Saturday, July 1, 2006

Smokin' Butt

This post still needs links and pics. The original Blogware post

A few weeks ago, Don saw a Good Eats episode where host Alton Brown, a fanatical do-it-yourselfer, constructs a smoker out of terra cotta flower pots, using a hot plate and a pie pan for heating wood chips and a round grill to suspend the food. He's been talking about it ever since. Then he sat me down and made me watch the episode, too (he had recorded it). "After you watch this, you'll want to do this right away!" he said. He was right.

So we've both been excited about this and laying plans to built this clay smoker contraption for our long weekend together around the Fourth.

The Fourth is on Tuesday this year, and I have paid holiday from my wonderful job where they actually respect workers; I also requested, months ago, to take Monday off as well.
A four-day break! The longest we've been home together for a long time. Don took a few days off from work last summer when he was still at Union Cab, the sham workers' paradise. He had a few hours of paid time off, about a day's worth, and the rest was unpaid. (The managers gets two weeks' paid time off in a year; the drivers sweat to earn a few hours over the course of a year. A workers' paradise! How again, exactly?) The unpaid-ness of the break lent an underlying strained quality to it, because we couldn't really afford the time off, although we needed it so desperately.

Anyway. Four days off, without any cut in pay. Woo-hoo! It is a tremendously relaxing sensation.

The cut we used is the same as in the episode, pork butt. Alton purports to explain why a cut from the top of the shoulder is called the butt. However! As you see if you check the transcript, he really doesn't. I read years ago that butt, or Boston butt, is so named from the stout wooden barrels used for packing it back in the day. The meat came to be known for the name of the container.

A quick check in my Merriam-Webster's 12th tells that "butt" meaning a large cask has been in use since 14th century Middle English, coming through Middle French butte and Old Provencal botta from the Late Latin buttis. That's the same Late Latin word that gave us "bottle."

By contrast, "butt" meaning the part of you that you sit upon is short for "buttocks." That usage also dates from Middle English, but it has a different derivation: Low German butt, meaning blunt.

Twelve hours in the smoker! The sky threatened rain -- not good when you're using a hot plate outdoors. But the weather held. We put an eggplant in there, too, and I made baba ganoush out of it later. Boy, that BG was some strong stuff, with all that smoke flavor. You had to wait a day for all the garlic and smoke and all to settle down together before you could enjoy it without being blindsided by it.

The pulled pork was tender and flavorful as promised. Worth the hassle? Yes, yes, yes! We can't wait to do it again! Pulls apart easily by fork or fingers. We shredded it and served it on on buns with my favorite cole slaw on the side.

Don on the taste of the Q: "It was definitely smoky. And the smoke was all through the meat. It was that warm smoke taste." Tender! If only the meat were a little fattier, I think, it would have come out jucier. Damn those low-fat enthusiasts and their pervasive influence on... on much too much.

Here's the official recipe for pulled pork on the Food Nework site. It doesn't capture the crazed essence of Alton tinkering with his homespun food tech projects. For that, you need to visit this Good Eats fan site. You can navigate to the episode named "Q," which contains the flower pot sequence, here. Astoundingly, this guy has transcripts, complete with scene-by-scene screenshots, of nearly every episode. Something like this is really essential for following a Good Eats plan. It's about a lot more than just a recipe.

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