I was at my dad’s house in Houston last weekend to celebrate his birthday when he told me to come outside and bring my camera. I was intrigued.
He lifted the lid of his smoker to reveal two big ol’ hunks of beautifully barbecued meat, a whole pork shoulder, and a ham, which he’d had cooking low and slow for 26 hours.
It came off the heat and onto the cutting board, where he pulled back the skin and separated the fat from the crispy edges from the tender, fatty middlin’s, all of which got pulled apart and thrown into a big bowl. We all gathered round and pitched in for a regular pig pickin’ party.
My sister Julia and Joey, her chef-in-training boyfriend, took a little video reel as Dad demonstrated the process and chatted a little about his strategy. He explained that he’d picked those two cuts of pork to bring in the flavors and textures of meat from all over the animal, giving his pulled pork a whole hog taste without having to actually fuss with one.
The result was so delicious I couldn’t resist eating some myself. The family piled generous mounds of it on thick slices of fresh-baked bread with pickles, onions, and a little vinegar-based hot sauce like a little Texas spin on South Carolina pulled pork sandwiches.
We also sampled two kinds of coleslaw, very similar but subtly different—one made with a little sour cream and the other with a little mustard. Obviously the sour cream version was nice and creamy, but I kind of liked the crispness of the mustard version.
My step-mom valiantly attempted to bake my dad’s favorite cake—German chocolate—from scratch, which she quickly discovered is a rather laborious process. The cake pans we had weren’t quite the right size, so the middle of the cake sort of ended up sinking into itself. While not the prettiest, it tasted incredible—super moist, with big pieces of unsweetened, flaked coconut that she’d soaked in coconut milk before mixing into the icing.
Not-whole pig pickin’, irresistibly slow smoked pulled pork, coleslaw taste test, and German chocolate by hand—sounds like another weekend at dad’s. Happy birthday, Pops!