New summer experiments, smoked porchetta and SwineApple

My kitchen looks like my Pinterest boards exploded all over it this week, but I can’t say I’m mad about it, because all of the experiments I tried for my Independence Day party were great successes!

beer-can chicken and swineapples

Every year, I have a big Fourth of July party, usually starring a few smoked items using my Masterbuilt M7P smoker. This year, like every year, I smoked a few good meats, including a beer-can chicken, but I wanted a few good desserts, too.

The first was super-simple … a cookie sheet, a bunch of Oreo cookies, some marshmallows, and a jar of cookie butter. (The recipe I took this from called for peanut butter, but Trader Joe’s has this thing that actually tastes like cookies, so I thought that would be better. I was right. You should feel free to use whatever gooey, creamy, buttery spread you have on hand.)

s'mOreos

I prepared it before my party started, and when it was dessert time, I just turned on the oven and let them melt and get all gooey. My only mistake was only making one pan full of them.

finished s'mOreos

My next dessert also required a bit of work before the party, but it was worth it. Basically, I made Jell-O shots using a watermelon as the mold … hollow out a watermelon, fill it with Jello-O (oh yeah, with vodka instead of cold water) and then at the party, slice your watermelon into adorable slices.

watermelon Jell-O shots

Just make sure you cut your “watermelon” into small pieces if you’re making them into vodka shots.

For my meat dishes, I had two ideas in mind. I wanted to try to make my own version of a porchetta. In Italy, it’s a small, boneless, suckling pig, stuffed with herbs and roasted over a spit, then served with crusty bread.

Neither my budget nor my outdoor cooking system will accommodate a whole, boneless suckling pig, so I didn’t even bother researching how much that would cost me. Instead I took a trip to my favorite butcher shop, which had super-thick-cut slices of both pork loin and pork belly.

porchetta weave

I wove the thick slices together, coated it with a mixture of herbs on the inside, (green onion, parsley, garlic, cilantro, and white wine), then rolled it carefully.

I let them sit in the fridge overnight and smoked them alongside my other meat items.

smoked porchetta

Then I served the slices of finished smoked porchetta with some nice crusty bread. Again, my only mistake was not making enough.

smoked porchetta with bread

I definitely will be working on the specifics for this porchetta some more before I post a full recipe. I want to tweak the herb stuffing so it’s not so spicy, and tweak the meat so it holds in more moisture without being wrapped in foil while smoking. This was an excellent experiment, for sure … but it could be better.

Lastly, and surprisingly the most fun, was the SwineApple. I had trouble finding two large pineapples (those smaller, sweeter, Hawaiian ones are in the stores now), so I made four small ones. I also found some amazing spicy bulgogi-spiced pork belly and pork spareribs at the local Korean grocery store, so that’s what I used to stuff and wrap my pineapples.

pineapple staging

The most time-consuming hands-on part of the process is properly coring and peeling your pineapples, which is harder than it looks. If you’ve never tried it before, ask your grocer for help or try a You Tube video for some tricks. I found it was easiest to core the pineapples first, then cut the peel off.

And don’t throw away the cores and peels! Save them to make tepache. Trust me.

SwineApple

  • four small (or two large) whole pineapples, cores and peels removed
  • 3 lbs. boneless pork spareribs, seasoned and cut into small chunks
  • 5 lbs. thick-sliced seasoned pork belly or bacon

First, stuff the pineapples with the bits of pork spareribs. Try to keep the pieces small so they cook thoroughly.

pork spareribs

Next, wrap them with the bacon or pork belly, and use a toothpick or two to hold the slices in place if necessary.

swineapples ready to smoke

Place them (gently!) on the smoker and smoke for about 3 hours.

swineapples on the smoker

As you can see, my smoker was a little crowded on Independence Day.

photo courtesy of Annie Greenberg

photo courtesy of Annie Greenberg

Although most of the pork belly wrap seemed to sort of melt into the fruit, the spareribs on the inside stay nice and chunky.

sliced swineapples

Then, all you have to do is slice it up and serve it with some toothpicks.

Epic wings are so … epic.

I have found the dish that will forever be the star of your outdoor dinner party. I first tried these at a friend’s house (he was trying to copy some wings from a local bar) and I have made them a few times. I’m in love. And I am no slouch with party snacks.

It’s a fairly simple recipe, taking a total of about 2 hours, only about 1 1/2 of them are hands-off (unless you are making your own sauces). It can be adapted for size, tastes and ingredients. It also showcases two of the best ways to add flavor to some meat: smoking and frying. Lastly, you drown those delicious wings in lots of epic sauce, and you can get really creative with the toppings.

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Very simply, epic wings are so F*^%^% epic because of the easy, yet profound cooking process.

smoked wings

Step 1: Season the wings. I use a simple herb mixture. Try to keep the salt content low so it doesn’t dry out the meat during smoking.

Step 2: Smoke the wings. Of course I use my awesome Masterbuilt 7-in-1 smoker/grill, which is well-seasoned and smokes pretty quickly. Use any type of wood, for at least an hour. If you smoke it longer than one hour it will add more flavor, but they’re already fully cooked after about 45 minutes on 250 degrees.

smoked wings

Step 3: Fry the wings. A good flash-fry, in hot oil. Preferably in a cast-iron skillet with bacon grease.

fried wings

Step 4: Toss the wings in sauce. This is a great time to get creative, or even (especially at a BBQ or party) to do a few different types of flavors.

dipping the wings

Get ’em saucy. They can take it; that flash-fry got them nice and crispy, so they won’t get soggy.

smoked, fried, tossed in sauce

When my friend tried this recipe for the first time, he tried to re-create the local bar’s “dirty sauce,” which is all four of their sauces — Buffalo wing sauce, sweet and sour sauce, BBQ sauce and ranch dressing — and it was really amazing.

epic dirty sauce

Those were using generic, store-brand sauces, except for Sweet Baby Ray’s brand BBQ sauce and Hidden Valley Ranch from the packet.

I also made this same recipe and dirty sauce using my own homemade BBQ sauce and homemade Buffalo wing sauce (traditionally made with Frank’s Hot Sauce and butter, instead of Frank’s I used my own homemade, lacto-fermented sriracha).
epic wings comic recipe card