My next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Recipes and Recollections of a Southern Culinary Journey is the lead book for Ten Speed for Fall 2011. The concept is much like my first book – simple basic recipes with accessible ingredients. I’ll have the same smattering of stories about Mama, Meme, Martha – my travels around the world and growing up in the South. What does distinguish it from Bon Appétit, Y’all is that each recipe will have a short recipe, presentation tip, or technique that transforms the recipe from Basic to Brilliant – essentially making it more chef-inspired, something that you might have if you came over and had dinner at my house. I’m really excited about the premise and testing is going great.

I’ll be testing this recipe again this weekend, fine-tuning a few things. I really like the direction it’s going. It’s some kind of good. The bourbon is a new addition, previously I used water. The alcohol will really help bring the flavor of the tomatoes to the forefront. I’m also giving it a try with beer.

I may write it up for working on the grill or BBQ, as well. If anyone does that, I’d be curious to hear about it. I think it would be somewhere around 6-7 hours at 220, but I haven’t tested that yet.

So, this recipe for Spicy Pulled Pork Shoulder needs one more round to put it to bed. And, this weekend I’ll also figure out what I want to do to make it brilliant.

I posted on facebook a query to see if anyone wanted to give it a shot, as well. It’s pretty cool, I think to see what a wide variety of people think. Well, my inbox started dinging like a slot machine! So, here’s the recipe and my testing sheet below. If you are interested and want to participate, please give it a try and send me back your notes and comments. Photos are welcome and I’ll be happy to post y’alls notes and pictures.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Best VA


Despite the name, pork butt does not come from the rear end of the hog–it is cut from the shoulder. The terminology for pork shoulder can vary widely depending on what part of the country you are in. Generally, the upper part of the shoulder, is often called the Boston blade roast or Boston butt, and contains the shoulder blade bone. The lower ‘arm’ portion of the shoulder is most commonly called the arm picnic.

1 8 to 10-pound bone-in pork shoulder or Boston blade roast
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup bourbon
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the pork, fat-side up, in a roasting pan and using a sharp knife, score the surface of the meat with small slits. Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

Heat the oven to 325°F. Combine the onions, tomatoes, vinegar, Worcestershire, bourbon, brown sugar, and red pepper in a large bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and to slightly break up whole tomatoes. Pour the tomato mixture over the pork. Transfer to the heated oven. For sliced pork, cook until the internal temperature reaches 180-185° and for pulled pork, 190-205°, 3 1/2 to 4 hours, basting with sauce throughout the cooking process.

Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Cover with foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Slice or pull meat, if preferred. Meanwhile, place the roasting pan over medium high heat. Reduce the sauce to thicken, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with pork.


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