Monday, November 1, 2010

In The Kitchen: This Little Piggy...

*** Disclaimer: pictures of uncooked pig and other pig parts are present in the post. If you are vegetarian or have a weak constitution, I would recommend not reading the following post. Or at least wait until 30 minutes after you have eaten :) *****

My husband loves barbecue. He is from Virginia, and whether or not they are known for barbecue, my husband really likes to dabble in it at home. As most of you know, we are living in Rome right now, which is *not* the home of barbecue. It is home to many other wonderful things, but barbecue is not one of them. We are more than half-way through the semester and my husband (and the rest of the faculty) wanted to give the students a little taste of home. We tossed around making Mexican, but southern barbecue was the final winner.

As I have mentioned before, it is hard to find things in Rome. I couldn't find thread, had a hard time with shampoo and hair spray and even a curling iron eluded me for weeks. But nothing compares to what we did this past week. We did it though, and we served pulled pork, cornbread, potato salad, grilled veggie kebabs, sausages and a vinegar-based North Carolina sauce. This was quite a feat, trust me. Here is the lowdown.

The Pig:

We needed either a pork butt or a pork shoulder. We found the right words in Italian before my husband went to the butcher. When he arrived home that evening, he said he either ordered two 8 kilo pieces of pork butt or was getting one giant 16K piece. I was really hoping for the former. Nope. We arrived at the butcher shop the next morning to a huge piece of pig. It was literally the butt and leg of a massive sow. We carried it home (also humorous as we have no car) and shoved it into our tiny Ikea refrigerator. Next came brining, taking the skin off and carrying it to where the big stove was at the school.

this little piggy went to brine :)

taking the skin off fresh pig butt

Roasting & the Sauce:

We don't have a smoker here, so we just went and roasted the beast. We assumed it would take about 18 hours, but the big oven we learned was convection (at least I did, after the fact) since the 32 pound piece was cooked in a little over 12 hours! It was literally falling off the bone. My husband started at 3:30 pm on Saturday and climbed into bed at 4:30 am. We weren't sure how long it would take, so we though we would be cautious. He kept the meat warmed and served at 4:30 Sunday evening.

My husband also made the sauce. We actually found apple cider vinegar. We did find it in a run-down grocery store in Trastevere, but it was there and cheap, so we grabbed two bottles of it. He added crushed red pepper, honey, salt, sugar to the vinegar and let it sit for a good long while. It was excellent.

The Feet:

I was convinced by our butcher, Claudio, that *I* needed to cook the feet. Let's say when I unwrapped the package, I was a little hesitant. Wouldn't you be?! Look at those tootsies! But Claudio was convincing, so cook them I did, just how he told me to. First simmered in a pot with one carrot, one onion an one piece of celery. He was very adamant about the amount (I added parsley too). And then roasted in the oven for a little while.

They were just okay. I was expecting amazing from what Claudio was saying, but honestly, with a big foot on my plate, my hunger just kind of flitted away. I ended up making myself an egg.


This was pretty easy. I found all the ingredients necessary, well, except celery salt and dry mustard, so they were left out. The students loved it, and some students who said they never usually like coleslaw. I used Bobby Flay's recipe and it was fantastic, maybe even better with all the ingredients! I did have an accident trying to cut the cabbage, and sliced my hand, but I am still alive :)


This was tricky. They have polenta here in Italy, but not really cornmeal. I found this recipe on Epicurious and went from there, although I did take out the pancetta so it would be veggie/kosher-friendly. I didn't have buttermilk, so I used milk with a tablespoon of vinegar to substitute that. Also brown sugar is a no-go here, at least in the time frame I had to find the ingredients. So I just subbed the raw sugar I had in the cupboard.

The other things that gave me trouble were baking powder and baking soda. For future reference baking powder here is called lieveto in polvere and the soda is called bicarbinato di sodio. The first is found in the baking section, the second, oddly enough, is found next to the bottled water, at least in our grocery store. There are two forms of baking powder one for sweets, with added vanilla, and one plain. The first batch I made, I don't think I used enough baking powder as they were a little flat.

I managed to make three 13x9x2 pans of cornbread. One even with jalapenos (the jarred kind you find on nachos, but jalapenos none-the-less!) and two plain. They were gone in about fifteen minutes.

The Final Tally:

  • 30-ish pounds of roasted pig
  • 7 pounds of potato salad
  • 3 trays of cornbread
  • coleslaw made from 1.5 heads of cabbage (which btw is A LOT!)
  • vinegar-based sauce
  • grilled veggie kabobs (about 60)
  • grilled chicken kebobs (about 30)
  • grilled sausages (about 5 pounds)
  • 37 hungry students and 5 faculty/spouses
All of that food was pretty much demolished after an hour. I wish I had taken a picture of the final food frenzy! The potato salad went, I kid you not, in seven minutes. The line of students wasn't even all the way through yet! I could have made about two more loves of cornbread and maybe finished that head of cabbage if not for my accident. All of it was amazing and it was quite an experience, let me tell you! The best part was that the students loved it.

Maybe next semester we will do Mexican...and that won't involve any pig's feet? At least I hope ;) 

And the Snuggie is done. What else was I supposed to do while I was waiting for pig's feet to simmer?!

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