Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Potluck

A few times a year we have a potluck dinner.  Usually we have one at Thanksgiving and another at Christmas, but we also threw in one for Labor Day this year.  I like to make something kind of wacky for the main course (after all, I don't have to transport anything so I have to make something a bit more substantial).

I have done lots of types of main courses at previous potlucks like korean bbq chicken legs, lasagna, and ravioli.  I wanted do something that most people had never had, and I wanted it to be reminicent of the fall season.  My attention turned to pork shoulder, but that did not meet either of my requirements.  I began thinking about quail, pheasant, or other game birds, but that was too expensive and time consuming to make a bunch of.  I combined the idea of pork shoulder and game meat and came up with wild boar shoulder.  The only problem was where I could get something like wild boar shoulder.  Fortunately for me I live in a city where every conceivable thing can be found.  I began the hunt and eventually located a place that sold wild boar (and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff).  The place is Chicago Game & Gourmet, and it is located at 350 N. Ogden in Chicago (chicagogame.us). 

As mentioned in a couple previous posts, I went out to the suburbs to begin preparing the boar shoulder.  It is difficult to make really good pulled pork/boar in my apartment because it requires a long smoking period.  Although i have smoked things in the apartment, I did not want to do it again after nearly dying of smoke inhilation the last time.  I decided to take the safe route and just get a nice layer of smoke on it in the burbs, then bring it back here and finish it in the oven.  This ended up working fantastically, though I think it could have used about another hour of cooking to really make it easy to pull apart.  I also made watermelon "meat" for Katie, but I'll run down that recipe in my upcoming massive Thanksgiving post.

The potluck turned out better than I could have hoped.  All the food was excellent and it seemed like everyone had a great time talking to each other (even if the ladies' table (plus John) got somewhat inappropriate and the Bears suffered another loss).  Here is what everyone brought.

Katie brought Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Joel brought Mashed Potatoes
Jackie brought Sweet Mashed Potatoes and Jalapeno Bread
Mairin & Melody brought stuffing and a corn casserole
Mia brought a Pumpkin Pie with not one but two secret ingredients
John brought a Chocolate Cake
Voelker brought a Reese's Pie
Urgo brought a bottle of Zinfandel (bless her soul)
Last, but not least, Kurt brought Protien Shakes

I really liked everything that people brought (even the protien shakes).  Perhaps I can track down any recipes if there is interest in them.  Here is how I made the boar and its accompanying sauces

Pulled Boar Shoulder (serves 12)

1 6 lb boar shoulder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
20 juniper berries, smashed
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1.  Put thawed boar shoulder in a large bowl.
2.  In a separate bowl mix the salt, sugar, and juniper berries together until well incorporated.
3.  Cover all sides of the boar with the salt mixture.  Put in the refrigerator overnight.
4.  The next day, take the boar out of the refrigerator and let it come up toward room temperature for about an hour and a half to two hours.
5.  Meanwhile, start a charcoal grill going with indirect heat (coals all on one side).  Allow the coals to cool until the grill is at about 250 degrees (this should take about an hour).  Also put a bunch of cherry wood chips in a bowl of water for at least an hour.
6.  Wash the salt mixture off of the boar and put it in a foil pan.  Pour the apple juice into the pan.
7.  Put the foil pan on the grill on the side opposite from the coals.  Put a handful of wet cherry wood chips on the coals.  Cover the grill with the lid with the grate open and directly above the boar.  Also be sure the bottom is open to maximize the air flow.
8.  When you see the smoke stop (about 30 mins), take the lid off the grill and place a couple briquettes on the hot coals followed by another handful of wet cherry wood chips.  It is important you maintain the heat at about 250 degrees so you don't ruin the boar (never ever let it get above 300).
9.  Repeat this process for 4 hours, turning the pan around at the 2 hour mark.
10.  You can continue this process for 5 more hours (turning the pan every couple hours) or you can put it in the oven at 250 for the remaining 5 hours.  The former option would lead to a more smoky taste, but I had to finish it at my apartment, so I opted for the latter option.  At this point sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the boar.
11.  In any event, after about 5 hours total of cooking, you should start basting the boar with the fat that has rendered from it every half hour.
12.  At the 7 hour mark, pour the apple cider vinegar in the pan and continue basting every 15 minutes.  Don't worry if the shoulder turns black, it is supposed to do that.  It will not taste burnt
13.  You need the internal temperature of the boar to get over 180 degrees for the fat to liquify so you can pull it.  Ideally you can get it between 190 and 200 so it really comes apart easily, but 180 is your minimum.
14.  Once it hits the proper temperature, take it out of the oven and tent with foil for 15 minutes.
15.  After 15 minutes, take the foil off.  Take two forks and stick one into the boar to hold it in place.  Using the other fork, rake the boar in a downward motion to pull the boar off of the shoulder.  It should come off very easily if it is at the right temperature.  Continue raking until the whole shoulder is in bite sized pieces.

BBQ Sauce
3 cups root beer
1.5 cups ketchup
5 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste
just under 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp worsteshire sauce
1 tbsp chile powder
8 juniper berries
1/2 tspn ground all spice
1 tspn Tobasco sauce or 1/2 tspn cayenne pepper
small handful of bittersweet chocolate chips
juice from 1/2 lime

1.  Combine root beer, ketchup, garlic paste, vinegar, worsteshire sauce, chile powder, juniper berries, allspice, and tobasco in a medium sauce pan.  Stir together to incorporate. 
2.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  When it begins boiling, reduce heat to low.
3.  Simmer for about an hour until the sauce thickens and ths bubbles look like they are stacking on top of each other.  Stir ocassionally.
4.  When it is thickened, toss in the chocolate and stir until melted.
5.  Remove pot from heat and squeeze in the lime juice.  Stir and refrigerate covered (preferably overnight).

Cherry Port Sauce (modified a bit from the Alinea cookbook)
1/2 lb dried bing cherries
1 cup cabernet sauvignon
1 cup ruby port
1 cups low sodium chicken stock

1.  Put cherries, cabernet, and port in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  When it hits a boil, reduce to low and simmer until it is the consistency of syrup.
2.  Whisk in stock  and raise heat to medium and bring to a boil again.  When it hits a boil, reduce to low again and simmer until reduced by half.
3.  Strain through a chinois into a clean sauce pan.  Reduce over medium-low heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Give it a shot.  Let me know how it turns out.

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