Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pulled Barbeque, Farkashert

The Jewish prohibition on pork goes deep.  This is not to say that there are no fans of the meat amongst the tribe.  But archeological excavations in ancient Canaan turned up pork bones in all settlements except for those of the Israelites. (For an interesting take on the Jewish taboo on pork and its possible origins, see this Smell Test by Shmarya Rosenberg in Tablet Magazine, where he discusses some insights inspired by Christopher Hitchens.  Don't read this near meal time.)  However, pork has numerous distinctive characteristics that make it a wonderful cooking medium -- witness the spread of pork belly to almost every high-end menu in the civilitzed world.  There is discussion in the tradition about whether pork is prohibted because it is disgusting or because it is delicious and the prohibition tests the faithful.  I definitely hold with the latter.

Pork is ultimately irreplaceable, but Jews have tried for centuries to substitute.  The most noble efforts were those of the Jews of Germany, represented in the US by the late and much lamented Bloch und Falk which made kosher cold cuts that tasted like treyfe cold cuts but out of veal, goose and who knows what.  In many recipes on this blog, I substitute vegetarian or turkey sausage for pork products.  However, it is more difficult to substitute for uncured fresh port.

A few years ago on Christmas day we went to a Kosher Gospel concert and brunch featuring Joshua Nelson. At the brunch, they served a creditable pulled barbeque made out of chicken thighs. This was in a spicy tomato sauce, and a classic pulled pork would be much less saucy. But, given the substitution of the main ingredient it is more than not made.  I have been playing around with this dish for a few years and found that a spice rub of vinegar, garlic, and smoky chili and paprika worked well in a home oven. Although I started making it with chicken, I have recently switched to turkey.  Although I prefer the taste of chicken in general, it makes no difference in this dish and the turkey is far easier, since  instead of needing two to three thighs to serve each person, one turkey thigh serves two to three. 

The following recipe serves 4 generously.  It can be multiplied -- I have made it with up to 10 thighs. It is mildly spicy, so increase the quantity of chitpotle chili if you want it spicier, though this is not always a great idea if you are serving a crowd.
Pulled Turkey Barbeque
  • 2 turkey thighs, about 1 pound each


  •  8 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chitpotle powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon  mustard
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  Remaining ingredients
  • 8-10 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 1/4 sweet green pepper, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno chili , quartered and sliced (optional, and remove seeds and ribs if you want it milder)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (from a can is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons smokey barbecue sauce (any good commercial sauce is fine)

  1. Drop the garlic cloves for the marinade into a food processor or blender with the motor running to chop finely.
  2. Add remaining marinade ingredients and process to have a smooth paste.  Add a bit more vinegar or water if you need to.
  3. Rub the marinade into the thighs and set aside in the refridgerator for a day or two.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Flatten 8 of remaining garlic cloves and slip under the turkey skin.  Put the thighs in a roasting pan in which they will fit rather snugly, and roast until tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Particularly if the pan is large, the fat may begin to smoke, so after a half hour, pour some boiling water into the pan so that it doesn't.
  6. Meanwhile, saute the peppers and onions on medium high in the oil in a nonstick skillet until soft and just beginning to brown.
  7. Add the garlic, saute another minute, and then turn heat down to medium low and add the paprika. Saute another minute or so.
  8. Add the tomato sauce and barbeque sauce, bring to a boil, turn heat down and simmer about 5 minutes.  Set aside until the turkey is done.
  9. Check the turkey to see if it is tender and the meat pulls easily from the bones. Otherwise, cook about 10 minutes longer.  Remove from the oven and set aside for about 10-15 minutes until cool enough to handle.  Removed the skin, scrape off the garlic cloves, mash them and mix into the sauce.  Set the skin aside for other uses. (See below)
  10. Pour off the juices from the turkey roasting pan and skim off the fat.  The easiest way to do this is to pour them into a Pyrex measuring cup and put it in the refrigerator or freezer until the fat rises to the top and can be removed more easily with a spoon.  If you can wait long enough, it will solidify. Discard the fat.  Unlike other rendered poultry fats, turkey fat is of little gastromic interest.   Add the juices to the sauce.
  11. Deglaze the turkey pan.  If it is heatproof, add a little water to it and bring to the boil, scrapping up the juices that have stuck to the pan.  (If the dish is not heatproof, you can do this in the microwave.)
  12. Shred the turkey.  This is ideally done by hand, which I consider to be kind of fun.  Cut the meat off the bones with a knife, which will allow it to cool more rapidly.  Separate it according to the musculature, and then pull the meat into long shreds with the grain.  As an alternative, you can hold the thighs down with a  fork, and to shred off the meat with another fork.  It works best it you use large sturdy serving forks here.   Don't be tempted to just cut it with a knife.  Proper shredding is one of the keys to success. 
  13. Add the turkey to the sauce, and reheat either on top of the stove, or in an ovenproof serving dish.  You can either heat it on 350, or go for the long haul and leave it in a slow oven.  One of the beauty of poultry thighs is that their flesh stays moist long after the point where breasts would be like so much sawdust. 
  14. Serves 4 generously.  Goes well with coleslaw, cornbread (I may post a pareve corn bread recipe soon) or garlic bread, and baked beans.  Serve with a variety of hot sauces. It can also be served on Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns as a sandwhich. 
What to do with the turkey skin?  Just eat it.  It will come out of the oven crisp, spicy and wonderul, but it won't be so appetizing for long.  So, after you scrape off the garlic for the sauce, eat as many skins as you want while they are still warm and crisp, and share the rest with people who you like if they are around.

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