Monday, June 4, 2012

Smoked Pork Butt Spicy Apple Compote Spaetzle and Bacon Wrapped Sweet Onion Paired with 2009 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

For the first time, Chef Sue recently prepared smoked pork butt in our beloved smoker located at our secret culinary lair on the Potomac River.  In short, I was delighted.  I was beyond delighted - every tasty morsel was enough to make my eye roll back in my head deliriously.  Most of this delectable treat was donated to a community event, which left me begging for more.  My begging paid off.

Returning to our secret Potomac lair this weekend, Chef Sue put two eight pound pork butts on the smoker.  This is a time consuming process, but well worth the wait.  And like an impending snow storm, the anticipation is a good part of the fun.  Chef Sue's process involves 24 hours of brining, eight hours in the smoker (one hour for each pound) and basting once per hour while smoking.  The result is other-worldly.

Commonly, smoked pork butt is converted to pulled pork for barbecue sandwiches, but I prefer enjoying this wonderfully tender and juicy meat in it's primal smoked form, treating it like any other large cut of meat and carving off large slabs of mouth melting goodness.  Are you getting the hint that I love this stuff?  I do.  I love pork, and it loves me back.

After the prior weekend's experience with Chef Sues smoked pork butt, I was committed to a wine pairing and sharing this porky love fest with you.  The first task was completing the meal.  Chef Sue and I huddled, threw out a few options and eventually settled on adding a touch of piquance and sweetness with an apple compote, spaetzle, and a bacon wrapped baked sweet onion (is it possible to have too much pork? - I don't think so).

Next I moved on to the wine selection.  My thought process started with a medium bodied wine to match the body of the pork, moderate acidity to balance the fat, and prominent fruit (pork and fruit is a natural combination in my mind), and a touch of earthiness or oak to echo the smoke flavor in the pork.  With this criteria in place, I still had the decision of going red or white.  The balance was tipped in favor of a red when I decided to go in the direction of earthy flavors to add depth rather than oak as a direct mirror of the smoked meat.  I settled on the 2009 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

The wine answered my desires wonderfully with rich flavors of dark berries and plum, moderate acidity, and pleasant earthy notes.  The pairing worked nicely, but I have two minor reservations with the wine.  First, I would have liked a touch more acidity.  The winemaker appears to have sacrificed acidity for a velvety smooth mouth feel.  Second, the alcohol content is high and is not hidden behind the strength of the fruit.  Although the pairing was very good, these two aspects make it less than perfect.  We enjoyed the wine and would buy it again, but with the acidity and alcohol levels, I would not intentionally compose another pairing.


Smoked Pork Butt

Ingredients for Brine
  • ½ cup coarse salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 24 ounces beef broth
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5 pound bag of ice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat and stir until all ingredients are incorporated.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Thoroughly clean a small cooler (small enough so brining liquid covers the meat, yet tall enough to accommodate a 5 pound bag of ice) and add pork butt, pour brining liquid over the pork, then add a 5 pound bag of ice.
  4. Keep in cooler for 24 hours.
Ingredients for Basting Liquid
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir.
  2. Preheat smoker to 200-225 degrees F.
  3. Place pork butt in smoker, fat side up.  Smoking time is 1 hour per pound of meat.
  4. Baste the pork but with a clean rag or brush every hour.
Spicy Apple Compote

  • 1 apple diced 
  • water to cover the apples
  • 1 squirt lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat.  Stir occasionally until apple is tender.
Bacon Wrapped Sweet Onions

Ingredients (per serving)
  • 1 Vidalia onion
  • 2 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1 pad of butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel onion and cut one end to provide a flat surface that lets the onion stand on it’s own.
  2. Cut flat the opposite end of the onion, then carve out a small well to hold the pad of butter.  I leave it to you to choose the size of your pad.  I love butter and was generous.
  3. Wrap the onion in two strips of thick cut bacon and hold in place with toothpick(s).  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. We wrapped the onion in foil and placed in a preheated oven (350 F) for about 30 minutes.
  5. Alternatively (and the way we intend to do it next time), place the onions on a broiler pan that should add more texture to the onion.  The process would work equally well on a grill off direct heat.

Ingredients (per serving)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Mix the dough several minutes until glossy. The dough should be wetter than brownie batter but not as wet as pancake batter.
  2. Bring water to boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat so water is just under a boil.
  3. Place a portion of the batter on a cutting board (a smooth glass board works best) and spread until about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.
  4. Using a pastry knife or other flat edge, scrape off the batter, 1/4 inch or less into the water.
  5. Allow to cook until the spaetzle floats.  Remove, keep warm, and repeat with remainder of batter.
  6. Alternatively, you can take finished spaetzle, brown in a skillet with butter and finish with cheese.
In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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