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Super Sustenance

A Saint learns from a master -- and a fan

Posted: Tuesday January 30, 2007 2:52PM; Updated: Tuesday January 30, 2007 4:40PM
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Emeril has had tickets for 20 years; Smith began cooking as a child.
Emeril has had tickets for 20 years; Smith began cooking as a child.
Michael Heape/SI
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By Lisa Altobelli

Having missed the Super Bowl by a game, Saints Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith was suddenly a spectator, and he enlisted chef Emeril Lagasse to help him put together a spread worthy of Super Sunday. Smith, 25, started cooking as a child in Queens, N.Y. "I lived with my grandmother, but she had emphysema, so most nights my sister [Chantay] or I cooked," says Smith, whose specialties included meat loaf and lasagna. The 6'3" 282-pounder also likes to eat and is a regular at Emeril's New Orleans restaurant. "He's the man," says Smith. "If you have family in town, this is where they want to go."

Lagasse's 17-year-old flagship has been a team hangout since he started Saints Sundays this season, opening early for players and fans coming from the game -- which he's usually just attended himself. (Lagasse has 21 season tickets and a suite.) For away games Lagasse hosts parties at home. "You can do your chips and dips, but you need substance. It's the most important thing, especially when alcohol's involved," he says. As SI watched, Lagasse taught Smith how to concoct a pulled-pork sandwich and other delights. You have to start the night before, but as any Super Bowl contender knows, preparation means everything.

BARBECUED PULLED-PORK SANDWICHES

1 boneless pork butt, about 4 lbs.; 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar; 2 tbsp. Emeril's Original Essence; 1 tbsp. salt; 1 tbsp. cumin; 1 tbsp. paprika; 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper; 1 tbsp. cayenne; 8 hamburger buns.

• Put pork in a baking dish. In a bowl combine the sugar, Essence, salt, cumin, paprika, pepper and cayenne. Rub the seasoning evenly over the pork to coat. Cover with plastic and refrigerate four hours or overnight.

• Preheat oven to 225. Bring pork to room temperature and place in a roasting pan, fat side up. Slow cook in the oven, basting with Wet Mop Basting Sauce (recipe below) every 45 minutes until tender and the internal temperature reaches 160. (Cooking takes six to seven hours.) Remove from oven and let rest 20 to 30 minutes.

• With two forks, pull meat into shreds. Toss with homemade barbecue sauce (recipe below) and divide among burger buns. Top with Kicked Up Coleslaw (recipe below). Serve with fried pickles (recipe below) and more barbecue sauce on the side. YIELD: 8 sandwiches.

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