Thankspigging: A New Power Is Rising

Photo by Jay Forman

The elephant in the room is the turkey.

We all seem to dance around the subject. We go to great lengths to tart it up, stuffing it with ducks, chickens and various dressings. We brine it, we deep fry it, we purchase boutique and heritage versions of it. We surround it with a panoply of sides far more enticing than the golden, broad-breasted lie right smack there in the middle of the table. The sad, uninteresting truth is that turkey is boring.

My friend Teddy and I want to change all that.

Less than 48 hours removed from Turkey day proper, most of America’s minds will still be dulled as their bodies devote precious alimentary resources to digesting those persistent, cottony wads of flavorless protein from the Bird-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. But Teddy and I will awaken early on Saturday, November 26, to fire up our smokers and apply slathers and rubs to the most wonderful and magical of creatures in celebration of our third-annual Thankspigging celebration. I speak, of course, of the Pig.

I am here to help spread the Gospel According to Pork. It was Teddy’s idea of course; he is a man who needs little prompting to smoke a pork butt and tie a tap to his latest pony of homebrew. But all cosmic indicators for a long time have pointed at an excuse for a new breed of party, itself a pretty remarkable feat here in New Orleans where I thought we had turned over all such stones. The indicators were these – friends and family are in from out of town, a cause for celebration. There are lots of delicious sides that need to be eaten, preferably with pulled pork. The event stands in delirious, smoky contrast to the starched and Rockwellian charade of that other holiday, what’s-it-called. Because at Thankspigging, you don’t care if the china doesn’t match, so long as there are multiple homemade barbecue sauces from which to choose. At Thankspigging, it is OK to wear plastic snouts while engaging in polite conversation. You expect to see candied praline bacon crumbles atop your cupcakes, instead of being confused by such turns of cuisine.

Indeed, for cooks, the canvas to work with is far more exciting than the well-trod turkey path. Thanksgiving is corporate, Thankpigging is a start-up. With the former, having to account for shareholders' expectations means slipping some fresh ginger into the cranberry sauce is about as wild as you can get. With Thankspigging, it is anything goes so long as pork is in play.

“This year I’m going to do a duck stuffed with boneless country-style pork ribs with the whole thing wrapped in bacon,” Teddy texted yesterday. “I’ll call it Pigduckpig. I’ll either be a genius or a fool.”

Advantage: Thankspigging.

Personally, I’ll be doing four racks of baby back ribs, some of them glazed with a cranberry-and-juniper barbecue sauce, smoked for eight hours over natural charcoal and apple wood chunks. A choucroute with three kinds of sausage is not out of the question, and last’s years Pork Spare Rib and Duck Confit Cassoulet is still a topic of conversation.

So New Orleanians out there in search of the next new thing – how about giving Thankspigging a shot? And chefs who like to think outside the box, how about setting up a few pork-inspired prix fixe menus for those of us in search of a bacon-y good time? Pete Vazquez – I’m talking to you. This year, leave Thanksgiving to the birds, and let your Pig Star shine. Write and let me know how it goes.

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