Category Archives: pork

A Chef With the Heart of a Servant at Swig & Swine

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AnthonyLast week I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a remarkable man, Chef Anthony DiBernardo of the relatively new smoked meat (A.K.A. BBQ)  restaurant … Swig and Swine. His restaurant is new to the Low Country, but he is not. He has been cooking all over the Charleston area for many years. I was so impressed when I heard his story that I just had to meet him and do a profile to share it with y’all. If you are a frequent follower of this blog, you know I do not do restaurant reviews any more, that was relegated to my Chicago days. But I have been writing about food, where it comes from and who is cooking it for the last 14 years, sometimes in publications, sometimes on my blogs and Facebook. Here is the story of a Chef who has the heart of a servant. 

Click on any of these pics for a close up…

In the Beginning:

Anthony comes from rural southern New Jersey, technically in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Born to a Scotch Irish mother and Italian father he was the youngest of four children, the other three sisters, who were 16, 14 and 7 when he came into this world. His maternal grandmother died when she was young, so Anthony’s Italian grandmother taught his mother to cook. All she knew was Italian food. There were many big family gatherings full of wonderful food.

At the age of 14, Tony started a dish washing job at a local country club owned by Ron Jaworski. He took to the back of the house like a fish to water, quickly climbing to the hot line. By the time he was a Junior in high school he was working on the line at the Tellford Inn. That is the time he decided to enter the US Navy because his parents were about to retire and he did not want them to have to put him through college. He signed on with a delayed enlistment the summer of his Junior year. As soon as he graduated from High School in 1990 he was off to San Diego for 60 days of cooking school. He went to Submarine School in Connecticut and his first deployment was to Charleston where he stood stunned to find he was to submarine Batfish “687,” the same number as his parents’ address and his grandfather’s winning lottery number. It was no accident. He teared up telling me the story.

Cooking Underwater:
Imagine being one of three chefs cooking day in and out for 130 people on a nuclear submarine, never knowing exactly where you will be going or how long you will be there. They would put fresh provisions inside the torpedo tubes and switch the refrigerators to freezers for long hauls. They did all baking in the galley because that much bread would take up valuable storage space. He kept busy taking video courses, including one on Poetry by Maya Angelou.

A Charleston Chef is Born:
In May of 1994, Anthony climbed out of the submarine and started cooking all over Charleston. Starting at Blossom, then venturing on to the old resort at Kiawah where he was executive chef for four years. He assisted in opening the new hotel and all of their kitchens. It was a tough time, working long hotel hours, weekends, holidays and special events. In 2001, his son was born and he knew that he had to make a lifestyle change. He took some time off and at a church retreat he met Sal Parco, the owner of the Dine with Sal Restaurant Group. Anthony took the helm of the culinary team and opened The Long Point Grill, Uno Mas and Mustard Seed. After seven years, he moved on to Kickn’ Chicken Restaurant Group’s Rita’s on Folly Island. It was sold to Hall’s Hospitality Group in July of 2013 and that is when Anthony started to think about what he was going to do.

Dreaming:
He took 30 days to develop a game plan and drove around West Ashley scoping out locations. He fell in love with the old OK Tire Store and its retro look. It was next door to The Glass Onion, a popular spot for dining. He got the keys and walked the old store using graph paper to design his kitchen, dining room, smoker areas and bar. Suddenly there was a call from Steve Kish, chef and co-owner of 82 Queen, along with Johnathan and Patrick Kish, they wanted to talk to Anthony about opening a restaurant on the peninsula. He sold them another idea. A deal was struck and they became 50/50 partners in the new concept, Swig and Swine. It took every penny Anthony had and some of his family members’ funds to come up with his half of the opening investment.

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The Dream Comes to Life:
Permits were applied for in October 2013. The process was a long one and they did not all come through until March 2014. So what does a hard working chef do for five months while waiting for those permits? He builds the tables, the bars, the benches and the work spaces of the restaurant. He designed the smokers with the guys at Gorilla Fabrication. After the fancier one in front of the store, they tweaked the second one, adding more insulation to the smoke box. Each one is running several nights a week, fired by oak and hickory and finished off with pecan. At midnight at least three nights a week, Anthony starts the fires in both smokers. He has an assistant tending the smokers when he is not there. He spends all night minding the smokers, adjusting the flues and taking short cat naps on the wooden benches in the dining room. He works around the restaurant and leaves about 4 pm when he can spend some time with his wife, 12 year old son and 8 year old daughter, sometimes returning back to the smokers again at midnight.

Brisket

The Food:
DiBernadino emphasizes that his place is a smoked meat restaurant, not just another BBQ joint. He broke from tradition by approaching the restaurant from a Chef’s perspective. Nothing is pre-processed. Everything depends on the food in those smokers every night. One bad move and they lose business for an entire day. 40 pound batches of meat are smoked and cooked 3 to 4 times in a 24 hour shift. When he is not spending the night next to the wood boxes, he keeps an eye on the smokers using remote cameras.

Brisket, chicken, turkey, pork belly, wings, ribs, house-made sausage and pork butt all have their place on the smokers. Freshly prepared smoked meats are placed in the case in the dining room just before lunch service and more continue smoking through the day so that the dinner service has fresh smoked meat. The wings and ribs have a dry rub with spices, everything else just gets old fashioned salt and pepper. Leftovers are usually made into a special sandwich. I had one with leftover ribs from the day before… incredible. It was on jalapeno corn bread loaf with BBQ onions and house made pimento cheese.

The sauces are all made in house, as are the sides which vary from day to day. The day I was there there was a fantastic dish with brussels sprouts, smoked mushrooms and béchamel sauce. The usual suspects are mac & cheese, collard greens (very well done), hash and rice, beans with brisket, baked potato salad, coleslaw, Brunswick stew and pickled vegetables. There are also house-made cucumber pickles on every plate with a slice of white bread and slices of onion.

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Drink Up! The bar :
There are 52 Bourbons including 2 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle that reside under lock and key at night. He has recently started smoking bourbon, to make some of the best Manhattans on the planet. A terrific list of craft beers on tap and plenty more in bottles. Wines are also available. And of course there is plenty of sweet tea.

 

Anthony and Pappy

A Servant’s Heart:
Anthony confessed to me that it is all about giving his heart, talent and compassion to those who sit at his tables. He would not have it any other way. He also gives back to the community in a multitude of ways. He cooks and donates food to a variety of causes, and at this moment is collecting money to support the Ronald McDonald House’s Red Shoes Campaign. Thanksgiving he is not taking the day off. He is generously serving up a huge Thanksgiving dinner for those who do not have family here in Charleston. We are two of the lucky people that will be a part of that dinner. I will report on that soon.

Red Shoes

Smoked Pork Butt Porchetta Style

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This is one of the most delicious recipes and the meat can be used in so many ways after the original meal. You can make pulled pork and porcini gravy over grits/polenta, pulled pork sandwiches with BBQ sauce, tacos, as a topping for fresh pasta, empanadas, tostados and tamales among other things. The spices in the porchetta filling are distinctly Latin and permeate the meat along with the smoke. Keep in mind that “Latin” includes Italy as well as Latin America. If you do not have a smoker, you can get the flavor by Braising the butt with liquid smoke and beer in a slow cooker or oven before you add the bourbon and do the second braise.

I have not posted in several weeks. I had a knee injury that kept me from doing a lot of cooking. It is getting better or at least the cortisone injection is making it feel that way. It is good to be able to stand for more than a few minutes again. Meanwhile the Low Country is in it’s early summer glory after we suffered through an unusual plant killing winter. It is so great to see green and blooms again.

Smoked Butt Porchetta Style

Ingredients:

  • A large, well marbled pork butt (shoulder) with the fat on one side. Bone in is fine.
  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup corriander seeds
  • 12 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Cup of Bourbon for braising

Method:

  • Put the seeds in a dry non stick pan and toast till you start to hear them pop. Remove and allow to cool

Porchetta seeds

  • In a food processor place the parsley, garlic, cooled seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Pulse till a thick paste is developed. You may need to add more oil to make a paste.

Porchetta seeds.in blender

  • Place one inch deep and wide slits all around the meat about 1″ apart.
  • Fill each slit with the paste. If there is any paste left, rub it all over the meat.

porchetta ready for smoker

  • Place the butt fat side up in the smoker on lowest temperature. I used apple wood this time, but I often use maple or cherry.
  • Smoke for 8 hours do not let the heat get higher than 250.

Porchetta in smoker

  • Remove to a dutch oven or slow cooker pour the bourbon over the meat and cover. Bake on lowest temperature the oven will go to for another 8 hours or if using a crock pot, leave the lid slightly ajar. Cook on low for 10 hours.

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I made a gravy using porcini mushrooms the drippings from the meat (removed fat by chilling) and some cornstarch. For the first meal I served it with polenta/grits and it was delicious. Then on the next day we had pulled pork sandwiches and a few days later, we are having pulled pork tacos!

Ribs Malaysian Style

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Ribs fatty cue

This is one of my favorite ways to make ribs. It is based on the ribs at the Brooklyn Restaurant, Fatty Cue. Fabulous flavors from Asia and succulent meat with a hefty bite and amazing sauce on the side.Here is what I have learned about really great ribs:#1 You do NOT want fall off the bone ribs, those are ribs smothered and cooked in a way that loses much of the flavor and all of the bite of a good rib.
#2 When smoking (my favorite way to do ribs) you need to take time, do it slowly and in the end, you must have a smoke ring when you bite into it.
#3 My favorite ribs are those cooked with Malaysian/Asian elements.
#4 Sauce is good, but it is not the key element and I usually do not sauce my ribs, but serve sauce on the side, though these ribs end up being lacquered with a glaze at the end of the cooking process.
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I have a Digitally controlled Bradley Smoker, so I used it, but this can also be done using the indirect method on a grill and with a smoke box in the grill. I did finish my ribs off on the grill, just to get a nice char on the exterior.

Here is the recipe. There is some wiggle room if you want to personalize it, but one thing you cannot remove or change is the element of the Fish Sauce. Red Boat being the preferred brand. This takes an entire day to do. I added the star anise, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, chiles and increased a few things like the amount of garlic. This makes a lot of brine, I halved the recipe because I was using just one rack of ribs, this formula would work for two racks, maybe even three if you cut them up into sections as I did.

Recipe: Fatty ‘Cue Spare Ribs (slightly altered)

2 cups fish sauce (preferably Red Boat brand; see note)
10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 whole star anise
4 kaffir lime leaves (use fresh or none at all)
1-2 fresh hot chiles cut in half (seeds intact)
2 stalks of lemon grass, bruised and tied in a knot
1/2 cup palm sugar
2 racks pork spare ribs (I used meaty back ribs)
2 tablespoons toasted and ground Indonesian long pepper, or to taste (see note)
6 ounces palm sugar (see note)
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups fish sauce with the garlic, shallot, lemon grass, kaffir lime, star anise, chile, black pepper and sugar in a large pot. Add at least a gallon of water, then cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, place in a nonreactive container and chill. Place the ribs in the brine for at least 6 hours and no longer than 12.
2. Remove the ribs from the brine and dust lightly with ground Indonesian long pepper.
* Steps 3 & 4 were replaced by me using my digital smoker. I just set it on 220 degrees, put the Jim Beam Whiskey Barrel Wood disks in and let it go. If you do not have a smoker that you can control the heat with , use steps 3 & 4. I did char the ribs on the grill.
3. In a grill with a cover, build a small fire to one side, making sure all the wood or charcoal becomes engulfed in flame. When the flames begin to die down, leaving flickering coals, place the ribs on the grill on the side without fire. Do not let the flames touch the meat at any time.
4. Cover the grill, vent slightly and cook, checking the fire every 30 minutes or so and adding a bit more fuel as necessary, for about 5 hours at around 220 degrees, until the meat recedes from the bone and its internal temperature is at least 170 degrees but no more than 180.
5. Meanwhile, make a glaze. Combine the palm sugar and 3/4 cup water in a small pot over a medium flame, and heat until the sugar melts. Combine that simple syrup with the remaining 1/2 cup fish sauce.
6. When the ribs are ready, glaze lightly and sear on the grill for about 5 mintues, then heavily glaze them again and serve. I served them with grilled corn on the cob, grilled smashed potatoes and parsley carrots. Salad on the side. Asian Slaw would be great with them too.
Serves 4 to 6
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Note: Red Dragon fish sauce, long pepper and palm sugar can be found at most Asian Markets or at Amazon.com or Kalustyans.com.

Tamale Time

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I make a big batch of tamales several times a year. Yesterday I made a batch of pork and green chile tamales. They are not at all difficult to make and they freeze really well. They are also easy to re-steam. Here is the recipe, but keep in mind the filling can be any number of things, from chiles and cheese to chicken, pork, crab, beef etc. Once you get the rolling technique down you will be able to make them with anything. I often triple this recipe. This recipe makes about 20 good sized tamales. You can make them smaller if you are using them as an appetizer.

filling and husks
You will need: 

Cornhusks or banana leaves for wrappers

String

4 cups of Masa para tamales (this can be found in the Hispanic aisle of most large grocery stores.

1 1/2 cups of home rendered lard (see here how to do it and why) or butter

4 cups of good stock (I used duck stock, but turkey chicken or veal stock works great)

2 tablespoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

A large pot fitted for steaming. You need a lot of water for this, so raise your steaming basket to allow for a lot of water. This has to boil for 40-60 minutes.

filling

Filling: 

2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
2 cups of well seasoned shredded pork shoulder (see my recipe here for making smoked braised pork shoulder Latin style).

1 onion finely chopped

6-8 roasted poblano chiles seeded, skinned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (or in a pinch you can use canned green chiles)

8 cloves of garlic finely minced

1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar

1 teaspoon of smoked salt (I make my own, but you can buy it here)

2 tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder

1/2 cup of stock

queso

2 cups of Queso para Quesedillas, para papusas or Jack cheese grated. Any good melting cheese is fine for this.

sauce

Sauce:

4 tablespoons of masa para tamales

4 tablespoons of house rendered lard or butter

1 cup of New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder

3 cups of good stock

Method

Cut lengths of string long enough to wrap the tamales. There are different ways of folding and wrapping the tamales, but this is my favorite way to do it. You can also tie just the ends or you can fold it so there is one side open and don’t even use strings. If you do this, you must place them upright in your steamer. Some people use parchment paper instead of corn husks or banana leaves.

Soak the corn husks in hot water, weight them down so they are immersed. Just before making the tamales, pour out the water. If you are using banana leaves they need to be heated to soften. I blanch them and place them on a wet towel.

In a stand mixer (or bowl with a beater) whip the cold lard for about 3 minutes on high speed till it is fluffy

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Fold that and the stock into the lard. Mix until a very moist (but not sticky) dough forms. Chill for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

masa

In a large skillet melt the lard and add onions. Stir and cook till the onions are translucent, add garlic in a hot spot and stir, then add the chiles and spices and finally deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to simmer till the stock is absorbed, then cool.

Set up a station on a table or counter top. You will need the masa, the cheese, the filling, the string and a platter to stack the finished tamales on.

tamale ready to fold

Start with about 1/2 cup of masa on a corn husk. Fold the sides of the husk where you will want the ends of the tamales to be and spread the masa with the folded husk. Do the same thing with the top and bottom of the husk so that the dough is spread out and you end up with a square of dough about 4″ X 4″. You will need to select the husks that are large enough to accommodate this size of tamale. You should have at least an inch of exposed husk on all sides. Place the filling in the center of the masa and lightly push down on it. Then take the bottom end of the husk and roll it forward to meet the end of the dough. Pull the dough forward making the two ends of dough meet. Then fold in the sides and roll the tamale. Place the string under the tamale and tie like a package. Repeat till you have used all of the dough or filling.

tamale folded

In a steam pot, place the tamales on a rack, cover and boil vigorously for 40-50 minutes. While you are steaming make the sauce.

Chile Sauce:

You can use New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder for this. I used red this time, but my next batch of corn, cheese and chile tamales I am making green sauce.

Make a roux of the masa and lard, stir till slightly brown. Add the chile powder and stir, then whisk in the stock. Allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Keep warm till ready to serve.

To serve, open the husks and remove the tamales to a plate. The masa should be soft and supple, yet firm enough to hold together. Spoon the sauce over and add additional cheese, crema and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

tamales steamed

tamales plated 2

 

 

 

 

Smoked and Braised Pork Shoulder Latin Style

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plate 2 This recipe has been one I have used for years. I used to make it at my cooking school for Cuban Night. I change out a few things here and there to go more Italian or more Cuban. Even if you do not have a smoker this is delicious braised or done in a slow cooker or dutch oven. You simply make a paste in the food processor and then make slits in the pork shoulder (bone in or out, your choice). Marinate it over night, smoke the next morning and then finish it off in a crock pot or in a dutch oven in the oven.  Note: I do not add salt before cooking, but I offer it at the table. 

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Ingredients:

1 cup each of packed cilantro and flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup each of coriander, cumin and fennel seeds toasted

30 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup crushed red pepper (the kind you put on pizza)

1/4 cup pink pepper berries (optional)

1 tablespoon hickory powder if you are not smoking the meat

1/4 cup olive oil (I use smoked oil that I make)

1 5-7 pound pork shoulder (get them on sale and freeze)

2# Yukon Gold Potatoes

3 large onions, quartered

2 cans of beer

1/4 cup Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar (optional)

Method:

Put the cilantro, parsley seeds, garlic, pepper berries, crushed red pepper, hickory powder if you are not smoking and the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse till you have a thick paste.

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Put on latex gloves if you have them, this gets messy. Cut 1 1/2 inch slits into the meat on all sides. Stuff the slits with the paste. If you have any paste left over, smear it on the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
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Remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Meanwhile set up your smoker and turn your grill on high.

Sear the meat on all sides on the grill. Then place in the smoker at about 200 degrees over a drip pan and smoke for 6 hours. If you do not have a smoker, go directly to the slow cooker or roaster but cook for 8-10 hours on low.

Porchetta out of the smoker

Prepare the roaster or slow cooker by placing a bed of Yukon Gold potatoes (small ones or cut larger ones in half) and the onions. Sometimes I add other root vegetables too. Place the meat directly on the bed of veggies. pour two cans or bottles of beer over the meat. Sprinkle the sweet onion sugar all over.

Roast at 350 degrees covered with foil or in a dutch oven. Or you can use a slow cooker on high for 4 hours (either method).  It is just that easy. The leftovers are sometimes my favorite part… tamales, tacos pulled pork sandwiches. 🙂

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Candied Bacon, Beyond Delicious

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bacon candy

File this one under DELICIOUS! This recipe could not be easier, especially if you have access to the flavored sugars mentioned. But you can also make your own by adding chile powder to raw sugar. The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston is part of a larger company with many franchise stores around the US. They also sell everything on their corporate website. I have provided links for the sugars in case you would like to order them. You can also play around with other flavors, but this is a terrific combination.

1 package of bacon, I used thick cut black pepper bacon

3 tablespoons of Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar

1 tablespoon of Spice and Tea Exchange Habanero Sugar

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  • Place the bacon strips close together on a broiler pan
  • Sprinkle the bacon with the sugars and fresh ground black pepper
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy

You may want to double this recipe… it is impossible to resist eating these.

All of the grease will go down to the bottom pan and after you pour that out clean up is easy.