Sunny, breezy and 68 degrees is the perfect day for a barbecue according to Patrick Hallahan, drummer of My Morning Jacket. Hallahan recently was in town serving up his pulled pork at The Brooklyn Bowl as a part of Taste Talks a food festival that took place in September and that used Brooklyn as it’s backdrop to discuss and devour all things food. The two-day event kicked off with a pancake breakfast with Blue Ribbon that served up Patrick’s pulled pork. After a few plates of his barbecue and a few rounds of bowling Patrick met with us on the roof of the Wythe hotel for a couple more rounds (of gin and tonics) and talked to us about his love for food.
S: Patrick, I was so excited to see that you’d be involved with Taste Talks and serving up your pulled pork at Brooklyn Bowl’s breakfast event. How did you start making pulled pork?
P: My dad’s a really good cook. That’s how it started. From childhood, I was always infatuated with the kitchen and cooking, and I got cookbooks as presents as a child. I always wanted to be a chef. I never thought I’d be a professional musician. I actually thought I was going to be a chef as a kid. If you asked me in the fourth grade what I wanted to be, that is what I would have told you. But through the years, my dad and I always worked so much; I always looked for a bonding point, and it was always cooking. And it continues to be so. It’s the time we get to talk about the world’s problems, talk about the worlds gifts, talk about each other, talk about the family.
Barbecue takes a long time, so it’s not just about the food. Barbecuing is actually a very social thing, and had always been a big social gathering. We’re from Kentucky, and there is this soup called burgoo. Everyone would just bring what they had to add. They all lived on farms for eight months out of the year. Every once in a while they’d get together and cook, and the cooking took so long that it became a social thing. To make a long story short, the reason barbecuing is as much social as it is culinary, is they go hand in hand. It’s perfect.
My father and I had been working on this recipe for a really long time. Just kind of trying different things and manipulating the spice mixture and the temperature. About the same time, my friend, Dave Kornell, who’s the chef at Blue Ribbon, asked me to do this and it was just perfect. So my father and I sat down together and made the spice rub in Louisville, Kentucky, and I bottled it and shipped it to New York, and taught all these guys how to make pulled pork.
S: Are you able to make pulled pork at home on your own? Or do you need a giant smoker and the whole thing to pull it off? Is there a way for a novice cook to make it?
P: There are only a few stages to pulled pork barbecue that any reader can take on. You have to find a pork butt with a really good fat cap on it, because as everybody knows, fat equals delicious and moisture. So a really good pork butt, a hot fire, some soaked wood (preferably fruit woods, like cherry), applewood, and even a walnut or something like that is great. Not hickory, it’s too abrasive. And time and patience. You can do your own spice rubs, and it doesn’t take much: salt, sugar, pepper, whatever you need, but it just takes patience.
S: What is the whole process like, from start to finish, when you make pulled pork?
P: I get the pork butts out of the refrigerator, and I usually let them come to room temperature. Once it comes to room temperature, dry rub a healthy dose and then they sit, and they sweat and it becomes one. And then at that point, you put them in the smoker, whichever kind of smoker it is, with enough space in between so smoke can envelope the whole thing. And then just time; little pieces of wood here and there; little plumes of flavor; and just lots and lots of time. It took 20 hours.
P: We made 10 pork butts I’d say that is probably 70 or 80 pounds of pulled pork. There’s only a tiny little bit left, so everybody ate it all.
S: So you shipped the spice up here ahead of time and then yesterday you came here when you landed?
P: I literally got off the plane and brought my luggage into Brooklyn Bowl, and started cooking right away, because it just takes so long to do it right. That’s the thing about barbecue: it’s kind of like a metaphor for life in a way like you just don’t hurry things. The more you hurry the more resistance you get. When you barbecue something, it’s a good reminder the more that you try to rush something, the worse it gets. So if you just lay back and let things take their course and have confidence in your path, then all should fall into place.
S: Do you make a lot of BBQ for the band?
P: I don’t have a lot of time, we’re moving targets, but I do cook whenever we’re together for a period of time. We were writing for a particular album for a month together, and I cooked a lot for that.
Actually with this particular event, I was hoping that the smoker was outside. I wanted to get a cooler full of beer and invite a bunch of friends, because it takes so long to do it. Why not get people together and find out how each other are doing, like maybe solve the world’s problems and maybe cause some problems? It should be a social event. When my family gets together it’s usually a pretty big deal. There’s usually a keg and four to six smokers going, and lots of storytelling, fire pits, and music. It’s beautiful.
P: I’m not somebody that shouts out what I’m doing. I think chefs are on par with musicians and painters and sculptures and composers and ballet dancers. To take elements and mix them together — and know what you’re doing to create balance and to give it to somebody — I think is universal. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, but the end result is balanced, thought out; there’s a lot of love behind it. As long as you’re receiving that, what more do you want? Yes, I like food, but anybody who’s doing that is where I’m going to be, you know what I mean?
S: It’s all about the creative process.
P: It is. I look at spices the same way I look at song structures. I just want to pick them and edit them together, and hopefully it tastes good or sounds good. Sometimes they sound like shit and sometimes they taste like shit, but then you go back and you’re like, “Okay, that didn’t work.”
I don’t really ever cook for a lot of people, and today was really special for me because normally it’s just family and friends. It’s just normally our little friends, but it was nice to be called to arms. It took me out of my comfort zone, which is always good for the beginner’s mind, whenever you’re creating something to take yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’re not using your devices, then you’re immediately acting on your impulses, and sometimes that’s the best thing in the world. It’s the same thing with songwriting.
Photo Credit: Taste Talks
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