a taste of texas

September 5th, 2012

A few weeks ago I was standing next to my cousin Larry, admiring the Texas twilight as it settled onto the hill country in its varied lavender hues, with the lingering aromas still wafting up from the wood-fired pit-box where he had supremely roasted an array of meats for a remarkable group of relatives and friends.  Larry solemnly stoked a thick Cuban cigar, and occasionally I’d tweak his happy body and demand a smoky exhalation directed in my direction.

Those four days in Texas only whetted my appetite for its cuisine and the second thing I did upon returning home was to haul out the smoker, the little grill, the bean pot and the tortilla press.  I had one thing in mind – a perfect pork taco — and if that meant 12 hours of smoking, grilling, griddling and simmering, so be it.  As the rosy-green twilight brightened in the Northeast Boondocks sky, I demolished that single taco in four rapid bites.

The next morning I was looking down the gun barrel at eight pounds of smoked and pulled pork shoulder, a half-gallon of Frijoles Charros, a pint of Fire-roasted Salsa and an absurdly large stack of freshly-pressed corn tortillas.  What’s a girl to do?  Process, pack, stow and invent.  Hence came new renditions of Cuban Sandwiches, Migas Sabrosas, and Chili Rellenos, utilizing that unctuous pork, savory pintos and divine salsa.

It’s been two weeks now and it’s still not possible to run out of ideas, so for dinner tonight we happily munched down on Fresh Corn and Scallion Pancakes topped with the endless Smoked Pork Shoulder, some baby potatoes parboiled and seared in butter for a crispy crust, along with a throw of straight-from-the-garden green beans, flash steamed with spring water and sea salt.

That event in Texas was a tribute to my mother’s younger brother Chas, generously hosted by his children and their families.  I insist still that roving satellites recorded an unusual golden glow over the backyard of that house in the hill country that night and it would be the love and the joy and, never forget, the food, that made that glow we lucky attendees shall remain warm in for a good while to come.

Fresh Corn and Scallion Pancake with Smoked Pork

Related Recipes

Fresh Corn and Scallion Pancakes

For 8-10 pancakes:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¼ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup freshly cut corn kernels
  • ¼ cup finely sliced scallion, white and green parts

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Stir in the buttermilk and egg followed by the corn and scallions.  Allow batter to rest for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat an electric griddle to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease griddle with butter or vegetable shortening and spoon on the batter to desired pancake size.  When the pancake surface becomes dotted with holes, flip the pancakes and continue cooking until golden brown.  Serve immediately or let cool on a rack and reheat, wrapped in foil, in a 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

There are an infinite number of dry rub recipes, many of which are quite exotic.  I prefer something simple so that the flavor of the pork shines through.

  • 1 pork shoulder, approximately 8 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

Soak one quart of Mesquite or Hickory chips in water for at least ½ hour.  Prepare your smoker as per its instructions.  The pork wants a fairly consistent 240 degree cooking environment.

Season the top (fat side) of the shoulder with the dry seasonings and place on the smoker rack.  Toss some of the soaked wood chips on top of the charcoal and put the lid on the smoker.  Replenish charcoal and chips as needed for approximately eight hours or until an internal temperature of 190 degrees is achieved.  Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes and then shred with two forks.  Leftovers freeze beautifully.

Note:  After eight hours of smoking, I often finish the shoulder in a 300 degree oven to achieve the 190 internal temperature.  Simply remove the shoulder from the smoker and set it in a roasting pan and cover tightly with foil.

Copyright © Katherine Stetson, all rights reserved.