January Thaw Blues – And Memphis Food

(Originally Posted 1/20/2015) It’s that depressing time of winter when the beautiful snow melts and I question whether the Nordic ski season will be a bust. Whether I should take up downhill skis, or maybe learn to play hockey. I should probably do both those things.

When surrounded by sloppy half slush outside, it’s always nice to have a few cooking projects to fall back on. I’ve tried the cuisines of prime skiing regions (Scandinavia, Austria, even the Rocky Mountains and Western Canada). Best option? Memphis. For the January Thaw Blues.

BBQ Pork – Of course. Memphis is a style of BBQ unto itself, as described by BBQ Geeks.Short version: it’s slow cooked pork and they are relatively open minded in that they allow customers to choose whether they want “dry” or “wet” ribs. There’s also an intermediate version where you can use a “mop” sauce on the pork while it’s cooking.

Here’s a Serious Eats recipe for Memphis style BBQ sauce, here’s a BBQ Bible recipe version of ribs with a mop sauce, and here is a dry rub recipe . . . that is different from Kansas City dry rubs. . . both are very tasty.

Beer. If you want to be classy, check out these Signature Drinks for a Memphis Wedding.

Pork Sandwiches – These come with coleslaw in them so it’s practically a salad course. If I’m going to make homemade rolls for pork sandwiches (it’s often worth the trouble. . . the meat cooks slowly, you’ve got time) I go for the pan de Medianoche recipe in The Cuban Table cookbook. It isn’t even the correct country, I realize this, they’re just really really good.

You could also serve the pork in nacho form and be relatively authentic (according to Wikipedia)

Extra Coleslaw (see link above). Also what I believe goes really well with pork is Kim Chi.

Other Minor Vegetables: If you have dilly beans, now is a time to break them out. Anything pickled, really. Also, this Italian celery salad from Food 52 (if you really want to go crazy with refreshingly crisp celery, try this celery soda, also from Food 52). Sliced crisp apples (thanks to cold storage we can get those in January in Vermont now) or other tart fruit. Are these really traditional accompaniments to Memphis BBQ? Maybe the dilly beans.

Tennessee Stack Cake – These are sort of the same idea as icebox cakes, just a whole lot more elaborate. They’re rounds of layers that are somewhere between cake and cookie, with a fruit filling in between, left overnight for the layers to sort of medley. Here is one example from Epicurious.

It seems wrong not to mention Elvis. And fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Possibly with bacon. I happen to have the Liddabit Sweets cookbook which means I have their recipe for candy bars based on that combo (you’d want to make these well ahead of the full dinner because they take long enough and are messy enough that you won’t want to see the kitchen again for a few days). But you could always just do tea sandwich versions of the original and call them an appetizer.

Then, hopefully, when all the cooking is over, the snow will have recovered to ski-able again.

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