Seems like all across the country, there's one thing we can agree on: football season may have technically begun, but it's not really football season until you can see your breath as you stand in the parking lot, firing up the Weber and embarrassing the kids with your musical selections blaring on the car stereo.
This Saturday, Autumn says "bring it on." It's time to separate wheat from chaff, big dogs from the pups, and to see who's got the goods to stand out in the freezing cold, clad only in team-color-appropriate outerwear, and making liberal use of the appropriate mix of Milwaukee's finest antifreeze, California tonsil polish, and Gaelic brain eraser.
The only problem is... it ain't cold yet! Unless you have tickets for the next U of Buffalo game, odds are you can still get away with shorts and slippahs for this Saturday's game, with maybe a floppy hat for some cranial SPF.
So this weekend, we need a transition menu. It's not quite time for some hearty winter chili and a thermos of Irish coffee, but we're past burgers and corn on the cob.
So here ya go: this weekend's Game Day menu.
1. Friday night or early Saturday morning: Prepare the Kalua pork.
Now, the real deal Hawaiian version of this requires a full day of cooking, and either a pit in the ground or at least a pressure cooker. You also need to understand the Polynesian culinary term "full chicka," and you need a source of ti leaves (cordyline fruticosa). But this version gets you 95% of the way there, and it's the easiest recipe you'll ever try. In fact, don't even call it a recipe. All you need is some pig and a Dutch oven.
One Boston Butt (bone in, bone out, either way), boneless pork butt (rolled), pork shoulder, or pork roast — really doesn't matter.
(About 5 pounds)
One Tbs liquid smoke, hickory seasoning, or the like
Two Tbs course Hawaiian salt or sea salt
(Hawaiian sea salt can be pricey, but I get it from Savory Spices for about $8 a pound. )
Put the pig in a Dutch oven. Add water until the water is 1/3 to 1/2 up the pig. Add the liquid smoke to the water. Add one Tbs of the salt to the water, and sprinkle one Tbs of the salt over the pig.
Cover and bake at 350º for 3 hours. Turn down the oven to 250º and bake for 2 more hours. Remove from heat, let cool for ten minutes, then pull the meat apart.
Add BBQ sauce and store in an air-tight container until game time. You can serve it cold, or wrap it in tinfoil and warm up on the grill over indirect heat.
Serve on toasted buns, with cole slaw on the bun or on the side. I go with the cole slaw on the side, and a spoonful of chopped Clausen kosher dill pickles on the pork.
2. Cole Slaw.
Whisk together 1/3 cup mayo; 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar; 2 Tbs sugar, honey, or agave nectar; 1 tbs dry mustard.
Pour mixture over a bag of slaw mix or 3 cups total chopped green and red cabbage.
Salt to taste. I usually add a dash of dill weed or some celery salt.
Serve on the side, or on top of the pig meat.
3. Chipotle sweet potatoes.
At home, slice 2 pounds peeled sweet potatoes into half-inch-thick rounds. Spray with olive oil and store in a container. Mix 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 Tbs honey, 1 Tbs lime juice, 1-2 Tbs canned chipotle chilis in adobo (chopped fine — seeds removed if you want a milder sauce), and 2 Tbs finely chopped cilantro. Store this in an airtight container.
At the stadium, preheat the grill to medium high. Coat the sweet potato rounds with the sauce and grill 5 minutes per side. Salt to taste.
This Saturday: Army vs Texas A&M, at College Station, Texas. 12:30 EST, on Versus.
Beat the Aggies!