Thursday, June 3, 2010
I eat a sort “vegetarian” diet most of the time. It’s neither politically charged nor diet based. It just feels good and costs less, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s more socially responsible. However, whenever I talk about giving up meat for good I always maintain that I could quit the beef, I could quit the chicken, if only I could still have pork. Now I realize this is sort of ridiculous, but it’s just how I feel. Like, I could eat salads and vegetables and beans and tofu til the cows come home (pun intended) so long as I could shred some delicious Parma prosciutto over that salad, or simmer the beans with a little bit of bacon fat. Pork is one of those proteins where a little goes a long way. The pulled pork dish I made below is something that could make even the strictest vegetarian among us take a second look.
We had a small Barbeque over Memorial Day weekend and it was the best, most delicious, simplest menu I have ever undertaken at a party. Everything was ready a full two hours before the guests arrived and all I had to do was down some Pimm’s cups and socialize. That’s my kind of menu.
SLOW COOKER PULLED PORK
(from the Splendid Table)
4-5 lbs. boneless Boston butt pork, cut into 2-3 inch chunks
¼ cup quick dry rub
½ cup liquid smoke
Barbecue sauce of your choice
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
Cut your pork butt (hee) into 2-3 inch chunks. Combine dry rub ingredients in a jar. Screw the jar lid on and shake to combine. I loved making this rub. Not only was it super simple, while I was making it I noticed it looked like one of those fancy bottles I filled with layers of colored sand at a the town fair when I was 11. At the time I thought those were the height of sophisticated decorating. I made one at the 4th of July fair one year and it held a place of honor on my bedroom window sill until one day I knocked it down and the grains of multicolored sand all blended together to make a gross purple color. Sigh. Regrets to last a lifetime. Anyways, where was I? So, the recipe I found for this pulled pork was so easy I was dubious. Like, legitimately as I was making it I was concerned that come Saturday afternoon I would be sending Paul to Tennessee’s BBQ to pick up some pulled pork. I just tend to be healthily skeptical, especially when the recipe calls for something called “liquid smoke” an ingredient I have never used before and to my ears, sort of sounds like someone’s rapper or DJ name rather than something I want to eat with my food. BUT STILL. I had to try it.
Prior to combining all my ingredients in the Crockpot, I gave each chunk of pork a quick sear in a hot skillet coated in olive oil. The recipe did not call for this but I figured adding another layer of flavor wouldn’t hurt anybody. So, please note this step is optional. Sear each chunk of pork in a hot skillet (medium high). Just quickly sear them- they don’t need to get deeply brown, just a little golden on each side. Searing the pork will take a couple batches to do so. Set pork aside once seared and move on to the next batch. Once all the pork has been treated, toss with the dry rub, thoroughly to coat each piece (you can do this in the bowl of your Crockpot- but due to the amount of the meat- I also suggest working in batches here to really coat all the pieces—my Crockpot was chock full of pork and there wasn’t much room to navigate. Place your dusted pork in your Crockpot, add your D.J. Liquid Smoke, place the cover on and cook on low for 10-12 hours, or until internal thermometer reads 190 degrees.
I cooked mine for 12 hours. And at hour 12 I simply shut it off and let it sit for about another hour. This was solely due to the fact that I had other stuff to do, like go to the liquor store and get an iced coffee, but I think it worked out quite well. By that point in time, the contents of the Crockpot were so warm and juicy; the worst that could happen I figured was that they cook a little bit more. Did I mention my whole house smelled of smoked pork? Seriously it had this faint bacon tinge that reminded me of going to my Aunt Vinny and Uncle Johnny’s house when I was little. Their house always smelled of bacon. I don’t quite know if they cooked it every day, or had a special brand of salt pork Glade air freshener that was unavailable to the general public, but either way, it smelled of nostalgia and food and I was into it.
Once the pork had cooled just a bit (but not really- it was still really hot, but I plugged on) I scooped it out, one batch at a time, and shredded it with two forks. Once shredded, I scraped that pork into a separate bowl. It took about three rounds to shred the contents of my Crockpot. I was doubtful that the pork would just shred with merely two forks and I had gotten out one of my big knives just in case my “pulled” pork turned into “chopped” pork but SERIOUSLY? This stuff was like butter. It was the juiciest, shreddinest pork you have ever seen. Taste test? Ah-mazing! Once the shredding process was complete I took my Crockpot and poured out most of the cooking liquid (leaving approximately 1- 1 ½ cups in the bottom of the pot) into this remaining cooking liquid I poured in about ¾-1 cup of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce and mixed the two together thoroughly, which made a nicely thinned out BBQ sauce that was flavored with the savory cooking liquid. Then I added my pork back into the Crockpot and tossed it all together. Plugged her back into the wall and turned the temperature to warm. For the first time in my life, I had all the food ready for the party an hour before anyone even got there and did LEGITIMATELY no cooking while I had guests. It was, the bessssst.
Accompanying my pulled pork I decided to make a slaw. Now, we’re not slaw people in our house. Cole slaw, to me, is the shadowy corner of my plate that I won’t venture into no matter how hungry I am. It sits, neglected, not even poked at, to the side of my fish and chips. I barely even let it touch the other foods on the plate. But I knew that there had to be more to slaw than meets the eye and that if one were to forsake the mayonnaise laden soggy slaws of seafood restaurants across the globe, that perhaps there was a little something there to be salvaged. I wanted to make a slaw that was tangy and crunchy, without any mayonnaise. Something that would go with the pulled pork. I found it and it was easy and delicious and like I said, I am a well-documented slaw avoider. Even my girlfriends said “I never eat slaw but I love this slaw” Slaw conversion: complete.
SPICY, TANGY SLAW
One 16-ounce package of shredded Cole slaw mix
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
1 jalapeño, halved and sliced thin
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Whisk together dressing ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add the vegetables and toss to coat. Wait five minutes, toss thoroughly again. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 12. Toss before serving. I would like to note that I partially seeded my jalapeno. I love, love, love spicy foods. However, when I’m cooking for a lot of people I get a little gun-shy about making things too spicy. So whenever I use jalapenos, I tend to seed them. Since this slaw was supposed to be spicy, and the directions did not mention seeding the jalapeno, I figured seeds were meant to be included, but once again I wimped out partially. I seeded half the jalapeno, only including half the spicy seeds. As a result this slaw was barely spicy. I think that to rectify this you could either include all of the seeds or spice it up after the fact with a little bit of hot sauce, such as Cholula or Frank’s. This slaw is awesome on top of a big ole’ pile of pulled pork on a bun.
THREE GENERATIONS of POTATO SALAD
1 bag russet potatoes
1 purple onion, diced
1 cucumber, diced (plus additional rounds for decorating)
Salt and pepper
Peel potatoes and cut into bite sized chunks. Cover in a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Let boil until tender. Test a big chunk with a knife. Drain hot water off and return to pot. Toss in some French dressing and mash/stir together to color. Let cool. Once potatoes have cooled, add onion, cucumber, salt, pepper and celery seed (a decent amount, I used about a palm full- approximately 1 ½ tbs., I would guess and then another sprinkle later). Add mayo and more French dressing. Toss together to coat.
This is a third generation potato salad recipe. My dad’s mom, Muriel Pithie, used to make this. She would serve it along side an ever-present pickle plate, on her best china. She taught my mom how to make it and every holiday or cook out during the summer months, it’s there. A bright orange potato salad, garnished with cucumbers and studded with crunchy bits of purple onion. The French dressing and celery seed are the two crucial ingredients here. Due to the fact that my mom rattled this recipe off to me in an email, I eyed everything out, using no formal measurements. If I were to venture a guess on proportions, I would guess that I used about ¾ of the bottle of French dressing (half while the potatoes were still steaming and the other half once the other ingredients were included), about 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of celery seed, generous amounts of salt and pepper and about a cup or more of mayonnaise. With potato salad, it’s personal. I personally don’t like mine drenched in mayo, but I also don’t like any dry hunks of potatoes in there. It’s a add, mix, taste, tweak a little more kind of dance with this particular salad and let’s just say, it’s probably the best potato salad around. In my humble opinion.