Earl bows to demand for his porkbelly cornbread muffins
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 08:21
DUNBRIDGE - Rory P.J. Earl describes porkbelly as "my dream and passion."
|Rory Earl serves giant cornbread muffins with distinctive cinnamon butter accompaniment (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
He's transformed the tasty down-home meat into business called Porkbelly BBQ, which is located and licensed in Wood County. It's a vending and catering company that serves - as he puts it - "Midwestern barbeque with east coast and southern style influences."
As one part of the business, he owns a mobile unit modeled after units on the national barbecue circuit. "It is essentially a traveling restaurant."
Regulars at the Bowling Green Farmer's Market have gotten to know Earl for another product as well, which is a spin-off the barbecue. It's his porkbelly BBQ cornbread with cinnamon butter.
Local fans begged for the recipe to carry them through the months when there is no farmers' market, so Earl is happy to oblige, via the Cook's Corner.
"I have cut my recipe down for a more manageable yield," he explained.
"We had a wonderful time" at the market this first year, said Earl, who added that Bowling Green's is the only farmers' market in which he participates. It's a way "to get our feet wet. Next year, with a year under our belt, we plan on expanding even more."
For 2012, "we did pulled pork, barbecued beef and pulled chicken, and we offered St. Louis style ribs and rib tips. I do all my own butchering" and prides himself on being a frugal handler of food. "I also use those rib tips in my country green beans."
"My background consists of rustic Italian cooking" as well as meat production and meat cutting for an area butcher shop, the House of Meats.
Earl has over ten years of restaurant, catering and retail food experience, including five years at Ciao Italian restaurant in Sylvania, followed by several years at Zia's at the Docks in Toledo.
He quit the restaurant chef gig when he got engaged to his now-wife Heather, figuring true romance and 80-hour work weeks didn't go too well together.
All of Earl's barbecue recipes are original, made from scratch and include "anything grillable."
Porkbelly sides, he explained, are classic barbecue "with some unique takes on old favorites. Our three sauces are designed to add to the meat, not cover it up."
Earl, a Toledo resident since 1994, has growing ties to Wood County through his parents, who currently live outside Dunbridge.
"Dad's trying to start an organic garden on an acre, and we hope eventually to incorporate the vegetables they raise into my business."
There's also the fact that the younger Earl is a tenant at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK) on Ohio 582 near Haskins.
Earl looks upon his growing business as a way to build something for the future, "something that can be there for my young children."
He is a proud papa to 3 1/2-year-old son Sullivan, or "Sully," and six-week-old daughter Emerson, whom he and wife are calling "Eme" for short.
Earl developed the cornbread muffins recipe from necessity.
"When I'm catering I'll do cornbread in pan form, but we had a lot of loss, so we went to muffins and my wife said 'make them large.'"
He took that suggestion seriously.
What also sets these muffins apart is the lengthy and rich list of ingredients called for in his recipe.
Earl began with a recipe from a textbook from his days in culinary classes at Owens Community College, but modified it outside of all recognition.
"I thought, 'let's try whole wheat flour to add a little bit of earthiness."
It was also Earl's idea to add a "corn pone effect" to the muffins, which he accomplished by adding creamed corn as an ingredient. It had the added plus of making the muffins extra moist.
Finally, "I love the richness of cream" so Earl's recipe calls for three different forms of cream - butter, half and half, and heavy cream.
"Most cornbread recipes call for water."
He refuses even to do that. Instead, he uses milk as the water substitute.
Also, because Earl is "not really a white sugar fan" but always likes to add "a little bit of sweetness to whatever I do," his recipe calls for brown sugar.
Put it all together and these muffins are unforgettably tasty - if filling.
The warm cinnamon butter topping is an inspired addition.
"I came up with the idea for the recipe in a minute and a half. It was just something I felt would be delicious."
Now, he never sells the cornbread muffins without it.
Porkbelly BBQ cornbread
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
4 oz cream corn
4 oz unsalted butter (melted)
1/4 cup milk (1%)
1/4 cup half & half
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg + 1 egg white
In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Melt butter in a saucepan then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Combine wet & dry ingredients and stir well. Place jumbo foil baking cups (such as Reynolds Foil Baking Cups ½ inch) in jumbo muffin pans and fill ¾ of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.
Yield: 8 Jumbo size muffins or around 12 regular size muffins.
We suggest serving the cornbread muffins warm with warm cinnamon butter.
Warm cinnamon butter
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 T brown sugar
½ tsp. Kosher salt
Cube and melt butter in a sauce pan over medium/low heat on the stove top. Whisk cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt into melted butter and remove from heat. Keep shaken/stirred, serve warm with cornbread muffins.