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Everything Else

1 May

I keep telling myself that the little old lady didn’t mean to do it, but I’m not really sure I believe it.

Cherry Blossoms

It’s becoming very hard to control myself as I take my post-commute spin through the Greenmarket on Wednesday mornings. Things are really beginning to pop. Spinach, broccoli rabe and that allium the world loves to hate on, ramps are busting out all over, and I can’t stop myself from buying them.

I had all of them in my bag, plus some tomatoes, basil, a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread when I was stopped dead in my tracks last week. I was heading to Tamarack Hollow Farms for bacon, I wanted a BLT for dinner, when their sign made my stomach do a little two-step; “Suckling Pig! Today Only!” The birdies started tweeting a little more sweetly. The sun was casting rainbows in an aura around my head. And I only had $21 left in my wallet.

Stuyevesant Park

But Fate was on my side. The nice folk had a shoulder for exactly that amount.

Suckling pig is a very rare treat the farmer told me. Usually they’re raised to sell only to restaurants, but this one pig was deemed too big for fancy schmancy dining, and so he was there for us mere mortals to pay an arm and a leg for. I couldn’t have been happier, impulse purchasing pork has got to be one of the greatest feelings ever.

Stuyevesant Park

And so I set out, leaden like a mine pony, for the office. I was happy as a lark and kind of rushing when I turned the corner and was dropped like a stone by a little old lady from the Gold Coast.

Gramercy Park

Wait, what? How does one get felled by a granny?

Well, to start, one has to have fallen like a sack of potatoes in the middle of Fifth Avenue while wearing her sassy new spring shoes thus giving herself what can only be described as a shiner on her knee earlier in the week. And then one has to be perceived as walking too aggressively by an old lady with a cane who has the uncanny ability to thwack! you squarely on your already existing knee shiner while mumbling under her breath, “Ingrate!” Yeah, that’s how a full grown woman gets dropped by a granny.

Gramercy Park

Intense pain and intense embarrassment aside, I made it to the office, tucked my piglet into the community refrigerator and hoped no one would steal him. (No one did, and yes, I did go back for bacon which made the best BLTs I’ve eaten in April ever).

So, what does one do with a shoulder of suckling pig? My first thought was pulled pork, or a dark, sticky roast a la Nigel. But I eventually decided it was time to play with a concept I’ve been obsessing over since I saw it on America’s Test Kitchen; using Lapsang Suchong tea to impart a smoky, barbecued flavor to meat.

Bay Ridge Tree

Rather than using the tea to smoke the pork, this recipe assured me that you could use it to marinate the meat. Ah yes, a much better solution. No baby sitting the shoulder meant we could go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather!

Bay Ridge Tree

We toyed with the idea of going to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to stare at the cherry blossoms, but it turns out we didn’t need to! We’ve got one huge tree right in our front yard. As I type I can turn and stare at the ruffly, rococo, frilly pink blossoms through my window. This Brooklyn, she is a magical world!

Cherry Blossoms

But I digress. I rubbed my pork with the smoky marinade and allowed it to sit for 16 hours or so and then I sent him into a nice warm tea bath to braise for four hours in the oven. I wish I could share the smell with you.  I’m sure that the aromas wafting out of the oven could have fooled anyone, even our local barbecue fanatic, into believing we had a nice smoky Weber going in the backyard. The tea made it smell so authentic. Apartment dwellers rejoice!

Tea Braised Suckling Pig Pork Shoulder

While my piggy was braising away I decided, with the boy’s enthusiastic approval, to tackle Homesick Texan’s biscuits (wow, that came out sounding kinda dirty, sorry Lisa!) and slow cook some spinach with ramps.

Confit Of Spinach With Ramps And Bacocn

I was mixing the biscuit dough and kind of freaking out because it didn’t seem to be coming together all that well, when the boy came in and said, “Hey babe, relax, remember biscuits are all about Butter, Love and Everything Else.” It took me a minute, but then I turned around and saw that he was pointing to a postcard from Clinton St. Baking Co. that had made the move with us. I immediately relaxed and began to beat my biscuits (god, there’s another one).

Love, Butter & Everything Else

You know, I think the great biscuit making cultures of America are propagating the notion that biscuits are hard to make, that us Northerners should stick to the fool-proof Bisquick or canned biscuit methods. I don’t know why, but there has to be a conspiracy involved, because making biscuits from scratch is so easy! Who knew? And they smell divine and taste delicious. Or maybe Lisa’s recipe is just that good. The one thing I know for sure is that you must try it. You can thank us later…

Biscuits!

And so pork braised, biscuits beaten, spinach confited, (and no ingredients forgotten) we sat down to what the boy admitted was, “A pretty good approximation of Southern fare. I bet you could fool a few people with this!” I think that was a compliment. But I didn’t need any from him. After my first bite I was contorting myself into spirals of happiness just so as to pat myself on the back.

This was possibly the best dinner ever.

Tea Braise Pork Shoulder With Confit Of Spinach With Ramps And Bacon

The pork fell apart at the touch of a fork. It was tender and succulent, faintly smoky, sweet, spicy and sour in exactly the right proportion, and went perfectly with my precious, tiny little bottle of the best Costa Rican salsa on the face of the planet (for those similarly obsessed a stand at the Essex St. Market recently began carrying the stuff).

Lizano

But the apex of the meal came when I split open a still warm biscuit, piled a little mound of greens on one side, and topped it with a few shreds of pork.

The Whole Shebang

Pure, unadulterated, porcine bliss!

Head below the jump for the recipe for City Slicker Barbecued Pork Shoulder and Confit of Spinach, Ramps & Bacon.

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