The movie for this week really shouldn’t need much of an introduction, so I’m not gonna give it one. We’re watching Independence Day it’s almost July 4th, and dammit I need to feel good about something. Giant killer space ships, exploding White House, Jeff Goldblum hacking on a Mac, a rousing speech by a (now unbelievably) brave and charismatic president, “welcome ta urf!” you know this movie. If you don’t, just got watch it…I’ll wait….
Cool, did you like it? I think I saw it three or four times in theatres that summer when it came out, mostly because anyone with a summer birthday did that for their party. I watch Bill Pullman’s speech (and as my editor will attest, share it to Facebook) every 4th of July for the last decade or so running. At worst, ID4 is a good trash action flick; but really it is what every subsequent summer blockbuster has aspired to be.
The more interesting part this week is definitely the food. We’re making pulled pork, cabbage slaw, and (not-technically-) BBQ sauce. If you feel inspired to make you own buns, I proudly direct you over to my burger article. The ingredients for the menu include some of the most “All American” ingredients you could ask for; pork, apples, and Bourbon!
I’ve kept the ingredients list fairly simple, so as not to bog down the recipes with a lot of quarter teaspoons of twenty different flavors. It’s common to go overboard trying to recreate the subtle flavors you get from actual barbecue, and I think it is best to just accept that you aren’t making barbecue without a pit. With just a few spices, you can add most of the big flavors we think of with barbecue.
For the pulled pork we’re using shoulder (aka: picnic ham) and braising it “low n’ slow” in a super flavorful stock which will then become the base for our sauce. Braising essentially means cooking for a long time at a low temperature in liquid; it allows us to gently cook the meat at a very low temperature, which will result in rich, tend shreds rather than a soggy mush. Braising is perfect for tougher, but more flavorful, cuts of meat like pork shoulder or beef short ribs. Searing the pork before the braise helps add richness to both the color and flavor of the sauce and gets the cooking process started. The flavors that we add to the braising liquid will infuse into the pork, giving it a wonderful earthiness and sweetness, and by forming the base for our sauce those flavors will reinforce each other in the final product.
When we transmogrify the braising liquid into the sauce, we have a couple of important considerations; not over seasoning, and not competing with the pork in flavor. To address the first, be sure to reduce the stock before you add the seasonings and season a pinch or two at a time. To not over power the pork, we want to add some flavors that with contrast with the richness of the pork; in this case, we’re adding cider vinegar and bourbon. Both of these helps cut through the richness and balance it out. Overall, we are looking for a sauce that ends up rich, but with a noticeably sweetness and sourness…and a nice hint of booze wouldn’t be the end of the world.
The slaw might be my favorite part of this menu. It’s fairly simple but gave me a chance to practice my knife skills, and more importantly, it is what brings the whole meal together. It’s a refreshing variety of textures and creating a fresh, crispy counterpoint to the richness of the pork and sauce. I’m one of those weirdos who puts some slaw on top of their pulled pork sandwich, but you can just eat it on the side. Salting the cabbage helps release some of its moisture which will prevent whole thing from becoming a soggy mesh and can actually be done overnight. The apples provide and wonderful crunch and some sweetness, while the onions have a nice bite. The cucumbers are mostly in there because I wanted more crispy textures and had one sitting in the fridge, but it’s a fairly subtle flavor and adds a nice texture. Everything is tied together with oil, cider vinegar, and some chopped sage.
All in all, this menu is perfect for a party or potluck, either in whole or in parts. In fact, as soon as I finish this article, I’ll be heading off to one to feed this to my friends (check my Instagram). I made this for about 20 portions and it almost overfilled my largest bowls and pans, so keep that in mind when you buy your ingredients. Also, pretty much all of this can be done a day or more in advance, and all of this will benefit from some downtime in ways I’ll explain in the recipes.
So, as always, head to your local grocer or farmer’s market, grab your ingredients and invite some friends over to help you eat this enormous pile of deliciousness.
- Pork Shoulder
- Salt and pepper
- Bourbon (Not pictured, just use your favorite)
- Apple Juice concentrate (make sure you get the 100% juice one)
- Chicken or Pork stock
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 3 sprigs sage
- Trim the fat from your pork and cut the meat into 1 ½ in chunks and season lightly with salt and pepper. While you cut the meat, put the fat in a cold pan, and slowly bring up to medium heat. This will render some of the fat into the pan.
- Using the rendered fat and additional vegetable oil (if necessary) cover the bottom of the pan and bring to high heat. Then sear the pork, in batches probably, to develop a nice crust.
- Once all the pieces of pork are seared, pour off any extra fat from the pan and deglaze with the bourbon. (Be safe, do it off heat, have a cover and fire extinguisher handy)
- Once the pan has been scraped, return the pork, add the juice, stock, and herbs. Bring this to a simmer before covering and placing in an oven preheating to 200 (or as low as your oven will go).
- Cook covered for 4-6 hours, or until the pork holds it shape but can be cut with a spoon.
- Strain the pork from the liquid into a container and allow to cool, reserving the liquid for the sauce. Cooling the braising liquid overnight will allow the fat to settle to the top for easy removal. The pork can also be allowed to sit over night for easier shredding or can be shredded as soon as it is cool enough to handle.
- To serve; heat a portion of pork in a pan until it begins to get crispy, toss with some sauce and serve on a bun.
(Not-technically) BBQ Sauce
- Reserved braising liquid, strained and defatted
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1tbs paprika (smoked or not, your preference)
- 1tbs cumin
- 1oz cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Bring the liquid up to a simmer and reduce by about half.
- Add most of each of the ingredients, stir to combine, then slowly add the rest to reach a balance of sweet, sour, earthy, and rich. Basically, when you like the flavor, you’re good! I didn’t include a picture of the finished sauce because…well, it looks pretty much the same.
- 1 head green cabbage, sliced very thin
- 1 red onion, sliced very thin
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- 2 Granny Smith apples, julienne
- 7-10 sage leaves, roughly chopped
- 1oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 ½ oz cider vinegar
- Thinly slice the cabbage and add to a bowl, then massage the salt into the cabbage until it is heavily salted (taste it, it should taste a little TOOOO salty). Let this sit for at least 1 hour or (more traditionally) overnight. This will allow the water to drain from the cabbage and if left 6+ hours will just barely start the souring process.
- Drain the liquid from the cabbage using a clean towel (or, if you’re me and your dryer didn’t finish soon enough, a wad of paper towels) to squeeze it mostly dry. Then return it to the bowl.
- Cut the remaining veggies and add them to the cabbage and mix gently.
- Add the oil, vinegar, sage, and pepper; then gently mix to combine. You probably won’t need more salt, but give it a taste to find out.
- Store this are room temp for an hour, or in the fridge for up to a day before serving.
Celebrate your freedom by piling this mass of glory on a fresh bun (or homemade) and enjoy!
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