Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
The number one thing I missed when I was in Europe was hands-down, without a doubt, pulled pork sandwiches. Barbecue is America (although I'm pretty sure I already expressed my feelings about that) and when I was gone I missed it more than anything. Spain offered nothing remotely similar to the sweet, spicy, smoky goodness of American barbecue (Spaniards hardly use pepper!). To me, the pinnacle of this iconic American cooking style is pulled pork.
Pulled pork supersedes other barbecue varieties because I firmly believe that you can tell so much about a person through the way they prepare it. What cut of meat do they use? What kind of marinade? Is it a dry rub or a brine? Do they add sauce? If so what kind? And when do they apply it? These are all questions that make a huge difference in the way the meat turns out. Pulled pork is also easy enough that most everyone can prepare it (a rack of ribs, to me at least, is not so simple), and so pulled pork has an element of universality to it that other barbecue types lack because of their technical complexity. Lastly, every step that is traditionally involved in preparing pulled pork is meant to make the meat itself taste better. The meat should certainly be elevated by the sauce or the marinade or the cooking process, but when you finally bite into it, the true flavor of the pork should shine through.
Here's the recipe I use. It's good. Everyone I've served this to (my house members can attest) loves it, praise undeserving of myself and much more appropriately directed to Tyler Florence from the Food Network (or whatever genius developed this recipe). The recipe calls for a Carolina style barbecue sauce that's primarily vinegar and mustard based, but I adapt the sauce a bit to my taste by adding more ketchup and some molasses as a nod to this sauce's sweeter, more tomato based Texas-style cousin. I also would dial down the spice a bit. It's a good idea to make this (and any barbecue sauce) a while in advance to let the flavors develop. I made it in the morning when I popped the pork into the oven, but you could easily do it the day before. This pork is practically effortless (yes, it takes a while what with the marinade and the slow cooking, but you don't actually have to do anything while all of that magic is happening) and frankly pretty fun to make. I'm serious about this one, guys. Try. This. Pork.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Adapted slightly from Tyler Florence
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 (5 to 7 pound) pork shoulder
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow mustard
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Hamburger buns or rolls
Whisk together dry rub ingredients. Rub mixture all over pork shoulder. Let stand overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put the pork in a roasting pan and cover with foil. Bake for about 6 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork reads 170 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
Make barbecue sauce. Combine sauce ingredients in a large sauce pan over medium heat and cook for 10 minutes until sauce is slightly reduced and sugar is dissolved. Allow to stand off heat for several hours.
When pork is slightly cool, pour out most of the fat at the bottom of the roasting pan. Pull the meat apart with the tongs of two forks. Pour 2/3 of the barbecue sauce (or to taste) over pork and allow the pork to rest another 30 minutes (the pork will absorb some of the sauce).
Serve on hamburger buns with remaining sauce.