Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Inspired By Columbus: Ray Ray's Hog Pit

Ray Ray's Hog Pit
2619 N. High St
Behind Ace of Cups
Columbus, Ohio
Friday-Sunday noon-8pm
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I can't imagine anyone who enjoys barbecue and lives in Clintonville or the University District who hasn't tried Ray Ray's yet.  I have been enjoying their food since before I even lived in Columbus and was just in town visiting family.  I have tried a lot of barbecue places in Columbus and Ray Ray's is arguably the best.

Though Ray Ray's is a food truck, their partnership with Ace of Cups means even though you'll be dining outside, it doesn't mean you'll be dining in the rough.  If a soda doesn't suit you, you can get whatever drink you like from the bar and then enjoy your barbecue on the covered patio.

Their menu is focused on doing a few things really well.  It's ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and more recently jerk chicken for an entree.  Their sides are macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and baked beans.  They also offer a couple of desserts and sodas. But get there early, those black marks on the menu mean they have sold out of some items, which happens often.

Though I regularly come for the pulled pork, Ray Ray's does offer occasional specials, like their pork sundae, or double smoked "burnt ends." I made a special trip a couple of weeks ago to try out their cajun brisket which is described above.

I took my brisket home and added some of the sauce to it.  Like everything else I've had at Ray Ray's, it was delicious.  The sauce was quite different from their other sauces, though both the brisket and sauce were quite a bit spicier than I was told to expect.  Though barbecue is not completely foreign to cajun cuisine, it is also not one of the first states you associate with it.  That got me thinking about what other cuisine might lend its flavors well to a classic Southern barbecue.

How I was Inspired
I settled on a Chinese five-spice chopped pork shoulder with a sesame ginger barbecue sauce.  I have posted links to the pulled pork recipe I use in the past, so this time I wanted to highlight the actual process I go through to make a pretty darn good smoked pulled pork without a traditional smoker.  I started by rubbing an eight pound pork shoulder with Chinese five-spice powder and salt and letting it sit overnight, though you can let it sit for a few days, which I recommend whenever possible.

Using a standard grill (I happened to make my own, but this work perfectly in a large Weber kettle) Then I lit a small amount of coals and once they were ashen I top them with a few dried hardwood chunks, whichever you like, by I tend to prefer the assertive flavor of hickory.

I placed the roast in a disposable pan and set it on the cooking grate opposite the coals and then covered the grill and smoked the pork shoulder for about 5-6 hours adding about 10 briquettes and another piece of smoking wood every hour until the meat reached an internal temperature of 190 degrees.  The picture above is after one hour of smoking and the picture below is after the smoking was complete.

I let the meat rest for an hour in a sealed paper bag, before chopping it and saucing it. The sauce I made while the meat was smoking was a quick barbecue sauce (ketchup, molasses, vinegar, worcestershire, and dijon) that I added Chinese five-spice powder, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic, and ginger to. I served my chopped pork with some egg rolls and a sesame oil and rice vinegar cucumber slices.

Chinese Five-Spiced Chopped Pork Shoulder

  • 6-8 lb pork shoulder
  • charcoal
  • smoking wood chunks
  • five spice powder
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. of sriracha or more to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • toasted sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  1. Generously sprinkle the pork roast with five-spice powder and salt, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
  2. Soak the wood chunks for at least 30 minutes prior to using.  Light 3 quarts of charcoal.  When the coals are ashen position them on one side of the grill and top with 2 wood chunks.  Place the cooking grate in place.  Put the pork shoulder in a disposable pan and set opposite the coals. Cover and position the top vents to be right above the pork shoulder.  Smoke for 5-6 hours, until the meat reaches 190 degrees, adding 10 briquettes and 1 piece of smoking wood every hour.
  3. Wrap the meat in aluminum foil and place in a large paper bag, crimp to shut tightly, and let it rest for 1 hour.  
  4. While the meat is resting combine the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, worcestershire, dijon, sriracha, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil and soy sauce to taste to a small saucepan and simmer until thickened to desired consistency.
  5. Either chop the meat with a knife or pull with forks, add sauce to taste and serve.
Next week I will show some of the delicious things I ate at Roosters and how it inspired me in my home cooking.  Let me know if you think there is a restaurant I need to visit in the comment section below.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: The Ohio State Fair Taste of Ohio Cafe

The Ohio State Fair
717 E. 17th Ave.
Columbus, Ohio
open end of July - beginning of August

I love the Ohio State Fair.  After years of faithful attendance I remain convinced there is more to do here that I could possibly handle in one day. But I pack as much livestock, handcraft, rides, and of course food as I can.  

Though I often stop at one of the many places selling fried sweets, corn dogs, or turkey legs, I find some of the most delicious, budget-friendly and interesting food is in the Taste of Ohio Cafe right in the middle of the fairgrounds.  The large, thankfully air-conditioned space is like a food court that is devoted to local meat and dairy.  The center is filled with tables large and small while on the perimeter about a half-dozen lines form divided by protein type: poultry, beef, pork, lamb, and dairy.

You really can't go wrong in any line, but this year I decided to get some delicious Ohio pork.  Though pig wings and the pork parfait are both whimsical and delicious, I saw that this year they also had something not featured on the main menu, the three little pigs.

This slider trio takes two of their menu items, the pork loin and pulled pork sandwiches and adds a mini-BLT to create this delicious study in pork.  The BLT was by far the best, but the experience of trying each type of pork was enjoyable just for the novelty.

And speaking of novelty, I would be remiss if I didn't mention this gem just a little outside of the Taste of Ohio Cafe.  Along with the pork parfait (layers of pulled pork and mashed potatoes), these ice cream inspired entrees I thought typified the kind of whimsy one expects at the fair.

To be successful at the fair you can be one of three kinds of food.  Fair staples are things like corn dogs, pizza, and smoked turkey legs.  These are things that you expect to see at any state or county fair and you just can't help but be tempted by them.  The second category is well-established local food.  Schmidt's Sausage Haus and Der Dutchman fit in this category as do many others. Finally, there are foods that try and do something new and usually over the top hoping that the sheer novelty will draw people in.  Chocolate covered bacon, in addition to the meat sundaes mentioned above fall here. This category is my favorite and is what inspired me in my own cooking.  

How I was Inspired 
I decided to take the idea of a trio of flavors I encountered with my "three little pigs" and the concept of the meat sundae and put them together to play on a banana split.  This is a playful and over-the-top way to make something interesting with your leftovers at the end of the week and you could substitute nearly anything for what I did.

I roasted a turkey breast and made some stuffing and gravy.

I made a pot roast with a red wine reduction and served it with some classic mashed potatoes that Lyndsay made.

And finally, I went to Ray Ray's Hog Pit and picked up some pulled pork (I guess I was too tired to smoke my own after the turkey and pot roast).  To go along with it Lyndsay made some mashed sweet potatoes with thyme and I made a South Carolina mustard barbecue sauce.  The reason for this is because I've learned mustard barbecue sauce goes amazingly well with sweet potatoes.

So after enjoying turkey, pot roast, and pulled pork all week I had a bunch of leftovers to work with.  I sliced some yellow squash and sauteed it over medium heat until golden brown on both sides.  Now it was time to assemble this Frankenstein monster of awesomeness.

I tossed the pot roast with the red wine reduction, the turkey with it's gravy, and the pulled pork with the mustard barbecue sauce and then used an ice cream scoop to mound them in the center of a shallow bowl.

Next I topped each with its respective starch: mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potatoes.

Finally, I added two slices of yellow squash and a garnishes to each: a grape tomato, cranberry sauce, and fresh herbs. Now this looks like something that would draw people in.  As I mentioned before you could substitute almost anything: risotto and chicken, couscous and lamb, etc. In fact, my brother recommended substituting a split sausage for the squash, but I thought that might be meat overkill.  You also don't have to all the different flavors, you could just make a sundae with one kind of meat and starch.

Here are the recipes I used when I make each of these components.  Beyond that it is literally just a matter of sauteing the squash in a little oil over medium heat until golden brown and assembling and then adding the garnishes. 

Three Meat Sundae
What are some of your favorite fair foods.  Now that the fair is over, where should I dine next.  Let me know in the comments.