One of the nice things about having a barbecue blog is that people bring you barbecue. The other night, two of Nancy’s Mah Jongg buddies, Ellen Buchanan and Ann Owens, who came up together in Winnsboro, South Carolina, brought me some barbecue from Gardner’s in Rocky Mount, North Carolina — Eastern North Carolina chopped barbecue.
I waited until the next evening to eat it, already having prepared my supper for that night. It had been refrigerated, of course, and I could have eaten it cold — it wouldn’t have been the first time — but I had time and so heated it up.
This raises the issue of how to re-heat chopped barbecue. I already have written about re-heating whole pork butts, but that approach doesn’t really work on chopped barbecue unless you are inclined to wait a good while to eat — 20 or 30 minute to start the charcoal and soak the hickory and another hour or so to let it cook oh so slowly; in short, if you have company coming to eat it. If you’re by yourself, though, you want to get down to eating it right away.
Some people microwave it, which is just flat wrong. Microwaving changes the taste of cooked meat, and not in a nice way. I hate to think what sort of person would do that to some innocent barbecue. Other people put it in the oven and heat it up, which dries it out. Covering the meat ends up steaming it, and making it mushy.
Here’s what I recommend. First, heat a skillet over a low heat, and grease the entire surface lightly with some of the bacon grease you have in the refrigerator. Spread the meat around the surface of the skillet.
Cook over a low heat for a bit, then cover for a few minutes, then uncover and, if you like, give it a shot of high heat for a minute to get a touch of caramelization on the bottom.
I added some chopped raw cabbage, which adds a nice contrast in texture and a good flavor, and some dip from Red Bridge’s in Shelby, North Carolina (I’d run out of Wilber’s sauce and didn’t want to open a fresh bottle of Ollie’s). Then I put it between couple of slices of white bread. Never use anything but plain white bread or buns with barbecue.
I would have preferred a bun, but I didn’t have any. I really enjoyed the sandwich. Ellen and Ann are really nice people. Anyone who brings you barbecue is nice, but they’re really nice. I haven’t been to Gardner’s in a long, long time. Parker’s is just down the road, after all. Maybe one day when I’m heading north I’ll dawdle after lunch, check out the Whirligig Park, maybe stop and pick up some sausage at the Smith’s Red and White in Dortches, and be ready for another lunch at Gardner’s. Assuming, that is, I don’t hit Smith’s restaurant for some vegetables.
Let me know what you think of Gardner’s.
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