat that's meant to be cut, it's meant to be shredded & pulled. I tried a knife at a couple points and it definitely took not only the fun out of it but also the whole spirit of the dish. It just didn't seem to give the meat as much character. I was actually surprised at how much meat there really was once it was all shredded. I looked forward to the Pulled Pork Sandwiches, but after all the meat was pulled apart, it made me want to make the BBQ pizza and later on after dinner, I did go into my old recipe files and found my Bo Bun recipe. I will probably make one or both over the next couple days. I'm guessing the shredded meat would freeze quite well if you properly store it in the freezer. I don't think I will have to worry about that. I'm sure mine will get eaten before I have a chance to freeze it!
By the time you finish pulling the roast apart, your rolls should just be coming out of the oven. Brush em' with butter, cool a bit, slice and you have your dinner.
I did also make a side dish, Double Baked Horseradish Potatoes.
They came out wonderfully, but I didn't get pictures. Trust me, they were delicious but potatoes aren't exactly the most photogenic things! Still, that recipe is amazing. It's simple but so good. I didn't have cream so I just used milk and I skipped the chives and caviar, and they were still incredible. Be sure to use very good quality, very fresh horseradish. The flavor of the horseradish you put in the potatoes is everything because otherwise, it's a bit bland. When you have a one note flavor like that, the one note has to be "the best".

Now it's time to answer the eternal question: was it all worth it?
The short answer is absolutely! The thing is, this wasn't WORK, it was fun. It was "playing" in the kitchen. If you approach making dinner like it's work, then of course you won't enjoy it and you definitely won't want it to drag out all day.
But when you are having fun and experimenting, time flies. I was literally in my kitchen all day, for about 9 hours total, but it never felt like it! There was nowhere else I would've rather been in all that time while I was cooking and baking.

Some of you are probably wondering about now (my facebook friends!) "where's the Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake?!" Well...THAT you have to wait for. It was so special that I think it deserves its own special blog, as well as a little review of the wonderful blog it came from.
So enjoy this very slow dinner and dessert is on its way soon. In the immortal words of Alton Brown, (King of overcomplicated recipes, but I love him!), "your patience will be rewarded!"

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