I've never really been one for the uniquely southern tradition of college football tailgates. Until recently, NJ didn't have much in the way of a college sports scene worth paying attention to. But I got to taste a bit of that tradition last week at Four Points and Coke Zero's Ultimate Fan Tailgating Experience.
Former Hill Country BBQ executive chef Elizabeth Karmel whipped up a spread of North Carolina slow-cooked BBQ for myself and a host of other enthusiasts last week, and shared with me the wisdom of full-fat mayonnaise.
First up was her grilled hot wings with a homemade blue cheese dip. Now, I come from the school of wet ass wings. I'm not talking wet wings — I'm talking wet ass wings (it's not the most appetizing name, but it works for us). However, I was opened up to a new style at Four Points. These savory-yet-slightly-sweet wings (bone-in, because I don't hate myself) were dry, but hardly short on flavor, with an odd but hardly unwelcome vinegary flavor supporting them. This was meat and heat first, and didn't need to hide behind a dripping sauce.
That said, the homemade blue cheese found the perfect compromise between creamy and chunky, and only served to enhance the flavor. One of the biggest mistakes I see wings make is serving simply as a conduit for blue cheese to enter one's mouth. Here, the cheese and the chicken married beautifully.
Wings were followed by North Carolina-style pulled pork sandwiches paired with a wonderfully balanced cole slaw. I've written about slaw before, but the fact can't be overstated: slaw is not weak afterthought to throw onto a dish to fill the plate up (Looking at you, Applebee's.). Slaw is cabbage's chance to show you what it's capable of. Think of slaw the way the Rolling Stones thought about M&Ms: if you're served a weak slaw drowning in a runny mayonnaise, send the whole plate back, because that chef clearly doesn't care about what goes on it.
This slaw was incredible. The chef gave a rip about the cole slaw, and it carried over into her pulled pork: rich and vinegary, with savory meat and a sweet yet tangy sauce pulling it all together.
To wrap up the event, Elizabeth walked me through the basics of perfect rub at the BBQ rub bar: 1 part salt, 1/2 part pepper, and "enough cayenne to turn it pink". While she helped me throw that together (with a little extra anchove pepper for flavor), and gave me her opinion on what makes a perfect tailgate ("good, simple food that people crave"), charcoal versus propane ("both!"), and light mayo ("If you're going to get mayonnaise, get mayonnaise.")
Elizabeth Karmel doesn't play with fake mayo, and on that, we agree.
Finally, I asked her how one might translate the tailgating experience into a sandwich one could easily bring into work with them: pimento cheese on biscuits. Use Hellman's mayo (full-fat, duh) and Dromedary pimentos.
I had a blast at the event, experienced a new kind of wing that I've got to try to recreate on my own, and was introduced to the foundations of good rubs (one I plan to build upon soon). Thanks to Elizabeth and everyone at the Four Points!
Grab the Four Points Box at CarolineCueToGo.com!