BBQ in Brooklyn
Since moving to New York, I find myself starting many a sentence with “Where I come from we…” So much so that I am beginning to wonder if I’ve turned into the dude from the song “Land Down Under.” But alas, there are no vegemite sandwiches in my recipe collection, no flute solos on my iPod, no glowing women and plundering men…oh I am getting off track. My point is, I am long way away from the thick green woods, the flat lazy rivers and the wide open spaces from my homeland in North Carolina.
While I have adapted to my new normal in many ways, one thing remains constant in my glutton heart: I fucking love barbeque. I just do. It’s smoky, it’s succulent, it’s slap-yo-mama good – a phrase that one can’t begin to understand unless they have a rib in one hand and a cold glass of sweet tea in the other.
One of my favorite memories with my dad is the two of us tending to the fire to keep the smoker going at a solid 215 degrees. A large part in keeping the temperature constant is to keep the lid on, but we can’t help but dare each other open the lid to take a peek – just a quick peek – at the glorious hunk of meat slow cooking its way to protein perfection. There is a blanketing smell that looms around the house and yard of smoke infused fat rendering down over charcoal that is so enticing that even the cat will brave coming near me and the dog for a chance to get one step closer to whatever the hell is going on. I often wonder what is going through our pets’ minds as they appear hypnotized by the wonders taking place around them.
Memories of these afternoons that would extend into the early evening have stayed with me long after the September when I traded grass for concrete, stars for street lights and the sounds of evening critters for car horns and sirens. It is this distinct feeling of home that I hold on to and can’t help but try to recreate in my new home from time to time. While there is really no substitute for a smoker and a back yard, we can always rest ourselves assured that no matter what, gentle heat applied to a pork shoulder over a long period of time will always yield tender meaty goodness regardless of place, time or the presence of smoke.
It’s not to say that you can’t get good barbecue in New York, it’s just that places tend to generally miss the point of it. It’s sparse enough to be treated like a delicacy around here and oftentimes it can be laughably expensive. You don’t get the picnic table vibe where you order your meat and sides by the pound and eat everything out of white styrofoam dishes while sitting amongst your neighbors. So much of my experience with barbecue is the endless summer feeling that permeates from the slow cooking methods and leisurely afternoons, one that is so hard to artificially create in a place with only one, relentless speed.
Nevertheless, we march onward and evolve, for where there is a hunger, there is a way. When I fell prey to the urge for a Southern-style food binge, I look no further than the recipes below. I would recommend inviting a dozen people over and spending the next Saturday of your life whipping up this litany of Southern comfort recipes – all you need is an oven and some time on your hands!