Salute to Meat

It’s our summer party, something that started nine years ago when my friend, Mike, suggested I host a barbecue and serve some of the things I like to cook on my Big Green Egg.

It was just ribs and pulled pork and some dry-aged steak then for 20 or so people, who seemed to have a good time. I did, too, and so my wife and I made it an annual event. This Saturday, July 28, will be our ninth time, and we have 84 RSVPs.

God help us.

It’s Tuesday, and I’m almost as ready as I can be before the final cook, which starts Thursday night. The pastrami is smoked and ready to be steamed on Saturday. All the meat has been in the freezer and is now defrosting.

Here’s how the cook will go, everything running at 225 unless I need to ratchet something up in the interest of time:

Thursday:

The two pork shoulders for pulled pork go on the smoker at 6 p.m. Thursday and will run about 20 hours, more or less.

Friday:

Briskets go on when the pork comes off, with a little break for moving out the ash and refueling and they’ll go for 14-18 hours, but they’ve been known to go 20. I’m doing two, indirect and over a drip pan, one on top of the other in the Egg, I hope to trim them right so they don’t flare up overnight, which will make them acrid, which happened the last time I did two. These are smaller, and I didn’t trim very much the last time, so I’m hopeful.

My wife will make potato salad Friday, in the middle of everything else she needs to do to set up. She is a whirlwind.

Saturday:

8 a.m. The pulled pork goes in the slow cooker to reheat. It’s been sauced with a North Carolina vinegar sauce and will be served on King’s Hawaiian rolls as sliders, with homemade coleslaw.

9 a.m. We roast 10 pounds of pork belly in the oven, rubbed with a mix of garlic powder, brown sugar, cumin, cayenne and salt. It takes about three hours. The belly will be served in those corn-chip Scoops with a dab of barbecue sauce on the bottom.

Barbeque beans with my homemade bacon go in the oven then, too, after I’ve lowered the heat on the pork belly to 325.

Noon: Two boneless lamb legs, seasoned with garlic, rosemary, lemon and olive oil, go on the Egg.

The pastrami goes in the steamer at about noon, it’ll take a couple of hours to get to 203 degrees. It will be the featured performer in small, open-faced Reubens on toasted rye.

12:30: About five pounds of thick-cut homemade bacon goes in the oven to cook; it’ll take about 40 minutes in several shifts. It’ll be served as deconstructed BLTs, with a half grape tomato and an arugula leaf.

1 p.m. Then the St. Louis cut spare ribs go on the Pit Barrel Cooker. It seems impossible that ribs take 6 ½ hours on the Egg and only 3 ½ on the PBC, but it’s true. The PBC will take only eight racks, so I’ll try to cook one on the Egg, maybe starting it when the briskets are close to coming off on Saturday morning.

2 p.m. I reverse-sear the three-inch thick ribeye steaks, cooking them to done at 225 and then torching them with my MAPP when I’m ready to serve to crust them up. This saves time and also preserves the gasket on the Egg. I used to put the steaks on to char after running the Egg up to 750 or so, but would always fry my gasket.

3:30 p.m. The kielbasa, which we buy at the local farmer’s market, goes on the grill. It’ll be our first appetizer for people who show up when the party starts at 4.

The weather is forecast to be rainy in the afternoon, which would be bad luck, but we’ll have to deal. My stepson has a good-sized tent that we’ll have on the driveway, very close to the garage. Between the garage and the tent we can probably hold 45 or so, and the rest can probably (barely) fit in the house.

So I’m serving:

*   16 pounds of boneless pork shoulder

*   30 pounds of brisket

*   31 pounds of St. Louis cut spareribs

*   15 pounds of pastrami

*   10 pounds of boneless lamb leg

*   10 pounds of ribeye

*   3 pounds of kielbasa

*   10 pounds of pork belly

*   5 pounds of bacon

That’s 130 pounds of meat, and I hope it’s good enough that I don’t have leftovers.

Fortunately, our guests are not huge drinkers. I have a case of white wine and a little red, and I’ll make drinks for people who ask and the bar is open and visible, even though I don’t invite guests to help themselves. I don’t want people getting sloshed, so I don’t make pitchers of anything.

Beer is tricky; I’ll have a couple of cases on ice, but people often bring their own and I always have a lot left over. If it’s hot, as it’s supposed to be, we’ll go through a lot of water; I get 96 of those 8-ounce bottles, which are just right. Plus soda, and you never can tell what’s going to move and what isn’t.

The garage gets cleaned out Thursday, and we’ve rented 40 chairs and some tables, which will arrive Thursday afternoon. A couple of our friends are coming early Saturday to help us set up; we’re also trying to land a paid server and our twice-a-month housekeeper is also coming from 4:30 to 8:30 to make sure we stay ahead of the cleaning.

It will still be pretty brutal on Sunday morning, though.

The way it always happens is that at 2 p.m. Saturday I’m swearing at myself for doing this, and at 8 p.m. I feel like it’s Christmas and I’m both the kid and Santa Claus.

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