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Thursday, May 04, 2006

The best pig roast - bar none

One 100-pound pig on the spit
One enchanted garden
One breezy Santa Cruz evening
One Pacific ocean shimmering just over there
Friends, old and new

Mix all of those together and what do you get? The best pig roast ever. Well, o.k., the best pig roast ever in my very limited pig roasting experience.

The day before the roast, the two hosts Chris and Hugh drove thirty miles up the gorgeous California coast to Half Moon Bay to pick up the pig from Bar None Ranch. (It's May and it's Eat Local month, remember?) They chose a gorgeous black Birkshire pig from the line-up, and the people at the ranch did the rest. Hugh called her Henrietta.

They took her back to Hugh's cottage on the coast, stuffed her with Chorizo, got her tied up for the spit before rigor set in, and put her in Hugh's bathtub full of ice to wait for the party the next day. Can you imagine going to the bathroom with a dead pig all tied up in your tub? Emily, Chris's wife, said it was quite a scene from a horror movie. Lucky the guy with a ski mask and power saw didn't come crashing through the door in the night.

By the time we arrived the next day, the lovely Henrietta was already well on her way on the spit. The late afternoon sun was still high, the sky was bright, bright blue, the enchanted garden was all dressed up in fancy party dress, a merry band of friends old and new, and the Pacific ocean was shimmering just over there.

We took a little walk down to the ocean while Henrietta was slowly turning on the spit. The instructions form Hugh went something like this:

walk down to the edge of the garden, then down a few dodgy steps -looking not quite sturdy enough to step on but they surely were- then follow the train tracks to the dirt path, with a wide open field to your right and another wide open field to your left, but on this one you'd see some cows. Walk along the broken down fence, and at the end of it the ocean.

The last time I had a direction that cute it was given in French, avec l'accent midi.

Henrietta was finished just in time for the sunset. And we sat down under the torch light to savor the succulent meat and the crackling skin. Added to the indulgence was an array of sides, salsa and guagamole, tortillas, grilled corn, scallions, and even Nopales citrus. I also made a Thai Jaew sauce –a classic Northeastern Thai sauce for grilled meats. We drank Tecate and Schiener Bach by the keg, not to mention the magnum of '96 Hospices de Beaune Meursault that we brought.

The food and the fun lasted well into the night. Getting back to the car, we walked along the Highway 1 in the moonlight, the skies glimmering with numberless stars, faint echos of laughter still filled the air. What a perfect Santa Cruz evening. I am really liking it here.

Thai Jaew sauce
(The original version has mint as the main herb, but I added some lemon basil in this version.)

1 cup fish sauce
juice from 2-3 limes, depending on taste
1 tbsp sugar
chilli powder to taste
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 cup chopped mint
1 cup chopped lemon basil
1/4 cup rice (roasted in a dry pan until brown and fragrant, then grounded)
a small handful of chopped cilantro and scallions to garnish

Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar together.
Toss in the chopped herbs.
Sprinkle the toasted rice powder, then the chilli powder.
Mix well and check the seasonings.
Serve as a condiment to grilled meats.


Local sources:
Pig: Bar None Ranches
Thai herbs: Chue's Farms (from the Ferry Plaza market)
Nopales edible cactus: Watsonville
Corns: San Louis Obispo (from Green Leaf produce)

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