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Pulled Pork, Carolina Style

Carolina pulled pork recipe

Carolina Pulled Pork

In Virginia and North Carolina, from my experience, pulled pork and barbecue are pretty much interchangeable words. Chicken, ribs, brisket — those are for the folks who came here from somewhere else. And genuine, well-prepared Carolina pulled pork is nothing short of amazing. It just melts in your mouth, with a thin dry-rub crust that’s spicy, but doesn’t destroy your taste buds with fire.

The prep is simple, but great pulled pork takes time. Lots of time.

Let’s start with the pork. What you’re looking for is a bone-in pork shoulder roast or Boston butt roast. It’s a relatively inexpensive, somewhat fatty cut, but that’s all to the good, trust me.

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Chicken Wings with Maple, Bacon (and Bourbon)

Chicken Wings Bacon and More

There are many reasons to love a luscious pile of chicken wings on your plate, but honestly, maple, bacon and bourbon? Yup. And it sings, too!

OK, maybe sings isn’t the right word, but it certainly does take the wings to a different level. The bacon bits and the sauce — oh yes, the sauce — is pretty much all there is to this. But getting the sauce just right is perfection, and I mean that. The sauce starts out (for about 2-3 pounds of wings) with 6-8 bacon slices fried nice and crisp. Set the bacon aside and grab a couple of spoonfuls (maybe two tablespoons) of bacon grease and add that to the sauce. Add in a little vinegar, and then a little bourbon and you’ve got a sauce. 

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Awesome Pork Chops in Lime/Garlic Marinade

pork chops

As I said last week, there are quite a few ways to grill without involving beef or chicken, and here is yet another: a lime and garlic marinated rib-on pork chops. These are amazing, thick sliced pork chops and somehow, keeping the ribs on them really adds some special flavor to them. The one’s I get come from Niman’s, but I’m relatively sure you can find them or ask for them at a butcher shop.

And like a lot of great grilling recipes, these pork chops come with just a little bit of lime and garlic dressing that gives them some zing but without over-powering them. A little garlic, cumin, some smoked paprika and a little lime is all that’s really needed for this, and it goes very well with some beans baked with bacon, brown sugar and a little honey. It could also go well with a Mexican flair, by adding some rice and avocados or maybe a great salad. The key here, however, is to keep things relatively mild so the pork chops stand out.

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Lamb and Mint-Garlic Marinade

lamb and mint-garlic marinade

There are plenty of beef-heavy grilling recipes, but I’m sometimes just brought up a little short at the lack of really good lamb recipes, so I decided to offer up a great lamb and mint-garlic marinade, made just for the grill. This one takes only a few minutes to make up the mint-garlic preparation a little early to give the lamb a chance to soak in the marinade, but otherwise, it’s a great non-steak alternative.

Lamb can, of course, been a  tad pricey sometimes, but if you keep your eyes open, you can often find it at prices that compete with other grilling staples and occasionally, it often becomes at a pretty good discount. They key for this recipe, however, is to use a good leg of lamb that’s had a nice chance to sit in the marinade awhile. That’s really the big difference here. At a minimum, figure it for at least two hours in the marinade, but I find that letting the lamb  sit overnight is the best way to do it.

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Baked Shrimp and Green Noodles

baked shrimp

This recipe came from a need to pull together something for a casserole on short notice, but in the end the baked shrimp turned out so good we may have to find a place for it more often.

As a casserole, the dish obviously gets baked for about 30 minutes at the end. That means, of course, that the whole dish can be made the night before or early in the morning and then run into the oven just shortly before setting down to eat. That’s great for a cookout or a pot-luck party, but it also means you can just simply have it ready and oh, I don’t know, maybe drink a little wine before it starts? Yeah. That’ll do it.

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A Real Thousand Island Dressing

Thousand Island Dressing

Yeah, you can make this. Yep. Your own thousand island dressing.

In fact, I’ll give you two ways to make this amazing dressing, one using commercial products and one using your own mayo, ketchup and even your own pickle relish, if you care too. Why bother? Well, whether you use only a couple of prepared ingredients or go to the trouble to make your own, the end result is truly unlike anything you’ve ever had from a jar. And I’m not kidding around. It’s way better.

The first version — written out below — is made using good mayonnaise, pickle relish and ketchup. And that’s a very good basic recipe that can usually be made in about the time it takes to cut up the shallot and garlic and give it a mix. At the end of the recipe, you’ll find how to make your own mayonnaise, some ketchup, and even some pickled sweet relish, if you want a pure dressing with no artificial ingredients at all.

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Linguine alla Puttanesca

linguine ala puttenesca

There almost certainly someone in Italy who will claim that linguine alla puttanesca is a dish made by ladies of the evening to refresh themselves after a long night. There are plenty of others who claim — probably correctly — that the puttanesca they got was made by a restaurateur who gave it it’s name out of fun. Either way, a great linguine or spaghetti done like the puttanesca style is a real winner.

No matter how puttanesca came to be, it is perfect for a light summer dish with a nice pile of tomatoes ready for using. I am often sad about the way that tomatoes are grown in the U.S. Even the best of them (not counting a good farm market) are pretty sort of useless. They look great stacked high on the produce table, but they are grown first for their ability to stay (looking) fresh on the produce market and only way down the list does taste ever come into it. So unless you have some good access to a great farm market, the truth is to use canned tomatoes (from Italy if you can get them).

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