Summer Picnic Dinner Party Style

This evening got off to a great start.  Stopping by the Crystal City Wine Shop, I found a delightful purchase in a red blend called Troublemaker. While I am frequently guilty of buying based on the label this bottle was more than just show. By combining vintages and varieties, Troublemaker brings out rich and fruity notes and rich aromatics that display hints of smoke and violets. Bright fruit on the palate and a long finish, this wine went quite well with our pulled pork sandwiches, pickled vegetables, salad and strawberry topped cheesecake.

Crockpots/slow cookers are one of my favorite kitchen appliances.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to achieve your plan with these, though I would suggest that the less advanced the appliance the more you might want to strategize with cook times. Fattier cuts keep the meat from drying out but you can use pretty much any flavored liquid. Pulled pork is probably one of the easiest things to make–  get a pork shoulder about, but no larger than, five pounds (unless you’re trying to feed a LOT of people) and then you are going to massage your favorite spices into the meat.  Some recipes want you to be pretty specific, but I’m of the belief that when it comes to these kind of flavors, as long as there isn’t too little, or too much of one kind, and you’re in the same families of flavors you’re going to get magic once it’s cooked.

Not feeling adventurous?

Spice Rub: Go with about a tablespoon of each: dark brown sugar, garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder with salt, black pepper and cumin to your preference. If you have fresh garlic, slice it and onions and lay on the bottom of the slow cooker.

Add your favorite cooking liquid (chicken stock, bbq sauce, tomato juice) about a cup, so there is liquid, but you don’t want the meat to be swimming. Cook for about 8 hours on the low setting.

Note: There’s a bit of a debate about browning the meat before placing in the slow cooker.  I’ve tried both and haven’t really noticed a major difference, except when it comes to roasts in the oven which is a completely different cooking method: oven= “dry”; slow cooker= “moist”.

Pickling is something that I am dying to conquer. The hostess made a medley of pickled cauliflower, cucumbers, peppers, onions and asparagus. I piled the traditional pickled cucumbers on the sandwich with the pickled peppers, onions and anything that wouldn’t slide off. It gave the perfect amount of tangy to go with the sweet and smoke of the pulled pork.  She also served one of my favorite salads ever: strawberry spinach with a balsamic vinaigrette.  I could eat that salad by the pound.

While I’d love to share the cheesecake recipe, family secrets are meant to be kept so I can just tell you this is one of the best. Creamy, without being overly sweet, not too soft, with a traditional graham cracker crust, and topped off with a mountain of fresh strawberries. Perfection.

MENU:

  • Strawberry spinach salad
  • Pickled vegetable medley
  • Pulled pork sandwiches
  • Strawberry topped cheesecake

PAIRINGS:

  • Wine: Pino Grigio, Zinfandels
  • Beer: Ales, Porters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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