What do you cook at a lake in North Carolina on a summer day in May during a reunion with friends from high school, one of whom you haven’t seen in 13 years? A weekend during which Angela will meet some of your closest friends, people with whom you went to high school in Germany?
My first thought was a suckling pig, a pig that I hoped could be sourced from a North Carolina farmer. Beth, our hostess for the weekend, got to work and contacted Joseph Cataldo, a restaurateur in Salisbury, who found us the perfect pig. (He also loaned me a pan big enough to brine in.) Beth and her husband, Glenn, and their four children live in Salisbury, and they made us feel at home as well.
We had some fine food during that weekend, including a Low Country Boil on Friday made by Beth and Glenn and a great dinner out on Saturday cooked by a Brazilian chef.
We saved the suckling pig for Sunday, our final day at the lake.
We brined the pig on Saturday night, with lots of elephant garlic and some bay leaves and black peppercorns. On Sunday we transported the pig to the lake house and prepped. Angela took care of the garlic and the rub: orange zest, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil. I scored the pig’s skin, and Mark and I stuffed it with lots of garlic and the rub, plus some fresh basil leaves, and then massaged the skin with the remaining rub. A little more salt and pepper all over the skin, and the pig was ready for the oven.
I cooked it at 250 Fahrenheit for about 3.5 hours, and then for the last 30 minutes raised the temperature to 475 Fahrenheit, which gave us a perfect skin, crunchy and crisp; it melted in the mouth. We tented the pig with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes, and then began carving. The meat, dark and white, was moist, and the fennel and orange mingled in every tendril.
Glenn carved, with expertise and aplomb, using his fingers like an extra knife, and we feasted, down to the tongue and ears. We ended the day on the dock, watching the sun set over the water. Perfect weekend, perfect pig.
(Angela Shah photography)