When I began this blog, I never would have characterized my cooking style or culinary repertoire as “comfort food”. That label usually applies to heavy, dense, sugary or greasy bowls of fattening casseroles and excessive desserts. It also applies to macaroni and cheese (check, check), layer cakes (check, check), and stews (check, check, check). **Sigh** I give up. The truth is, I do take comfort (a lot of it!) in the eating and preparing of foods. I feel just as satisfied watching my family and friends chow down on my latest creations as I do eating them myself, and when I’m feeling frustrated or crazed, an hour or two in the kitchen will always help me decompress.
Another association I regularly make with “Comfort Food” is southern U.S. cooking and the dreaded Paula Deen – from whence comes my aversion to applying the term to my own food. That woman irks me somethin’ fierce, y’all. Sorry. That was uncalled for (in so many ways).
Yet no one can write off southern cuisine wholesale. That would mean eliminating one of RJ and my favorite dishes of all time – Pulled Pork sandwiches – and I simply cannot support such a sweeping and drastic gesture. Yet in the South, even, there is some serious debate about the proper way to make pulled pork. From what I’m told, the Carolinians like their pork cooked only in vinegar (none of that ketchup-y stuff). Others like the shredded pork swimming in barbecue sauce. I compensate for my strong preference for the latter by making a very vinegary coleslaw (no mayo) to go on top of the pork in my sandwich. I guarantee that a bite of this combo will make you swoon, whether you can stand Paula Deen or not.
Old South Pulled Pork on a Bun, from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cracked black peppercorns
1 c. tomato-based chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke (I always leave this out – up to you)
1 boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, about 3 lbs.
Kaiser or onion buns, halved and warmed
In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic, chili powder, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. (at this point you can cover and refrigerate sauce overnight or until ready to use — very helpful if planning this recipe for a weeknight).
Place pork in slow cooker stoneware and pour sauce over. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 6 hours, until pork is falling apart.
Transfer pork to a cutting board and pull the meat apart in shreds, using two forks. [I will usually try to strain off some of the fat from the sauce at this point – depending on if I did a good job trimming the pork, it can get sorta greasy in there]. Return to sauce and keep warm. When ready to serve, spoon shredded pork and sauce over warm buns. Serve with coleslaw.
Katharine’s Carolina Coleslaw
Bag of prepared coleslaw or 5 cups of shredded cabbage
Mix vinegar (about a 1/2 cup) with sugar (a scant teaspoon), celery seeds (about a teaspoon) and salt (1/4-1/2 teaspoon). Then add about a 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, whisking the whole time. Taste. It should be quite vinegary and a little sweet, and you should be able to taste the celery seeds. Add more oil or other ingredients as necessary until it is to your own preference. Mix dressing with the cabbage slaw (just enough to coat, not soak, the cabbage) and let sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving to let the flavors blend.
That recipe looks great! I make pulled pork at least once a month and am constantly tinkering with my recipe. I usually go with a marinade of Worcestershire and a little apple cider vinegar and then rub it in mostly brown sugar with a little garlic powder, cayenne and paprika. I’m definitely going to try the chili sauce next time though.
Do you use a slow cooker, Charlie? I love that the pork cooks in the sauce for 12 hours – it gives the sauce a meaty flavor and vice versa.
I do use a slow cooker, but I kinda prefer a dryer pork than one that’s swimming in liquid. I’ll usually slice up a couple onions and rest the shoulder on them in the slow cooker and only run it for 8 hours. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to turn the drippings and onion into a bonafide barbecue sauce, but the onions are so damn good on top of the pork as they are that there’s really no need to.
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