FOOD WISE: If you cook it, they will come



Chef Renee’s pulled pork sandwiches are crowd pleasers. (Courtesy Photo)

Last week was moving day at the Morgan house. Getting a new house….exciting. Moving…not so much.

If you’ve ever moved, you know what I’m talking about. Oh, you start out with the best of intentions. You vow to yourself that you will weed out your closet and unfinished craft projects from a million years ago. A new home is a fresh start and no junk that I should have already gotten rid of will make the cut. You lovingly wrap your treasures to insure safe travel and carefully label each box. This is going to be the most organized move ever in the history of moves.

Then, something happens. You wake up one morning and realize the move is only a few days away. Uh-oh! You still need to find more boxes and paper, call the utility, internet and cable companies, finish packing everything and find suckers, uh…I mean, very compassionate and good friends, to help you move. Forget the careful packing, the well intentioned trip to take weeded out clothes to the consignment store. Time to mobilize. Lock and load!

This is the kind of emergency where being a chef comes in handy. As I found myself in this situation this past week, I came up with a plan. A devious and delicious (pun intended) rouse to get my stuff moved from point A to point B. I’d better hurry as moving day was Saturday. First, I talked to my dear friends, Rodney and Betty, who just happen to be some of the hardest workers I know, have a truck and great big trailer, and several big, strong sons (who also have big, strong friends). It also doesn’t hurt that Betty is a total cleaning and organizing freak, and Rodney knows how to build and wire just about anything. I do have a chicken coop to rebuild, after all. Wink! Wink!

As soon as they realize that I’m about to put on the dog, as my favorite Auntie used to say, they are in and start rounding up helpers. Score! Now, all I have to do is figure out how to “put on the dog” while my kitchen is packed for a move. I planned to serve pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, baked beans, chips and guacamole, and cookies. Since I am a chef, no store bought stuff would do. That’s not going to motivate the suckers, I mean helpers. How was I going to pull this off?

Not to worry. Just takes a little planning ahead. First, I made my shopping list, to include disposable roasting pans, assortment of drinks and bottled water and disposable plates, forks and cups. Making this list really makes my shopping trip go faster and time is of the essence. Then, I leave adorable hubby in charge of packing while I go to the grocery store, all the while hoping that wasn’t a colossal mistake.

I had picked up a couple of large Boston Butt pork roasts a couple weeks earlier when they were on sale for a buck a pound. I thawed those piggys out along about Wednesday before the Saturday move. That gave me a day to let them sit in my favorite rub mixture and another day to cook them. Friday, while they were cooking, I whipped up some coleslaw and made my Bar-B-Que sauce. The one I made is a Carolina style sauce, heavily vinegar and brown sugar based, takes 2 seconds to make and holds well. Next, I called my friend, Deby, and convinced her to make the baked beans. She makes really yummy ones with lots of bacon and brown sugar. I’m not above flattery to get the job done.

All I have left is the cookies. I know this sounds completely June Cleaver of me, but I usually have left over cookie dough of various kinds of cookies in my freezer. In my work, I make hundreds and hundreds of cookies for various events, and when I have leftover dough, I just freeze it until I need it. All I had to do was take out some oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip and bake them up. Fifteen minutes to home-baked cookies. Bam! Of course, I cooked this all up at the new house. Couldn’t take the chance of messing up the stove at the old house that I’d already cleaned. That’s me…always thinking ahead. My husband is totally rolling his eyes at me right now.

All in all, I’d say the day worked out pretty well. Fifteen people showed up to help with the move. While the guys loaded, unloaded and put together things that had been taken apart for the move, the gals cleaned, unpacked and put things away and warmed up the food. At the end of the day, I had a new home and deeper friendships than I’ve ever enjoyed in my life. I am filled with gratitude.

This worked out so well, my friends are planning to come back next week for a “fix-it-up” day to do little fix-up projects that need to be done around our new home. I think we’re going to have to break out the grill for this one.

 Pulled Pork Sandwiches

serves 10-12

For the pork:

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Pinch celery seeds

1 – 7 pound boneless pork shoulder or Boston Butt, fat left intact

10-12 soft, buttery buns

For the sauce:

3 cups cider vinegar

1 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons dry mustard

2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. For the pork, in a small bowl, stir together the salt, garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes and celery seeds. Using your fingers, rub the spice mixture all over the pork to coat evenly. Place pork in a large resealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

2. For the sauce, in a large saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 3 minutes. Let sauce cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pork inside a roasting pan and roast for 2 1/2 hours. Then pour half the sauce over the pork. Bake 1-2 hours more or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the roast registers 180 degrees, basting the pork every 30 minutes with sauce and drippings from the bottom of the pan.

4. Remove the pork from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, warm the remaining sauce in a saucepan over low heat. Transfer the warm pork to a cutting board and shred or chop the meat into bite-sized pieces, mixing in some of the fat. Add more sauce to taste and mix well.

5. Serve the pork on buns, passing any remaining sauce on the side.