This past Saturday I had the privilege of judging Pig Island, a festival of fine swine hosted by my dear friend Jimmy Carbone. The pork was provided by Flying Pigs Farm, and much of it took the form of ribs. As anybody who knows anything about barbecue and cooking it in a festival setting, it’s very easy to screw up ribs. You can take a perfectly good smoked rib and ruin the texture by grilling it afterwards. The best ribs come straight from the smoker, or in the case of my dear friend Rodrigo Duarte, straight from a pig bladder.
Duarte, a Portuguese meat alchemist, marinated his ribs overnight in a heady brew of beer, garlic, lemon juice, white pepper, bell pepper paste, cumin, cloves and white wine and then roasted them for two hours in a brick oven. Once they were roasted he slow cooked them for two more hours in a pig bladder. When I arrived on site and saw his twin kettles bubbling away with their porcine balloons I exclaimed, “Rodrigo Duarte is insane in the best possible way!”
The result is good theater, as it’s fun to watch the bladder being cut open, but it makes for an even better sandwich. Pulled off the bone, and dressed with little more than mint and orange and placed in a Portuguese roll, it was the best rib sandwich I have ever eaten. I swore there was butter on the roll, but the richness came from a magical elixir of pork fat and jus. Duarte didn’t take home any prizes for the sandwich, but he did win Best Whole Hog. Check out the other winners here.