Left-field suggestions for BBQ sides
May 25, 2016 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me come up with unorthodox/off-the-beaten-track sides to go with BBQ pulled pork next weekend?

I'll be BBQing some pork shoulder for a smallish group (~ 15 people) next weekend (that is, in about 10 days' time), and I'll be doing the sides as well. When I've done this for the same group before, I've reached for the classic set of sides — slaw, hush puppies, mac and cheese, etc. They're great, but as I'm going to have a captive and hungry audience I'd like to try something else to mix things up this time: foods that are good but perhaps non-obvious accompaniments to pulled pork.

What goes well with BBQ that I might not have thought of? If you make, have made, or have eaten something surprising with your pig, I'd love to hear your suggestions, links, recipes, whatever. I'm open to anything, but here are some details that might help.
  • There are no allergies or other dietary restrictions in play. The people eating are willing to try pretty much anything.
  • I have access to a fairly broad range of fresh ingredients, but may not be able to match your recipes brand-for-brand (I'm in Ireland). The more generic the better, but I can make a stab at substitutions.
  • I'm happy to prep 24 hours (or more) in advance but any prep will have to be transported (unrefrigerated) for ~2 hours.
  • On the day, I'll have about 6 hours free to prep and access to a more-or-less standard domestic kitchen.
  • It's going to be an Eastern NC-style BBQ sauce, so anything especially complementary to that kind of flavour would be very nifty.
I know that BBQ recipes aren't something that people typically have very strong opinions about, but I'm hoping you can help. All suggestions will be very gratefully received!
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There are more slaws on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreampt of in your philosophy, so that might be a good jumping-off point for playing with the traditional accompaniments. Personally, since BBQ can be very sweet, I enjoy pairing it with tart/bitter flavours, like a kale and apple slaw or something along those lines.
posted by ITheCosmos at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was all set to recommend baked beans until I saw your reference to Eastern NC-style BBQ. As vinegary as the BBQ sauce is, I'm thinking it would be good to go with something a bit creamier. So how about a Waldorf (aka "apple") salad? Here's Betty Crocker's recipe, which is probably pretty standard.
posted by DrGail at 3:50 PM on May 25, 2016

I'm a big fan of succotash on the side of BBQ. This recipe is one we've tried and enjoyed; to make it "porkier" you can also fry up and chop some bacon to add in (it is really good both ways though).
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:53 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you can get fresh ahi, poke is a delicious accompaniment to pulled/bbq pork. Lomi Lomi salmon is another option if salmon is easier to come by in your area.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:59 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is one of my families go-to summer sides that tends to be quite popular:

Southwestern Bean salad

2 cans of Black Beans drained and rinsed
6 vine ripe tomatoes chopped
1 package of frozen corn. run under water to thaw but don't cook.
1 small onion diced
1 small red pepper diced
2 Tbs of Cilantro

1 Tbs of Honey
Juice of 2 Fresh Limes
Olive oil about a half cup
Chili Powder about a Tbs
1/2 tsp Paprika
dash of Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste
Pinch of Garlic and Onion powder

Whisk all ingredients together and pour over Salad, chill.

You can add a chopped Red Pepper if you want.
posted by Captain_Science at 4:02 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

How far out are we talking? Watermelon feta salad with mint is one of those things that sounds too weird until you taste it, then you start making it for every outdoor eating event. It's a really bright and interesting flavor profile that contrasts well with anything grilled or smoky.
posted by contraption at 4:08 PM on May 25, 2016 [9 favorites]

I had a fennel and red onion slaw tonight that would have gone very well with pulled pork.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:11 PM on May 25, 2016

This indian slaw is super tasty (from Indian Cooking Unfolded). Make sure to use salted peanuts (or add salt). And a chile, like it says. It's really good.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:15 PM on May 25, 2016

Good Eats' "Shred, Head, Butter and Bread" technique for preparing sautéed cabbage with caraway seeds is quite nice.
posted by XMLicious at 4:18 PM on May 25, 2016

I'm from southeast USA, and every BBQ restaurant here has banana pudding (I have no idea what you'd use for Nilla Wafers).

Can I also suggest you make some white bbq sauce? It's something different and really tasty. In fact I ate white bbq sauce on pork shoulder today.
posted by gregr at 4:29 PM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

sweet potato salad with a mustard vinaigrette (kind of like this, but use sweet potatoes instead)

fresh corn salad or salsa, perhaps with avocado and/or mango mixed in (dress with red onion, cilantro/coriander, and lime juice)

quick pickles made with whatever fresh veg you have on hand

I am currently obsessed with making variations on baked beans, and you could mix it up with different sweet-tangy legume dishes: tamarind chickpeas, curried black-eyed peas (lobia masala), and so forth

any kind of fried okra, from the southern classic style to stir-fried bhindi masala
posted by karayel at 4:32 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kimchee? Either home made or bought - that hot sour tang is the best thing for anything fatty. It's relatively easy to make and you can play with the ingredients (cucumber kimchee is crunchy awesomeness).
posted by ninazer0 at 6:38 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not exactly a side, but pickled watermelon rind or jello pickles? Just because you've got a captive audience. Probably things they haven't tried before
posted by raccoon409 at 6:54 PM on May 25, 2016

We're big fans of Grilled Creamy Corn. You could easily broil to get some char as well. I usually add some basil to the mixture, then refrigerate so it can mingle.

Grilled Creamy Corn

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 fresh ears of corn, shucked
1/3 C sour cream
shredded fresh basil

1. In a small bowl combine oil and paprika. Brush corn with oil mixture. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper. Grill directly over medium coals for 12-15 minutes, turning once.
2. Cut kernels from cob. Transfer to bowl.
3. Stir in sour cream.
4. Stir in milk to desired creaminess.
5. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded basil.
posted by youknowwhatpart at 7:15 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Green papaya salad.
posted by Infernarl at 8:08 PM on May 25, 2016

Grill corn on the bbq while constantly basting them in coconut milk. When it's ready crack some pepper on them and squeeze lime juice on each one.
posted by furtive at 8:42 PM on May 25, 2016

Do all the salads.... They look awesome and my mouth is watering. Grilled corn on the cob!!! Yaaaasss. Slather each corn with mayo (Dukes of course!!). Shake a little bit of salt and chilli powder on, wrap in tin foil and grill till tender. Ahhhhh!!!! Heaven!! Or, Cut big baking potatoes into healthy wedges. Slather with butter...(big time slather) and sprinkle some Italian dressing mix on top. Cook in a Pyrex, 425 or so until done. Cover with tin foil until the last 20 minutes, remove to get them browned and crispy!! Always a favorite!!
posted by pearlybob at 9:56 PM on May 25, 2016

How many times did I say slather in my answer? I guess that's southern cooking. Slather away.
posted by pearlybob at 10:02 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

My friend always brings wasabi coleslaw to BBQs, and everyone loves it! It's just chopped green cabbage with a wasabi / mayo dressing (go heavy on the wasabi!) and black sesame seeds. It's amazing.

Also, fried pickles.
posted by ananci at 11:26 PM on May 25, 2016

Apple Kimchi Salad.
posted by teleri025 at 7:09 AM on May 26, 2016

Lorna Sass's Wheat Berry Salad with Apples and Mint is fresh and chewy (definitely add the optional crystallized ginger).

This one might be a long shot, but oh yum: Burmese Fermented Tea Leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke).
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:22 AM on May 26, 2016

Watermelon rind pickles as mentioned above are very good and different. Any other homemade refrigerator pickles too.

To accompany traditional Thanksgiving this year - a similarly heavy, rich meal - I made a simple celery salad based on an Ina Garten recipe and including mostly just celery, salt, lemon and maybe a touch of oil. The celery was sliced across the short side thinly - maybe a little thinner than the picture of Ina's. I left out any fat such as the cheese because it was already accompanying a fat-rich meal. A fresh herb addition would work. It was fresh, crunchy, acidic - great counterpoint to bbq and who has ever had celery salad?
posted by RoadScholar at 6:43 PM on May 26, 2016

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