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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pulled Pork, Fette Sau Style

Consecutive blogs on a single topic? Must be love.*

“I think I know just what we need”

Holiday, New York city, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, brewery tour, beer, hungry, Fette Sau, BBQ, the most delicious pulled pork, incredible burnt end beans, wonderfully fresh Brooklyn IPA, fantastic bourbon.

Booo! Early mornings, early nights, three hour commutes, eight hours in front of a computer screen, instant coffee, UHT milk, the office canteen, overcooked porridge and dried-out baked potatoes.

We hit the weekend, I’m missing New York and I’ve got a craving for BBQ like you wouldn’t imagine. I’ve been punching the words “Fette Sau” into YouTube and Google at random intervals throughout the week, a compulsion that’s proven more fruitful than I’d assumed it would. It turns out that the dry rub Matt Lang uses on his meat isn’t the closely guarded secret that it has every right to be. There are in fact numerous sources online that claim to know it. Sweet.

Sense** prevails following a morning investigating the feasibility of a meat smoker made from a terracotta plant pot and a whole load of lighter fluid. So I can’t recreate the smoke element of that delicious pulled pork, but I can get top quality meat, and I’ve got something that claims to be the dry rub. Close enough.

1/3 cup garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
2 cup ground coffee (espresso grind)
2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup ground black pepper

This is the perfect thing to cook when you’ve got people coming round for beer. Wake up, mix a load of dry ingredients together, rub the mix all over a piece of fatty pork shoulder, stick it in the oven at gas mark 2.5 and forget about it. Somewhere between 6 and 8 hours later when the beers are flowing, all you need to do is take the meat out and pull it apart with your hands. What could be simpler?

If you wanna get all expert about it, I think it makes sense to take the rind off the meat first. I got the butcher to do this, leaving some of the fat behind but not too much. Pulled pork isn’t about the crackling and you might have some grief getting the skin to crisp up with the oven so low, easier to get rid. Put the shoulder on a rack, in a baking tray. You don’t want it to stew in the liquid that escapes through cooking, so getting it up and off the bottom of the tray is the way to go.

It’s close to Fette Sau. The smoke is missing for sure. I tried using some smoked paprika in place of the cayenne pepper but it wasn’t nearly enough to work. Close or not, it’s most definitely delicious. I was cooking 2 pounds of meat for 2 hungry people and, even having halved the dry rub recipe, I easily had twice as much rub as I needed. It’s also worth pointing out the difference between kosher salt and standard salt. The much larger grains of kosher salt mean that less of them fit into a measuring cup, you can’t just substitute for the same amount of table salt.

When I had this at the restaurant, the Brooklyn IPA worked pretty well with it. Every beer pairing pales in comparison to a glass of bourbon though. The woody, oaky quality gives an interesting depth to the charred meat, the sweetness tempering that aggressive rub. Delicious.

* Listen carefully, that’s the sound of my girlfriend simultaneously tutting and rolling her eyes ...

** The girlfriend tells me it would be a stupid idea in our shared garden. She’s right, when I do things like this it usually ends in disaster or personal injury. Sometimes both.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fette Sau, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Fette Sau is easier found by moonlight than by sunlight. In the evening, follow your ears; the gaggle of the forty-five-minute-queue will lead you to the darkened alley of an entrance. By day, it’s your nose that’ll show you the way. If you’re looking for the entrance, you’ll walk straight past it, twice, but the aroma of smoke and roast is a constant signpost that hangs thick in the air from a block away. You can’t miss it.

There’s a twinge of embarrassment as the big, bright sign reading “Fette Sau” clips you round the ear for being stupid. Embossed on the black night sky in electric-neon pink, it’s now more obvious than your overwhelming sense of excitement. Shuffling down that darkened, average looking alleyway, you wait for the big reveal. A right turn, a left turn, and then the restaurant shows its hand, full house, literally.

Inside, a single expansive room with an awkwardness about its shape is filled with beaten up wooden tables and benches. Every seat is taken. Ahead the serving counter stretches away from you to the back wall and then out to the left in a sort of drunken 'L' shape. It’s dark, there’s a fog of wood smoke in the air, the walls are stripped back to brick and the ceiling doesn’t really exist. It feels like an underground school canteen. The first in a series of stations is a blackboard that displays today’s menu, cuts of meat against prices per pound, a handful of sides and extra bread if you want it. Next a glass-fronted counter that keeps the food warm whilst you order, piles of blackened meat stacked on top of each other inside, enjoying a quick rest on their journey from the smoker in the background to your stomach. The man in control carves the last ribs from a rack and leans over to scrub out the option with the heel of his hand. A steel tray is placed in front of us before being lined with brown paper, our order is taken, the tray filled, and we’re ushered along the line for payment.

The bar is our final stop. Twenty microbrews on draught, dispensed through taps with handles fashioned from old butchery utensils. The bourbon list is vast, the biggest I’ve seen. The barman props himself up against the back bar, he’s wearing a proud look on his face, a look that says he knows I’ll enjoy what I eat and drink before I even order from him.

Stepping back outside to find some space, greedily scoffing down the first mouthful, my suspicions are confirmed. Fette Sau is perfect. The food is delicious, the beer and bourbon are fantastic enhancements, the environment is one you experience rather than use.

I’d go back and tell the staff, but they already know.

Picture from here. Fette Sau is a BBQ restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If you ever find yourself in the area, drop everything and go.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Englishman Drinking In New York

If you're on Manhattan, head towards The Ginger Man, Rattle 'n' Hum, Blind Tiger or The Pony Bar. Brooklyn: Barcade, Spuyten Duyvil (above) or the brewery.

New Yorkers will happily drink pint measures of a beer that's too strong to be drunk in pint measures. If you ask though, most places will sell you a half pour for half price.

Very strong beer will often come in a short measure. 10oz, 8oz, something like that. Ask for one by name and you'll be given the smaller serving automatically.

Always take ID with you. I might be lucky(?) enough to avoid age checks in England, but I was asked 3 or 4 times in NY for ID. Easier just to have it with you at all times.

New Yorkers don't know where the date of birth section is on a UK driving licence.

Look out for the option of a flight on the bar menu. Often a selection of around 5 taster pours of your choosing, it's a good way to try a few beers without getting hammered too quickly.

Drinkers in New York tip very well. The result of this is that barmen will expect you to tip well also. If you're paying by cash, the standard is to leave a dollar per drink on the bar after you've paid for your round. The first time you do this you'll wonder if you've made a mistake, they will eventually pick the notes up though. Honest. If you start a tab or ask to pay by card, there's a handy space on the receipt slip for adding a tip amount.

Practice your signature, chip and pin doesn't appear to have arrived in New York yet.

For some unknown reason, when you pay for a round by cash, you always seem to get dollar notes in the change ...

The plus side to all this tipping business is that the barmen of New York are some of the friendliest, most knowledgeable people you'll ever encounter.

In Opposite Land (also known as the USA), cask is the new keg. Whilst everything I personally tried was great, I was warned over and over that cellarmanship is still some way behind the enthusiasm for cask beer. Take caution.

In Opposite Land, people eat with their feet and walk on their hands.*

Don't fall for the IPA fries at Rattle 'n' Hum. They're just fries. Good fries, granted, but just fries all the same.

If you've ever wished you could buy a shirt or glass emblazoned with the logo of your favourite bar, you're in luck. NYC is merch-crazy.

If you are planning a trip to The Big Apple soon, keep it yourself, I'll just get jealous.

* Note: This might be a lie.