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My Great American Road Trip – New York, North Carolina

September 6, 2020

Labor Day weekend is for barbecue, and I’m up to North Carolina, so that’s convenient.

But First New York. I have lots of New York stories that you don’t need to hear. I’ve lived in three of five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx), my step-mom grew up in Queens. And by the end of my first visit to Staten Island, I was convinced it is where I would live out my days, but then I missed the ferry home, had to wait nearly an hour for the next one and swore I’d never go back there again. My sister lives in Westchester, and I briefly, and ill-advisedly worked on Long Island. I’ve explored the corners of Duchess and Columbia Counties, and I feel like I have New York covered. I did leave a lot of friends there, when I came here, though I loved the parade of going away celebrations that led to.

Before Covid, some of them came south, and I thought I’d be heading north. After Covid, it was only my crazy beloveds – my friend Lynn, with whom I spent my 20s and 30s in bars, and her two children who may or may not turn to me later in their lives for tattoos, piercings and (bad) romantic advice – who popped down, not to see me, to visit the Magic Kingdom, but I forced my way onto their trip!

Anyway, I’m not making more pizza, and I’ve never actually eaten a true New York dirty water hot dog, so that’s out. There’s a whole lot of New York that I don’t know all that well, though, and it is from there that I get my inspiration.

I was only in Buffalo once, on my way to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Niagara Falls with my friend Gene.

I don’t love Buffalo wings, but it felt right. I think its because I don’t love Frank’s Red Hot sauce. I do love hot sauces though. I have a lot.

Pretty much every Buffalo wing recipe is the same. You crisp the wings in a 400 degree oven for about 50 minutes or so. While that’s cooking you make the sauce – a quarter cup Frank’s Red Hot, 2 tablespoons honey, and 4 tablespoons butter. I didn’t have quite enough honey, but it worked all the same. When the chicken is done you throw it in a bowl with the sauce til it is well coated and put it under a low broiler for about 3-5 minutes or until the sauce is carmelized. Serve it with carrot and celery sticks and some ranch dressing.

I feel live I’ve been cheated out of delicious wings my whole life. They weren’t drenched in sauce. It was so good.

And on we move to North Carolina. I was there once – 18 years ago this November. I know this for certain, because I was there the day my youngest niece was born. I was in Charlotte for a conference sponsored by the Knight Foundation and in which my then orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic was participating. Also participating was my now orchestra, the New World Symphony. It was the first time I became aware of this amazing organization and I am forever grateful.

Barbecue in North Carolina is a heated topic. There is Eastern and Lexington style barbecue. Both use vinegar, both use pork. Eastern style is whole hog, literally, they require the whole hog. I can’t really cook a pig in my little apartment, so that was out. I opted for Lexington style.

Initially, I was planning to make ribs, but that was a bit more of an undertaking that I was up for, so I decided on the always delicious pulled pork.

First you make the barbecue sauce – 3 cups vinegar, 3/4 of a cup of ketchup, 6 tablespoons of brown sugar and 3 of white sugar, salt, pepper, and red chile flakes. Marinate a pork shoulder (I used a loin because that’s what I had) for a while (one hour, a day, whatever). Then you brown all sides and put it in the oven low and slow for about three hours.

When its done, you use two forks to pull the pork apart – it just falls apart.

Before you serve it though, you need a side dish, and with barbecue, you need hush puppies, which are super easy to make. 2 cups of corn meal, 3tablespoons flour, one cup milk one egg, and a whole lot of chopped green onion. I’m terrified of deep frying things, but there’s no getting around it for these. You drop them in to hot oil one spoonful at a time and roll them around until they’re golden brown.

I made mixed together some sriracha and mayo to accompany the hush puppies and loaded some of the pulled pork mixed with a bit more bbq sauce on a bun and it was a perfect weekend lunch!

Not something you can eat every day, but I’ve labored all year long and I deserved it. The only thing I’d change if I did it again, is to consume it with a beer!

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