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Making this dish brought some meditations about early cooking techniques, its depth of cultural, social, ceremonial, and sesual aspects in its simplicity. Thanks to Michael Pollan’s Cooked book from an inspiring chief friend Adrian and weekly pork belly making with my cook boss Hendro, I jumped up and down in happiness when I tasted the combination of seasoned pulled caramelized meat, crackling bark/skin, and potato rolls just came out perfect.
Barbecue resembles on of the earliest cooking technique – placing food near the source of heat until it is more fun to eat: tender, tasty, fragrant. The technique provides low heat and smoke from the burnt woods, which over time cook the food and infuse it with flavors. The word “barbacue” is found similar to “barbacoa” in European languages, “barbicu” in Caribbean and Timiucua of Florida, and translated as “framework of sticks set upon posts” in Haitian. The etymology spread shows its long history, including an interesting story of the first barbecue in China. It was accidentally found by leaving a house burnt with the family’s pig inside. The son traced the amazing smell and found the tender meat under the crackling skin below the burnt remnants of the house.
Along the process of making this dish, I enjoyed witnessing many art and science wisdoms. The reaction of salt that pulled the water out of the meat and skin; how the water in the wood chips boil, vibrate, and evaporate carrying the woods flavor molecules; how the delicate heat penetrated the meat slowly and eventually liquify the meat “glue” protein, collagen, making it tender; how the once-elastic skin is now crackling by losing water and the heat changed the skin components’ structure.
This pork shoulder cut itself is preferred not without any reason. I found a perfect balance of skin, a layer of fat underneath, and abundant fibrous protein. After the meat comes off very easily from the bone, it is true that the bone-attached meat tastes richer.
Now the potato rolls. I first wondered, why do you put potato in bread mix? Maybe instinctively people new that potato is also starch and would blend in while adding a little bit of distinct flavor. Anyway, it turned out great, especially right after baking. I could taste occasional brittles and sweetness of the potato inside the porous bread network.
Making it buns or sandwiches, the combination of pork meats and potato rolls worked well to me while they were hot. After they cooled down and the collagen be intact again, I would say a more moisture would be better. This is what the barbecue is for!
Barbecue sauce also resembles a combination of nature and human technology. The base of this sauce turned out to be tomato sauce and brown sugar, which are processed beforehand with certain techniques that humans developed. It is adorable to think about the combination between tomato’s umami, brown sugar’s sweetness, paprika’s and cayenne pepper’s spiciness, and vinegar’s acidity. It is like a full-round flavor, and we haven’t talked about each depth of flavor.
All together, this dish sounded American to me, which this is a way of cherishing my life here. However, after reading, hearing, and tasting this food’s story, it is not only about America anymore. It is a complex accumulation of human instinct, senses, culture, traditional, and our relation to nature. This food inspired me that saying barbecue is a traditional, non-technologist, non-modern way of cooking is not necessarily true. Barbecue itself is a technology, and technology is always a part of our human brain, a part of our nature. This food is a revelation that technology is a human nature. Being tech-y is natural.
PORK SHOULDER BARBECUE
3 lbs pork shoulder with skin and bone (“Boston butt”)
6 tsp himalayan pink salt
6 tsp sugar
2 handfuls pecan wood chips
1 disposable pan
1 any heat-resistant bowl
1 aluminium pocket for smoker
1 convection oven with grill in
- Score pork skin, make it easier to break
- Mix salt and sugar, rub all over the pork shoulder to season and get the crackling skin later
- Leave overnight uncovered on the tip of bowl so the water can drip
- Preheat oven at 250 F
- Soak wood chips in water for about 30 minutes, providing water that will smoke and carry the flavor
- Drain and place them inside a shallow aluminum pocket, close and score with knife so the smoke can get out
- Place the smoker pocket at the bottom of the oven
- Fill out pan halfway with water, and place on an upside-down heat-resistant bowl at the bottom of the oven, to catch drippings
- Five minutes later (giving time for the smoker), place pork shoulder on the grill above the pan
- Monitor the temperature, it will be done at 190 F, more or less 6-8 hours, to ensure it kills all the dangerous germs
- When it is above 185 F, crank the heat at 500 F until the skin is crispy, about 3-5 minutes. Do not forget to remove the smoker out of the oven beforehand, otherwise it will smoke so badly.
Ingredients & Materials
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk, cooled
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 big bowl
1-2 greased pan(s)
1 egg, beaten for wash
- Activate yeast in warm water
- Mix all the remaining ingredients except flour
- Add 2 cups of flour
- Add the remaining flour
- Knead on lightly floured surface until elastic
- Place in a greased bowl, turn once so the grease covers the dough
- Let it rest for 1 hour covered
- Punch the dough at the center, flip
- Leave for 10 minutes
- Divide into balls
- Place on greased pan, leave for 1 hour covered
- Brush with egg wash
- Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 canned grilled diced tomato, drained
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 black pepper
- Mix all the ingredients