Guy Meikle, the chef at Nana, has a take on pulled pork that may look a little intimidating. But once you get the pork in the grill (or oven), it’s largely hands-off. Use tostones (refried plantain chips) as the carrier for the pork, or use corn chips (we won’t tell Meikle if you won’t).
Smoked pork shoulder tostones with strawberry mojo and rhubarb honey
For the pork shoulder:
5 lbs pork shoulder
1 cup Cajun dry rub
For the pickled onions:
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 cup sugar
1 cup salt
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar of choice
2 medium red onions
For the tostones:
5 lbs green plantains
peanut oil or corn oil for frying
For the rhubarb honey:
1 lb fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup plus 4 tbsps pure raw honey
For the lime vinaigrette:
1 medium shallot
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsps olive oil
For the strawberry mojo:
½ bunch cilantro, chopped, stems discarded
2 pints strawberries, sliced
2 medium jalapeños, sliced (but not de-seeded)
1 bunch breakfast radishes, thinly sliced
¼ lb pea tendrils
1. Prepare and cook the pork shoulder: Season the pork all over with the dry rub, as well as with sea salt and pepper. Smoke or slow-roast the pork over indirect heat on a preheated grill for four to five hours. Do not turn while cooking. Meat is done when it falls apart easily with a fork. Allow meat to rest, uncovered, 10–15 minutes in a metal baking pan after removing from grill/smoker.
2. While the pork is cooking, make the pickled onions, tostones, rhubarb honey, lime vinaigrette and mojo. Start with the pickled onions: In a large saucepan, place the thyme, peppercorns, sugar, salt, water and vinegar. Bring mixture to a boil, and boil for five minutes. While vinegar mixture is boiling, thinly slice two red onions. Remove vinegar mixture from heat and strain out peppercorns and thyme. Pour hot vinegar mixture over sliced onions. Let cool, and chill until ready to serve.
3. 1.5 hours before the meat is done, preheat cooking oil to 350 degrees in a deep fryer or a deep pot filled half way with oil. While pre-heating, peel plantains, and slice into four-inch pieces. Fry at 350 degrees in small batches until golden brown. Drain and remove from oil. Place on large cutting board, and let cool slightly. Smash the cooled plantains, and re-fry until crisp outside and chewy in the middle. Remove from oil. Salt to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve.
4. Make the honey: Mix rhubarb with one cup of honey in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain and discard the solids. Chill the liquid honey-rhubarb mixture until ready to serve.
5. Make the lime vinaigrette: Mince the shallot. Whisk lime juice and olive oil. Add minced shallot and whisk again. Chill until ready to use.
6. Thirty minutes before meat is done, make the mojo: Combine cilantro leaves with the strawberries, jalapeños and breakfast radishes in a medium bowl. Toss with chilled lime vinaigrette and pickled red onions.
7. When the pork is done, use a fork to pull it apart, and season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Arrange a platter with warm tostones. Place two tablespoons of pulled pork on top of each toston. Dress each pork toston with mojo. Reserve remaining mojo dressing in bowl. Toss the pea tendrils in mojo dressing and garnish the platter with dressed tendrils. Drizzle four tablespoons of honey around the serving platter.
Jeff Donahue, the former bartender at Province and current floor manager at Next and the Aviary, is the man behind Next’s nonalcoholic beverage pairings. Here, he gives us a peek at what he has in mind for Next’s forthcoming Thai menu: drinking vinegars, fruit-and-vinegar elixirs that have a long history in Asia. With galangal (a cousin to ginger, available at Asian markets), lemongrass and Thai peppercorns (a pepper, also at Asian markets), who needs alcohol?
Strawberry galangal drinking vinegar with chrysanthemum lemongrass soda
1 pint strawberries, tops cut off and quartered
½ cup raw demerara sugar
2 tbsps galangal, chopped
4 tbsps coconut vinegar (available in Asian markets), divided
1 tbsp of Banyuls vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
3 cups water
About 30 chrysanthemum flower buds (or 2 tbsps chrysanthemum tea)
2 tbsps lemongrass, chopped
Thai long peppercorn
One sprig Thai basil
1. Make the drinking vinegar: Combine strawberries, sugar, galangal and 3 tablespoons of coconut vinegar in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool, then strain through a chinois. Add remaining tablespoon of coconut vinegar and the Banyuls vinegar, stir and strain through a coffee filter. Set aside.
2. Make the soda: Bring water to a boil and steep chrysanthemum buds and lemongrass for five to seven minutes. Strain through a coffee filter and chill. Once chilled, carbonate using iSi Twist n Sparkle*.
3. Finish the drink: Combine two parts drinking vinegar to three parts soda over cracked ice. Garnish with a dusting of microplaned Thai long peppercorn and a sprig of Thai basil.
*Don’t have carbonating capabilities? Substitute the lemongrass soda with Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon soda, or simply soda water.