Pulled pork is a guilty pleasure of mine, one which my dear husband doesn’t share. However, unlike most pork recipes, which I can prepare for myself when I need a fix and my darling man is on the road, prepping an entire pork shoulder for one is more than slightly ridiculous. While butchers outside of a chain grocery store can be scarce in this neck of the woods, I used my hankering for pork as an excuse to darken the doors of Boarman’s Old Fashioned Butchers on Route 108, not far from my parents’ home. If I lived in this neck of the woods, the guys at Boarman’s would be my best friends (they have a double bone ribeye steak in their display case that’s just calling my name). Plus, at $15 for all four pounds of the pork shoulder, this is a bargain basement meat! Knowing my dad loves pork almost as much as me, the stars were aligned for me to pull my foolproof Momofuku pulled pork recipe out of mothballs.
This is not a Rachel Ray 30 minute meal. You must plan a little in advance, but if you see it through, you’ll have a versatile, succulent meat that can then be used in a variety of dishes with completely unique results. Saturday night, after the pork had been cured in the fridge overnight and then cooked for 6 hours, I shredded it and put a portion of it in a bowl where I combined it with my homemade BBQ sauce. It was the same sauce I’d developed on the sailboat I worked on last summer, a spicy, sweet, vinegary sauce that the shredded pork just soaks up like a dream. This room temperature “BBQ” was served on grilled potato buns (gosh I miss having access to this stuff in London) with bread and butter pickles I’d bought at the Olney Farmers’ Market the week before. I made a little slaw of purple kohlrabi and Granny Smith apples with chives and lemon juice, and at my mom’s request whipped up the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook dilled cucumbers. Here are the recipes for meal number one. Keep scrolling down for more adaptations.
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
4 tablespoons sea salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground pepper
Place the shoulder in a baking dish, fat side up. Mix together the salt, sugar, and pepper and rub it all over the pork – massage well. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to cook, preheat oven to 250 degrees and pour off all of the liquid that’s accumulated in the bottom of the baking dish. Cook for six hours – and allow to cool for an additional hour. Now take two forks and shred the meat with wild abandon – and definitely try some as you go – cook’s prerogative! It’s so good just like this. A note on the amount of salt you use for this rub: know your salt! The one I use at my parents’ is different that the one I have in London. I used a whole tablespoon less than the recipe calls for, but you need to judge for yourself. Think as you cook!
1 head kohlrabi, jullienned
1 Granny Smith apple, jullienned
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon snipped chives
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes so the flavors come together.
Creamy Cucumber and Dill Salad
adapted from my mother’s ancient Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
1 English cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped dill
salt and pepper to taste
Put the sliced cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with the sea salt. Allow to sit for at least an hour so the water in the cucumbers comes out now not in your creamy sauce. Mix together the remaining ingredients and when they’re ready add the “drained” cucumbers. Serve.
Sunday night, still lots of plain shredded pork in the fridge, I made Korean style tacos. I must admit that I’m terrible with leftovers. I just can’t stand eating the same thing over and over (unless it’s my Beef Bourguignon), but Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar fame, gave me the inspiration I needed to completely transform the pulled pork into a new meal. Corn tortillas heated up on the grill (I’m going to be angling to buy a gas grill when I return to London – everything is quick and easy and wonderful), a quick Asian style cucumber pickle, a slaw, the pork heated through slightly and a little sliced avocado on top. It was really, really satisfying.
1 English cucumber, peeled down to the seeds into long strips
pinch of red chilli flakes
1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
pinch of sea salt
Mix everything together and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.
adapted from I Quit Sugar Cookbook by Sarah Wilson
1 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
handful cilantro leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons Asian dressing (recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl.
adapted from I Quit Sugar Cookbook by Sarah WIlson
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon brown rice syrup
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons ginger, minced on microplane
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Place all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously!
Finally, yesterday, my mom and I had a day at the hospital, so I made a taco salad to bring along for lunch. What’s wonderful about this kind of meal is that it provides an opportunity to clear all of the extra bits you might have lurking in your fridge. I didn’t buy a thing, relying completely on what we had leftover. And again, the flavors were so different from the other meals I’d made with the pork, that my ADD tastebuds didn’t revolt. Plus, this is about as close as I’ve gotten to the flavors of the carnitas burrito I regularly wolfed down at La Taqueria in the Mission district of San Francisco (the secret is no rice, only beans). Use what you have – this recipe is just what I used.
Handful of chopped romaine lettuce
Handful of baby kale (or other greens of your choice)
10 sliced cherry tomatoes
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup shredded Mexican style cheese (another thing the Brits could use in their groceries)
1/2 avocado, diced
Handful of shredded pork
1/3 cup tortilla chips, crushed
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup prepared salsa
Arrange the lettuces through the pork in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the sour cream and the salsa and dress the veggies and pork. Sprinkle with the crushed tortilla chips and serve.