Thrilla in Meatnila
Part of the reality of Meatwave NC is that the dead of summer months are just too hot to host a comfortable cookout. So we took all of July and August off and got things going again last weekend with a Thrilla in Meatnila. I originally had an entirely different theme planned out, but then I realized I have never cooked Filipino food for my Durham friends and got too excited to do so to hold off. I've done a couple Filipino themed events while in NY though, which covered a lot of foundational territory with the cuisine, so this time around I took some liberties and veered from the classics to serve up more creative Filipino-inspired dishes that all turned out pretty kick ass.
The piece de resistance was this smoked lechon liempo. A couple years ago I made a smoked porchetta that left a couple of my friends so impressed that they bring it up over and over again. Today was their day because this lechon liempo was really just the Filipino equivalent of porchetta. Instead of being stuffed with Italian herbs and spices, this pork belly was seasoned with lemongrass, scallions, garlic, shallots, vinegar, and pepper before being smoked and then crisped up on the rotisserie to make one of the tastiest items of the day.
Next up were these adobo ribs. Adobo is so ubiquitous in Filipino cuisine, but not an easy thing to adapt for grilling because it requires braising in a vinegar and soy sauce mixture. To give these ribs the right adobo tang, I first smoked them for a couple hours before wrapping them in foil and pouring in the adobo liquid. They then braised for a couple hours, then were unwrapped and cooked a little longer prior to being finished with a glaze made by reducing the adobo sauce. Tangy, savory, and with a little sweetness, they certainly delivered the taste of Filipino adobo I was after.
I put that adobo sauce on double duty by making this adobo eggplant. This was a pretty quick and easy dish that only required me to grill some Chinese eggplant before transferring it to a bowl and soaking it in the sauce. The eggplant really absorbs the liquid, giving it a strong tart and salty flavor that made the fruit delicious.
I couldn't have a Filipino cookout without grilling up some Filipino BBQ. This is probably the Filipino dish I make the most often, having developed a great marinade that churns out incredibly sweet and savory pork time and again. I usually use cubed pork butt on skewers for this, but this time around I sliced the pork butt, marinated, then grilled it until it was a beautiful glossy brown. I then chopped it up and piled it into steamed buns, topping the meat with achara—pickled green papaya. The crunch and tartness the achara was a great foil for the sweet pork that tasted at home delivered in a bao format.
Since chicken wings continues to be one of favorite things to cook, I snuck them into the menu at this Meatwave too. I prepped them using an inasal marinade, which consists of achiote oil, vinegar, lemongrass, calamansi juice, garlic, ginger, and sugar. It's a great pairing with chicken, giving these wings a bright, lemony, and tangy flavor with a bit of a garlicky bite. It also left the wings with an attractive yellow-orange hue too.
Last, but not least, in the line-up were these bistek rolls. The morning of the Meatwave I made fresh pan de sal (Filipino rolls) and then used those to craft small sandwiches filled with marinated flank steak, grilled onions, fried egg, and achara. The tart and salty beef tasted great with the egg and achara, while the pan de sal added the touch of sweetness that left the entire thing feeling balanced, making it easy to down more than one little sandwich.
I've been slacking on the guest photos at Meatwaves this year, so I tried to do better this time and give a proper shout out to all the lovely people who I get to call friends. We start the roll call off with Alice, who is enjoying one more item I made—ube ice cream!
Next we have Emily, Kim, and Christina who I snagged a group shot of as they were on their way out.
Josh and Steve are here taking it easy with some beers. Josh is enjoying a well deserved break after his killer annual Oktoberfest party the day before at Motorco.
Jenny and Evan are all smiles, and we were especially surprised to see Jenny since she was slated to be in Asheville for the weekend. While not great that her trip got cancelled, we were certainly happy she was able to get to the Meatwave.
Leslie, Brooks, and Benji are next in here. Like Jenny, Benji was a last minute addition—he started the day off in Virginia, but arrived home in North Carolina in time to get some prime Meatwave hangs in.
Always nice to have Chris and Sue in attendance. I've been trying to get into some semblance of shape before a hiking-filled trip to Patagonia in a couple months and had the pleasant surprise of running into them the other day on one of my eight mile treks that are becoming a regular occurrence. Definitely better hangs at the Meatwave than on the trail though.
Kristin and Christina plopped down at the picnic table at the start of the day at stayed there the entire time, and this was a pretty long Meatwave. So happy to have Christina join us after a summer spent partially stuck inside after a breaking her ankle. She's more mobile just in time for the start of the cooler weather where we'll all be spending more time together outdoors.
We'll end today with the great couple of Paul and Lara. We knew Lara from back in the day in NY, but have lived in Durham for four years without knowing she was also here. A chance encounter a couple months ago changed that, and since then, we realized we go to a lot of the same shows and events around town. So good to have reconnected and have them join in their first NC Meatwave!