*This is a pre-gluten free recipe, so it suggests serving on bread. Gluten free without the bread…or, serve it on a toasty gluten free baguette, a crisp corn tortilla, or all on its own, topped with slaw. The carbs are not the star in this dish, anyway. 🙂 )
Within the past few weeks we’ve had to throw out both our waffle iron and blender. Maybe that seems like no big deal, but both of them were wedding presents. We are nearing 15 years and apparently that means small appliances have met their life span. I love the idea of an anniversary shower with registries, oh about every 15 years or so, but I don’t think that idea will catch on. Much to my Pottery Barn dismay.
Another bridal shower gift of mine that will probably outlive me is my slow cooker. Sure it is 15 years old too, but it doesn’t get nearly the wear and tear of some other things. In fact, I have in the past forgotten I owned one. Pretty sad. (I sure hope whoever gave me that thing does not read this!) I have often told friends that I don’t really “do” the crock pot. It’s great for potluck style get-togethers to keep things hot, but for cooking…ummm, not so much. I remember perusing the little booklet that came along with it, and I believe I got a “Crockery Cooking” cookbook, as well. In the early days I tried a thing or two and was not impressed. But, I am a sucker for “slow cooking”. Braised meat – yes, please! Slowly smoked, fall-off the bones ribs – oh yeah! Stews or sauces that have cooked for hours, even more succulent the next day – ooh baby!
My store recently had pork butt on sale. It is really pork shoulder, not…you know. If you’ve ever had pulled pork, you have eaten it. It is an inexpensive cut of meat, and lends itself to slow cooking, because of its high content of fat and connective tissue. Cook it slowly, and once all of that breaks down, it melts in your mouth. Delicious. We have done pulled pork on the grill, dry rubbed and smoked, then combined with a classic thin, vinegary sauce, and let me tell you…you want a dinner invitation.
I have been crazy busy lately. Yes, both crazy and busy. This week my kids are home on break. Don’t get me wrong, I love when they are home, but put that on top of already feeling like a chicken with its head cut off. That, and they are eating me out of house and home. It is unreal. I think growth spurts are abounding and I am just not keeping enough food in the house. Which leads me to today. I had to get groceries, and everything else. We were making Ms. Hubbard look like a hoarder and her dog like a well-fed king. I also had this hunk of meat that I had to cook. DILEMMA! I would be running around all day and this guy takes forever to cook. Smoked on the grill is an option, but you still need to tend to it…add coals, rearrange, etc. Aha! Bring in the slow cooker.
Hubby pulled out some of my recipes/magazines/cookbooks off the shelf that were hiding the slow cooker. He once again reminded me that I need a better system for this stuff. (Have you seen his garage lately? This is one shelf….okay, two.) I brainstormed how I would cook this butt. I love barbeque, but wanted to do something slightly different. And, oh man…I did.
First, I generously seasoned that bad boy with salt and pepper and browned him on top of the stove, on all sides. Browning meat is a must before you slow cook it…in the crock pot or otherwise. 1. No one wants to eat gray meat…it looks gross. 2. It gets rid of excess fat and most importantly, 3. Better flavor. Nutty, caramelization=good. Just make sure you have good ventilation when you do this. It will smoke. I turned on my old and not so effective exhaust fan, but thankfully it was a nice enough day to open the windows. Meanwhile, I sliced up some onion, threw in a bunch of spices, brown sugar, a chopped chipotle, minced garlic, placed that nicely browned guy on top and added liquid – beer, apple juice & molasses. No tomato product, since I wasn’t going for a barbequey thing.
While out at the store, I came across a sourdough…wheels still turning. We sampled it with some artichoke spread I had made the night before for a snack (future post), and deemed it good. Dinner was coming together…. I had cooked it on high for the first two hours, and then turned it down to low and let it cook about 5 more hours. I made some slaw (c’mon, it is pulled pork), and then took the meat out. When it was cooled enough to handle, I “pulled” it. You can definitely shred it with two forks, it should be falling apart. I reduced the liquid, added back the shredded pork, stirred it up and served. I toasted the bread with a bit of olive oil spray and kosher salt in a 375º oven, until it was crisp. We topped our toast with this luscious meat and tart slaw for an open-faced style pulled pork sandwich. YUM!
You may not want to make the same mistake I did: Call this cut of meat “shoulder” instead of butt, unless you want your husband, errr, children making “butt” jokes all day. Or don’t. One, or even two jokes are kind of funny. Beyond that…don’t say I didn’t warn you.
We served 6 for dinner, and have plenty for another meal…serves at least 12. Great crowd dish!
Open-Faced Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tangy Slaw
1 5 lb. pork “butt” shoulder (mine was bone-in, adjust weight for boneless)
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper, in adobo sauce (I always freeze the remaining contents of the can)
1 dried bay leaf
3 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. kosher salt + more for meat
freshly ground black pepper
2 c. beer (1 pint – can use a good gluten free, I like Omission, or Prairie Path)
1 c. apple juice
1/2 c. molasses
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Generously season pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan over high heat. Carefully place roast fat side down, and cook on all sides until very brown. Meanwhile place onion, garlic, and the rest of the dry ingredients into bottom of slow cooker. Add liquid ingredients and place meat on top. Cook on high for 2 hours. Reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 5-6 hours. Remove meat to a cutting board, and when able to handle, shred meat with two forks, leaving bones and excess fat behind. Meanwhile, pour cooking liquid into a sauce pan. Skim fat off the top. Put it over high heat and allow it it boil away until it is reduced by half and thickened. Adjust/add seasoning, if necessary. Return shredded meat to liquid, stir in and serve. Cook on high 1 hour. Serve on toasted bread, a crisp tortilla, or on its own, topped with tangy slaw.
1 pkg. coleslaw mix
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. white balsamic or white wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey
juice from 1 lime
1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, chopped finely
1 serrano chile, minced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
Combine, coleslaw mix, green onion, chile and cilantro in a large bowl. Mix together additional ingredients in separate small bowl. Pour over slaw; toss to coat. Cover and chill until ready to serve.