Friday, December 5, 2014

Apéritif Friday - The Aristocrat, Pulled Pork and Homemade Giardiniera

Friends. They're essential to a happy life, and I don't care who you are or how introverted you might be, we all need some good ones. They play different roles in our lives, to be sure. I am blessed with several, and I started this post off by talking about how they've all influenced me over the years, and how they inspire me in the world of cocktailing.

But you're here to read a blog post, not a book. Consider this topic tucked away for a kindle download in the future.

Three different friends are responsible for the inspiration for today's deliciousness. One friend influenced the apéritif, another gifted me with some golden nectar that I used to switch up the libation, and yet another inspired the topping for our dinner.

I love them all.

I'm enjoying a hilarious group text with some long time friends that make me snort on Friday nights and holidays when the alcohol is free flowing. One recently shared a picture of her special Mommy Tonic in order to host a major holiday while wrangling a toddler, teenagers and her mother-in-law all at the same time.

She sent her picture before 10:00 a.m. I don't judge.
This tasty looking beverage and its ingredients stopped me dead in my tracks. She called it The Aristocrat. Lillet sits in my liquor cabinet, sad because I have yet to crack it open. Hennessey pouts in the back corner, ticked because he rarely makes an appearance, other than to grace a peppercorn sauce. We're pretty much off all soda around here, but that didn't stop me.

Because recently at an out-of-town horse show, this sweet gem pulled a special treat out of her brown paper bag.
And while I tried to be a good sport and sip some of her nectar with whiskey, I just was not into it. The dust at a horse barn sends me into an asthmatic tizzy. Perhaps she felt sorry for me, perhaps it was her sweet way of wooing me to come back in January, perhaps it was a parting gift to say, "No effing way will I sit next to you when you wear a surgical mask at the next horse show," but girlfriend gifted me the Ginger Syrup from her vacation to Tybee Island last summer.
My ingredient list complete, here's my version of Mommy's Tonic, aka The Aristocrat.

1.5 oz Hennessy
1 oz Lillet
1/2 oz Ginger Syrup*
Mix in a shaker with ice, then top with Club Soda and stir to mix. Garnish with a lemon twist. If desired, add a squeeze of lemon to the drink before mixing.

*If you don't have Ginger Syrup, just mix the Hennessy and the Lillet and top with ginger ale (omit the club soda).

I loved this drink. Recent posts suggest I've been in a fall rut that includes cranberry and orange with bourbon, so this was a very nice change of pace. It tastes a bit lighter to me than the bourbon drinks I seem to favor, but still packs a solid punch that reminds me to switch to wine just before dinner after enjoying two of these gems as an apéritif .
Meet sweet Amy again.
Her husband and I need to get together. Don't get all in the gutter on me now - we simply need to cook and cocktail and hang out together. He gardens and makes giant vats of pickled goodness to enjoy throughout the year, and Amy brought some with her to last winter's girls weekend. Inspired, I decided to make my own, even though I had to go to the grocery store to buy my ingredients.

The result? Giardiniera so good, I've made it at least half a dozen times since, and we will never eat another pulled pork wrap without it. Last Saturday we decided to make pulled pork last minute - I say last minute because pork butt is best when you buy it a week in advance, rub it, wrap it in plastic and place it in the fridge for about 3-4 days before roasting it. We decided to make it at about 8:00 a.m., even though we had no pork butt in the house, no smoker ready, and no giardiniera prepared.


So we ran out to the store and bought the ingredients.

I made it in the morning, because it's best when the vegetables can chill in the salt water solution for a few hours. It's ideal to let the finished mix sit a couple of days before eating it, but it can be also consumed immediately. Our neighbors came to the cabin this summer and INHALED it with corn chips faster than I could mix it up.
Homemade Giardiniera
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into tiny, bite sized pieces (about the size of a thimble)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
4 - 8 spicy peppers. I used 4 jalapeño peppers, seeds and membranes removed. For a spicier mix, leave the seeds and membranes in tact, use more jalapeños, or a mix of spicy peppers
1/2 cup salt

For the dressing:
6 cloves garlic
2 T Italian Seasoning
1 t Celery Seed
1 t Red Pepper Flakes (more to taste if you like it spicier)
1 t freshly ground Black pepper
2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
2 cups Olive Oil
1/2 cup olives with pimentos, sliced thinly

In a large non-metal bowl add the vegetables, salt and cover with water, gently stirring to dissolve the salt. Cover and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours. Meanwhile, combine the first six ingredients to make the dressing, then slowly whisk in the olive oil to combine. Cover and set aside.

Strain and rinse the vegetables, returning them to the large bowl. Whisk the dressing, then pour it over the vegetables, add the olives and gently stir to combine. Carefully ladle the giardiniera into glass container jars making sure enough dressing is included to cover the vegetables. Enjoy immediately and store in the refrigerator for up to a month. I will forever think of Amy and Mike when I make this.
It takes a bit of prep time to assemble, but the effort is so worth it. This stuff is great as a dip with corn chips or rice crackers, it's good on salads, divine as a sandwich topping, perfect atop a sausage or hot dog, and even makes for a great snack straight out of the container on a spoon. Give it a try!

I rubbed the pork immediately when we got home with some Famous Dave's rib rub mixed with Avocado Oil to make a thick, wet paste. Mr. Musky got the Weber grill ready - the Green Egg would have taken way too long and we wanted to impart some smoky flavor into the meat quickly. But we had no wood chips ready, so what were we to do?

If you have a griller in your life, go straight to Amazon and buy these. I promise you, they will come in handy when you're pressed for time but still want something infused with good smoky flavor.

They do the job in a pinch and make a great stocking stuffer for the griller in your life. We placed the pork in a rack over an aluminum pan. Mr. Musky poured red wine and water in to the pan, and set it all on the grill over indirect heat (roughly 250 degrees) for about four hours. We then moved it to a 250 degree oven for another four hours. Our roast was about 7.3 pounds. Regardless of the size of your butt (heh heh), roast it until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.

While the pork cooked away, Kahley and I wrapped some Christmas presents, watched Wisconsin take on Minnesota for the Paul Bunyan Axe and I sipped The Aristocrat. With a fire burning and the soft glow of electric lights illuminating our workspace, it almost felt Norman Rockwell-esque.

Until the dog puked.

I love it that Jake still crawls under the tree and shakes all of his presents. Miller knows that something under there is all his, so he cozies up to Jake to see if this is THEEEE one.
I've got Jake stumped with this one. The note on the card has him really befuddled. It reads, "Have a drink on us. Love, Mom and Dad." Come back in January to find out what's in the red, liqudy box.

While the pork continued to cook, Jake and a buddy played around outside with our newest backyard addition. I hereby apologize to our neighbors for the late night pucks sailing into their yard.
Upon seeing this, Kahley promptly asked her dad: "Hey. Can you build me a horse?"
Her face tells the answer.

Finally, the star ingredient was finished. Behold the masterpiece of slow roasted divinity.
I simply cannot tell you how much satisfaction it gives me to pull apart perfectly cooked pork butt. Which is really the don't get all groded out on me.
That dark brown stuff? It's called bark. So fantastic. Even my firstborn who shudders at the thought of gulping down chunks of charred animal fat picked out the best pieces faster than I could stab her hands away with the bear claws.
Back in the day, we made pulled pork sandwiches the Emeril way, found here. If you're looking for a big boy, hearty sandwich, I highly recommend this method. But since our diets have evolved, we're more into tasting the pork and having some vegetables involved versus getting all filled up on
gluten-y bread that makes us want to curl up and take a nap. So we pile the pork onto a tortilla and top it with some homemade condiment goodness.

Here's how the boys prefer to eat their pulled pork - on a tortilla, with some aged cheddar. End of story.
Here's how I enjoy mine - piled up, topped with homemade slaw (recipe here), topped with homemade giardiniera.
Repeat, but for seconds omit the tortilla.

We're really fancy around here with the Dixie plates. Good 'ole Norman is rolling over in his grave, I'm sure.

Thanks to all my friends who positively influence me in so many ways. Especially when it comes to good food and drink.


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