Monday, June 20, 2011

Mock Eastern Carolina Barbecue Sandwiches

People choose their BBQ like they choose their spouses--for the most part they want something like what they grew up with, for better or for worse. In my hometown of Binghamton, New York, speidies were king. Spiedies are kebobs of beef, chicken, pork or venison (but usually chicken) marinated in a vinegar base, skewered and served on a slice of white Italian bread or sub roll. No vegetables are harmed in the process, and if you want anything else on it, the pit master will give you some of the marinade, unused of course, to pour on top. My Grandma made a similar vinegar-based marinade for whole chicken pieces. She would marinate the meat for days before grilling it at big Sunday family get-togethers. If I remember correctly, my Uncle Tom once ran a chicken barbecue restaurant off Court Street using her recipe.

So when I first moved to North Carolina fifteen years ago and saw a Smithfield Chicken and Barbecue restaurant I thought I knew what to expect. I pulled up to the drive-thru speaker and after examining the menu said, "I'll have a barbecue sandwich, but can I get it in chicken?" I was met with static. Finally the cashier came on and said, "You mean you want fried chicken with your sandwich?" No, I wanted a pulled barbecue sandwich, but not pork. More silence. If you grew up in North Carolina or have lived here for more than a day you are laughing at me right now. Because in North Carolina, as in much of the south, barbecue means pork and only pork. Lesson learned.

Now that I've had Smithfield's pork barbecue, and many others, I adore Eastern Carolina pulled pork. I never pass up an invitation to a pig picking either. Hog heaven. However, I have never actually made pulled pork sandwiches myself. Every time I go to order the pork at the butcher counter my brain starts counting calories and pennies and hours cooking and I change my mind. I usually head over to the rotisserie chicken warmer instead.

Now don't start hatin' on my Yankee ways. I wasn't born here but I love this state, and I love the south. I know it's hard to accept change. My idea of barbecue has done a one-eighty. But our hearts can handle change; regular hits of saturated fat and too much sodium are a different story. So if you need a barbecue fix but don't want that OMG I can't move feeling afterward, try this. Buy a rotisserie chicken, some whole wheat buns and coleslaw (better yet, make your own). At home, whisk together the Easter Carolina barbecue sauce and pour it on the shredded chicken. Assemble your sandwiches and eat with Dinosaur baked beans and cold potato salad. No wait, that's in New York. In Eastern North Carolina all you need are hushpuppies straight out of the fryer, maybe some boiled potatoes and some collard greens on the side. Either way, you're right at home.
Mock Eastern Carolina Barbecue Sandwiches
Makes enough for 4 large sandwiches
The meat of 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded, no skin
whole wheat buns

1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne red pepper
pinch salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp red hot sauce
1.) I've pretty much already told how to make these sandwiches, but here are the instructions with a couple of photos for good measure. Let the bird cool. Remove all the meat and chop or shred it into small pieces. Place in a small bowl.
2.) Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a measure cup.
3.) Toss the shredded chicken in the sauce.
4.) To make a Mock Eastern Carolina Barbecue sandwich, pile the chicken, warmed, on the bun. Top with lots of sloppy coleslaw and put the bun on top. Now get a napkin; you're going to need it.

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