Tue Jun 19, 2018
I used to never throw cookouts on the big grilling holidays—I figured chances were high someone else would be playing host on those days, so it was my time to take a break and just be a guest. That changed last year when I mashed-up our annual Carne-val celebration with Memorial Day, and the turnout was so great, I decided to do a repeat again this year. With a growing base of friends here in Durham, this equated to probably 50 or more folks showing up, and while I was armed with more than enough meat, feeding so many, so quickly had me ending the day with something that has never really happened before—being so busy I had almost no time to take photos. So while the day was great, albeit exhausting, I'm relying a bit on past photos to tell the story, which feels a little weird to me, but I still wanted to document all the greatness that was Carne-val 2018.
Knowing I was going to have a huge turnout, it seemed right to make this a double brisket day. With the first brisket, I hoped to do a repeat of my glowing success of a Texas-style specimen I smoked up last Memorial Day. I got close again, but for some reason the brisket never got up to my ideal 203°F and wasn't the exact same glistening beast of rendered fat and ultra tender beef. I complained to my guests that I wasn't as happy with this one, but none of them could understand why because it still tasted just as amazing to everyone else.
The second brisket I separated the point from the flat and made pastrami from the flat. I think I've finally perfected my pastrami process and can consistently output a great product. Because of this, I took the extra step this time around and make the pastrami into reubens, which were hella delicious, but for anyone out there considering making sandwiches for a large crowd, I'll warn you...it may not be the best choice if you don't want to be stuck constructing them all day long.
I was really excited about those ruebens and didn't want my vegetarian friends to miss out, so I made a non-meat option as well. I used tempeh as the base here, thinking the fermented flavor would be the right call for "pastrami." I then used mustard to create a coating the pastrami rub would adhere to, then grilled the tempeh until warmed throughout. Next they got the same reuben treatment as the meaty version with sauerkraut, Swiss, and Russian dressing all piled into toasted rye.
So this is a photo of the pulled pork, coleslaw, and macaroni salad I made at last year's Carne-val, all of which made return appearances this year. I smoked up three pork butts to ensure there would be enough meat for everyone. For the coleslaw, I did my favorite mustard slaw recipe, and returned to an extra-tangy macaroni salad I devised many years back and forgotten how tasty it was.
Also a photo from last year are these pork belly burnt ends. I actually did two versions of burnt ends—both with pork belly and brisket. While my whole brisket wasn't all I had hoped for, the burnt ends were perfect. I snuck a few for myself while I was slicing them, then went back for a few more minutes after placing them out on the table, only to find they were already gone. Luckily I still had a lot of the pork belly burnt ends on deck, which were also long gone by day's end.
I cooked up a couple loaves of my favorite moist cornbread recipe. This photo is from when I actually developed the recipe, which relies more on sour cream than buttermilk to get its tanginess, and I think the sour cream actually leads to a more tender and moist end product. I put out some honey butter to go with the bread, and once I get those two sweet and rich things together, I can't stop eating them—I ended up devouring a lot of this cornbread throughout the day, and then the leftovers in the days following too.
I swear I had about fifty guests, who all contributed with tons of food and drink, and I'm super grateful for every single one of them. Since I wasn't able to get away from the grill though until most folks left, I have no photos of all the other food, and also only photos of those who stuck around a bit longer than most. Steve, Josh, and Mary here were part of that crew.
Opposite of them we have Evan, Ryan, and Juliana. You can't really tell from the photo, but everyone is under tents, because one thing I forgot to mention previously about this day—it rained the entire time. I had already bought all the meat and the invitations had been sent once the weather report went from iffy to ominous with a tropical storm passing through, so I decided to host anyway and made an indoor-outdoor space between my garage and driveway that housed everyone pretty well, maybe just a tad crowded.
Seated in the indoor section are Leslie, Lindsay, Christina, and Mel, still chatting away after the masses had cleared.
And I'll leave you with Alice, sporting some great blue icing lipstick. It feels odd that this recap is ending without fully capturing the immensity of the day—the amount food, drinks, and friends was unmatched in Meatwave history. I always wondered if the Meatwave would ever get too big, and you could argue this day may have been that tipping point, but really, everyone left full, happy, and probably with some new friends, and that's really the measure of success for these cookouts. So while I may not have been able to enjoy the company as much as usual and was left with an incomplete photographic document of the event, it was still a grand Meatwave and something I'm likely to repeat next year.