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The Meat-Atlantic

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I seriously think this Meatwave season has been cursed. In no other year have I had to cancel or postpone more Meatwaves, and when we did host cookouts, we often faced adverse weather conditions. This particular event, comprised of Mid-Atlnatic specialities, was supposed to happen back in March, but a continuing cold snap forced its delay. Then it was supposed to happen in September, but again we were foiled, this time by Hurricane Florence, so we pushed it to October. When it came to Meatwave week this time, we faced yet another hurricane, but luckily this one passed through quickly and we were looking at sunny and pleasant weather on a Sunday for once. Then that morning came, and what had been a favorable forecast turned into a cold and rainy morning, but luckily the rain stopped right in time for the meat to start flowing, and while the sun never did come out, we were finally able to put this long-awaited Meat-Atlantic in the books.

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Sauced: Swamp Boys Original BBQ Sauce

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Meatwave Rating: 7 out of 10

Swamp Boys delivers the characteristics of an exemplary competition barbecue sauce—glossy coating, attractive color, and a crowd pleasing barbecue flavor.

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Filipino-inspired Adobo Ribs

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When crafting a menu of Filipino-inspired dishes to introduce my NC friends to this cuisine, there was little doubt that adobo needed to be included. I would bet that for many, like it was for myself, adobo is the gateway into Filipino food—it's ubiquitous and easy to come by, familiar enough to make it a comfortable first choice in what can be an otherwise unfamiliar menu, incredibly delicious, and the perfect introduction to the tangy and savory qualities that form the backbone of so much of the cuisine. The only problem was adobo—most commonly a meat braised in a vinegar and soy sauce mixture—is not an easy thing to adapt to grilling or smoking. After racking my brain with a few ideas of how to do it, I finally settled on trying out an unorthodox adobo technique on ribs, and the results were incredible!

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Schwenkbraten Sandwiches

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Thu Dec 14, 2017

Schwenkbraten

I'm no master of German cuisine, and when I decided to host an Oktoberfest cookout of sorts, my first, and only, recipes I thought of were all of the wurst variety. I felt like I both wanted to cook and offer more than sausages to my guest, so did some research on other ubiquitous German grilled meats and came across schwenkbraten—marinated and grilled pork neck steaks. It seemed like schwenkbraten consisted of three things, all dubbed schwenker—the unique suspended swinging grill over a live fire for cooking, the person actually doing the grilling (or most correctly, the swinging), and the meat itself. Seeing as I had two out of three and, having never had schwenkbraten before, I was freed a bit of the confines of authenticity, it seemed like a decent choice to help fill out the menu with at least one thing that fit the theme was not an encased meat.

Schwenkbraten

To start this recipe off, I attempted to get some true pork neck steaks, and while pork neck wasn't all that difficult to find, procuring it in a steak fashion, and not cut into little pieces, was. So I did what I figured was the next best, and closet thing. I trimmed off half-inch thick steaks from a pork shoulder I was also using to make sausages. Seeing as the shoulder is pretty close to the neck and the steaks had a similar amount of fat and connective tissue, I felt good that this was the right direction.

Schwenkbraten

The flavoring of the marinade seemed a little bit like a cook's choice. I read recipes and watched some German Youtube video for research and what went into the sauce was wide and varied. Most everyone had oil (of course), garlic, juniper berries, and mustard. So I began there added in dried thyme and oregano for the herbal component that looked common, as well as paprika and cayenne for a touch of spice and heat.

Schwenkbraten

Onions also seemed a must, so I tossed one sliced onion into the marinade and coated it, along with the pork, in the liquid. My plan later was to make use of those onions by grilling them and using them as a topping for the sandwiches.

Schwenkbraten

Another hallmark of schwenkbraten recipes was a long marinade time. Seeing as there wasn't a whole lot in the marinade that would actually react with the meat to make significant changes over time, I question if that is really a necessity, scientifically speaking. I did marinate mine almost 24 hours since I prepared it the afternoon before the event, but I would imagine less time wouldn't produce dramatically different results. For good measure though, I left he ideal timing from overnight to two days in the final recipe.

Schwenkbraten

My major area of concern in making these was how they would turn out cooked over high heat. Pork shoulder, and neck, is full of fat and connective tissue that is chewy and tough when cooked quickly, but renders when cooked low and slow. If using a traditional schwenker, I assume the grilling is a bit slower than on a grill since the coals are further from the grill grate, but it's still hot and fast cooking and not what I was used to for shoulder meat.

Schwenkbraten

I must say though, they did grill up to be really beautiful. In just a few minutes per side, the thin steaks developed a nice sear with attractive browning and were also just cooked through, without being over done—so the hot fire did its job in this respect.

Schwenkbraten

Once the steaks were done and I had room on the grill again, I put a cast iron skillet over the coals and let it preheat for a few minutes. I then took the onions from the marinade and cooked them in the hot skillet until they were crisp-tender, which took about five minutes.

Schwenkbraten

And now for what's become a standard PSA of mine—if you're making sandwiches on the grill, use that massive space and heat source to grill your bread! That bread in this scenario were Kaiser rolls, which I toasted over direct heat until lightly browned, warmed through, and a bit crusty.

Schwenkbraten

I then turned my three grilled elements into sandwiches by topping each bun with a pork steak or two and a portion of the onions. Whether they tasted good was still a question, but they certainly looked great and very meat forward, which is how I imagine a lot of German dishes are.

Schwenkbraten

And the flavor was pretty great too. The marinade was powerful and lent a nice pungent and herbal profile to the meat and onions, along with a slight hit of heat. The pork itself was well cooked, but as I expected, there was a bit more chew to it than I'm used to. That's not to say that's a bad thing—there was no bit of this sandwich that was inedible—it was just different, and what I assume is all part of the experience. My main point of contention was the sandwiches felt a tad dry when taken altogether, but that's something a little spread of mustard or mayo could easily fix, and I would add that in if I were making these again. All-in-all though, they provided the non-wurst dish I was looking for and introduced me to something new that I now must seek out and try to see what real deal schwenkbraten is all about.

Schwenkbraten Sandwiches

A long stint in a herbed and spiced mustard marinade gives these German pork steak sandwiches an immense flavor.

  • Prep Time:
  • 10 Minutes
  • Inactive Time:
  • 4 Hours
  • Cook Time:
  • 10 Minutes
  • Total Time:
  • 4 Hours 20 Minutes
  • Yield:
  • 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons spicy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 juniper berries, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2lbs pork neck or shoulder steaks, cut 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 Kaiser rolls

Procedure

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, salt, garlic, paprika, juniper berries, thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Add in onion and steak and toss to thoroughly coat. Transfer to a large Ziploc bag, seal, removing as much air as possible, and place in refrigerator overnight to two days.
  2. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place porks steaks on grill and cook until browned and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to a cutting board or platter.
  3. Place a cast iron skillet on grill and let preheat for 2 to 3 minutes. Place onions in skillet and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from grill and set aside. Place rolls on grill, cut side down, and cook until warmed through and lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
  4. Transfer buns to serving platter or plates, top each bottom half with pork steaks and onions. Serve immediately.
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