Pulled Pork with the Slow Cooker

Last night I tried my luck at making pulled pork in the slow cooker. While I was excited about the recipe, I’d never made anything like it before and wasn’t even sure what proper BBQ was supposed to taste like. I’ve always wanted to take a road trip through the south to sample all sorts of Southern delicacies like BBQ, grits, fried green tomatoes, seafood creole, and an authentic bananas foster. Someday…

One ingredient on the list perplexed me. Have you ever heard of liquid smoke? Yeah, me neither. Lucky for me, it wasn’t all that difficult to find. However, it was recently listed “potentially toxic” by the European Food Safety Authority (the EU version of the FDA and probably a lot more trustworthy as they aren’t married to industry like the FDA). So maybe this dish isn’t meant to be made on a regular basis. Fair enough.

Onto the good part… Our apartment smelled as though there was a mesquite BBQ blazing in the living room all afternoon. This is reason enough to make it again. The pork was very tender and pulled apart with minimal effort. We layered the meat on one half of a toasted wheat hamburger bun and added some of the juice and BBQ sauce to the top. In this way, we were able to eat two open-face pulled pork sandwiches. Divine! And now we have enough pulled pork to make sandwiches for days. Enjoy! (the original recipe can be found on the link at the beginning of the blog.)

Makes 12 to 14 servings

  • One 5- to 6-pound boneless Boston butt pork roast or same weight of boneless country-style pork ribs
  • 1/4 cup Cheater Basic Dry Rub (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup bottled smoke
  • Barbecue sauce of your choice

1. Cut the pork butt into medium (2- to 3-inch) chunks (the ribs don’t need to be cut up).

2. Put the pieces in a large slow cooker (at least 5 quarts). Sprinkle the meat with the rub, turning the pieces to coat evenly. Add the bottled smoke.

3. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 10 to 12 hours, until the meat is pull-apart tender and reaches an internal temperature of 190 F.

4. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a rimmed platter or baking sheet. Let rest until cool enough to handle. Pull the meat into strands. It should shred very easily. Serve the barbecue piled on buns with your favorite barbecue sauce.

5. To serve the barbecue later, cover and refrigerate the meat when it has cooled. Pour the meat juice into a separate container and refrigerate. Before reheating the juice, skim and discard the congealed fat layer on the top.

6. To reheat the barbecue, place it in a saucepan moistened with some of the reserved juice. Gently heat the meat on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Or, place it in a covered casserole with some of the reserved juice and heat in a 350 F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

7. While the meat warms, combine the barbecue sauce and some of the additional reserved meat juice in a saucepan. Heat through and serve with the barbecue.

For the rub:

Makes about 2/3 cup

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard

1. Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to blend.

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Blueberry muffins

I decided to celebrate my 18 or so hours with Anne this weekend by making blueberry muffins for breakfast today. If nothing else, they gave us some much-needed motivation to run in Discovery Park. I based the recipe on the following Cook’s Illustrated “Best Blueberry Muffins with Frozen Blueberries” recipe. There are a lot of steps but it’s more than worth it in the end. Just don’t forget to add the buttermilk… I might have learned that lesson last weekend.

Lemon-sugar topping: zest about half of a lemon and mix it in with about 1/4 cup sugar

Muffins:

2 cups frozen blueberries

1 1/8 cups sugar, plus 1 tsp

2.5 cups flour

2.5 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1/2 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions: Stir together the sugar and lemon zest until combined. Set aside. Heat oven to 425 and spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Melt the butter in the microwave and set aside to cool. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 tsp sugar to simmer in a small saucepan on medium heat. Mash the berries against the side of the pan as they start to warm up. Stir frequently until berries have broken down and mixture has thickened. Eventually you want the mixture to resemble jam which takes about 10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes. Rinse remaining 1 cup berries under cold water and dry off with paper towels. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combined. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Toss dried blueberries in flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture into blueberries and flour mixture until just moistened. Don’t over-mix! Batter should be lumpy with few spots of dry flour. Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among muffin tins. The batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly. Spoon a teaspoon of the cooked berry mixture into the center of each mound of batter.

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Using a skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over the muffins.

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Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, about 17-20 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in tins for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Serve while still warm and enjoy!

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Mussels

I came across a recipe for mussels earlier in my reader this week and decided to try it on a whim tonight. We ate so many mussels in New Zealand last year and sadly, haven’t had any since. This recipe was simple and easy to make. It also looks pretty fancy for not very much work- always a plus!

The recipe comes from Andrew Scrivani’s making SundaySauce blog which is a beautiful compilation that is as visually appealing as it is mouth-watering.

2 lbs mussels, rinsed and scrubbed (I’d cut back to 1.5 lbs for two people)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

2 tsp red pepper flakes (too picante for me so I’d try 1.5 tsp next time)

2 TB olive oil

salt and pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 cups dry white wine (we used Verdicchio and then drank the rest of the bottle with dinner)

1. Heat the oil in a deep stock pot over medium high heat and add the garlic and shallot, add the crushed pepper, salt and pepper and saute until translucent and aromatic.

2. Add the parsley and the mussels and toss in the garlic mixture until all are covered and then quickly add the liquid.  Cover the pot and allow mussels to steam until all are opened. This took less than 5 minutes.

3. Serve in a wide bowl with broth at the bottom for dipping with toasted garlic bread.

Serves 6 appetizer portions or 2 (huge) dinner portions.

I served them with roasted green beans and a simple green salad. Enjoy!

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The odd girl laughing on the bus

http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/

I can’t believe I’d never heard of this awesome show until last month. It plays every Sunday and I download the podcast to enjoy on the bus to and from school. I actually caught myself laughing out loud on the bus ride this morning. Lynne Rossetto Kasper is very entertaining and has some wonderful tidbits of information about food and cooking to share with her listeners. It’s already having an impact on me as I picked up (and enjoyed) an Italian wine she recommended last week and am going to try her meatloaf recipe soon. If you’re looking for an entertaining podcast about food, cooking, traveling, and entertaining, give Splendid Table a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The words that made my day

I had the pleasure of receiving these words in an email from Alex today, “Btw, have any grocery requests? Maybe I can make you some yummy dins tonight?” I can’t think of a better way to start off the week. Especially since I had a cold all weekend and my taste buds are finally starting to come back.

I had quite the homecoming after school tonight as he had just started simmering the port, dried figs, and rosemary to make the fig sauce that goes with the Roasted Pork Loin from Giada’s Everyday Italian cookbook. I roasted two yams under the broiler and made a simple green salad to have on the side. I can’t remember the last time I had such a fancy home-cooked meal on a Monday night. It was super flavorful and tender. It’s looking like we’ll be eating pork and fig sandwiches for lunch this week!

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I forgot to take pictures of the first round so I had no excuse but to have seconds. It's for the blog, people!

I forgot to take a picture when we cut into it and served up the first few slices. As a result, I *had* to have seconds for the blog photo alone. The pictures aren’t all that appetizing because I was focusing on eating rather than taking a nice photo. I’ll have to work on that.

Sauce

  • 2 1/2 cups port
  • 1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 dried black Mission figs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pork

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 (4 to 4 1/2-pound) boneless pork loin

For the sauce: In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the first 6 ingredients. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Discard the herb sprigs and cinnamon sticks (some of the rosemary leaves will remain in the port mixture). Transfer the port mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Blend in the butter. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

For the pork: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Stir the oil, rosemary, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper in a small bowl to blend. Place the pork loin in a heavy roasting pan. Spread the oil mixture over the pork to coat completely. Roast until an instant read meat thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145 degrees F, turning the pork every 15 minutes to ensure even browning, about 45 minutes total.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Let the pork rest 15 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the chicken broth into the roasting pan. Place the pan over medium heat, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Bring the pan juices to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Using a large sharp knife, cut the pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the pork slices on plates. Spoon the jus over. Drizzle the warm fig sauce around and serve immediately.