(Above: Corn bread and salad go well with espresso shot pulled pork sandwiches.)
For most of us the summer may be over but that doesn’t mean the end of pulled pork sandwiches.
Barbecue purists will argue that the only real pulled pork is cooked slowly over hot coals but a much easier version (especially for those of us who had to put our grills away for the season), and one that is pretty tasty, is made in a slow cooker.
And what could be better than coming home from work on a weeknight to the smell of tender pork roasting slowly in a warm kitchen. You grab a fresh bun, slice it open, and spoon in the hot shredded meat slathered in barbecue sauce.
Another great thing about making pulled pork is that you can use your imagination. Once you buy the right cut of pork (which should be a pork shoulder labeled “pork butt,” “Boston butt,” or “picnic ham,” and can be either boneless or bone-in), you can make a cooking sauce out of most any ingredients you have on hand that you think will work well together. (When buying the pork figure about 3/4 of a pound per person for a bone-in pork shoulder and about 1/2 pound per person for a boneless roast.)
You should try to use both tart and sweet ingredients for the cooking liquid. For this recipe, I was heavy on the tart using ketchup, vinegar, mustard, and just a little bit of Portuguese hot red pepper sauce that I made a few years ago, called Pimenta Moida. (You could use tabasco sauce or your favorite hot sauce instead.) But the real secret ingredient I added and one that added a deep roasted flavor to the pork was a shot of espresso. Again, you could use something else, maybe a cold cup of coffee.
The important thing is to make enough liquid for the pork to slow-cook in, which should be about 1/4 cup for each pound of pork. I made a cup of cooking liquid for a 4 pound boneless pork butt. By the time the pork had finished cooking, the liquid more than doubled. I cooked it on low for about four hours before turning it up to high for the last one and a half hours. But you could cook it for six to eight hours on low and I’m sure it would be fine. Larger pork roasts might take as long as 10 hours to cook.
Be sure to leave some time for the pork shoulder to cool a little before you shred it, either with two forks or with your hands (careful you don’t burn yourself). While the pork is cooling you can take the cooking liquid and put it on the stove to make a sauce to spoon over the meat on each sandwich. This is a good way to make sure you serve the sandwiches hot too.
Lastly, be sure you buy some good plain rolls. Bulkie rolls work well. You don’t want any strong flavors in the rolls to compete with the flavors of the pork you slowly curated. I’d avoid brioche rolls as I think they’re overly sweet (and over done today at most restaurants).
A green salad makes a good side dish to help offset this fatty, heavy, but delicious dish. And a serving of corn bread keeps the whole experience old-school Americana.
Espresso Shot Pulled Pork Sandwiches
You can use your imagination and ingredients you have on hand to make this dish.
- Pork butt, 4 pound, boneless
- Kosher salt, pepper, chili powder, pinches of each to rub on the pork
- Sweet onion, one half of a medium sized onion
- Garlic, two cloves smashed or split in half
- Cinnamon stick, one
- Barbecue sauce, a few squirts
- Ketchup, a few squirts
- For the cooking liquid:
- Ketchup, 1/2 cup
- Balsamic vinegar, 1/8th cup
- Espresso, one shot (about 1/4 cup)
- Dijon Mustard, 1 tsp.
- Portuguese hot pepper sauce, 1 tsp (or a few squirts of tabasco or another hot sauce)
- Step 1 To make the cooking liquid: Mix all of the cooking liquid ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl.
- Step 2 Rub salt, pepper and chili powder all over the pork butt. Put pork butt in the slow cooker.
- Step 3 Pour cooking liquid into the slow-cooker. Add the onion, garlic and cinnamon stick.
- Step 4 Cook on low for about four hours, then on high for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Once done, put pork on a cookie sheet to cool.
- Step 5 Pour cooking liquid from slow-cooker through a sieve. Discard solid materials and try to spoon off as much fat as you can off the top. Cook juice in a shallow pan over medium heat until reduced in half. Squirt some barbecue sauce and a little ketchup into the pan and stir until hot.
- Step 6 Shred pork with two forks or your hands if it is cooled enough. Be careful not to burn yourself. Pour some of the sauce over the shredded pork.
- Step 7 Build your sandwich by putting shredded pork on a roll and then spooning some of the hot sauce over the pork to warm up the pork. You can add cheese to your sandwich and serve with a salad and corn bread.