It really doesn’t get hot where I live until August. I spend each summer quietly enjoying our temperate weather, often more chilly than some would like. And so when we invite them to our house for dinner, we tell them to bring sweaters and then snicker about it because the idea of needing a sweater on a gorgeous 65 degree evening is funny. The doors to our patio and several large windows are open all the time to allow the fresh air in so it’s usually cool in our house — the way I like it.
Often when I’ve had the time to prepare a large cut of meat like the recent whole pork shoulder I rubbed with spices and slow roasted in the oven, I do it with ulterior motives. Like making meatloaf so I can have a sandwich a day later. Or braising a piece of beef chuck so I can slather mustard on crusty slices of bread to wrap around cold pieces of the simply prepared roast that was a childhood favorite.
I won’t deny that sitting at a table with friends and family to enjoy a meal of roasted, braised, or grilled beast is the best of occasions, but there’s something to be said about that one-of-a-kind sandwich at the other end of it all. One I can’t have if all the work doesn’t happen first — or worse — yields no leftovers. Waiting the best of several days for a 10 lb. cut of pork to thaw if it’s been in the freezer, then sit dressed in its dusty spice covering to finally roast over a pan of apple juice for hours is all worthwhile when I know I’ll be able to bite into a pulled pork sandwich.
As much as I can say I’ll take a nicely stacked sandwich any day if the right ingredients are wedged into those layers, I’m fairly new to pulled pork. Most of the pork I ate growing up was in the form of bone-in chops my mother fried in a cast iron skillet with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I remember enjoying the flavor of those chops, but the texture always seemed dry so they were never a favorite. Because I ended up being the family cook at an early age, I can tell you the dryness had to do with the length of time I was told they had to cook — sitting in a hot frying pan to brown for 30 long minutes. I think I began to buck the system around junior high when I decided to use a lid and lowered temperatures to keep them from turning to leather. I also remember switching to a blade cut which came off the shoulder instead of the loin. It’s all about that fat.
But there was something I didn’t like about the fat around the chops that crisped as they fried — the crispy fat my mother enjoyed. I remember her rescuing the pieces I’d cut from my chop, popping them into her mouth while I cringed at the thought of chewing on a solid piece of fat. In spite of what we’re told about eating saturated fat, at nearly 75, my mother’s blood pressure, heart, and arterial health are considered excellent. Suffice it to say she didn’t eat pork fat — or any fat with any degree of regularity.
A little pork fat goes a very long way with me — I even like my bacon lean — so a slow roasted pork shoulder where the marbling of fat melts to tenderize the meat is perfect. Perfect as in a sandwich filled with layers of it nestled underneath a just right slaw.
A little bit of sweet, then tart, a touch of heat, and a whole lot of crunch work quite well with the pork. It’s far from traditional, but that’s why I like it.
If you’re someone accustomed to pulled pork treated to a dousing of sauce, I’d understand if you cried foul here, but I think this is worth a try. Sometimes when something is sauced, that’s all I can taste, and then there are those added calories which always seem to include sugar of some kind and lots of salt.
Load the bread with the spiced pulled pork shoulder, load even more of the veggie slaw, and take a big bite. Or skip the bread all together and make a salad.
But try it. And then we’ll talk.
The weather here surprised us all by hitting 90 degrees yesterday, and today, it’s nearly 100. San Diego is really a desert, so of course it gets that hot here, but rarely at this time of year, and even more rarely near the coast. The sweltering dry heat that we’re more familiar with comes late summer in August, or even September, and as much as individuals from the East Coast enjoy reminding us we don’t have to deal with humidity, heat is heat, and I’m not cut out for it.
Plans of baking and slow braising pork went out the window until I realized I could blow the dust off my crock pot. Literally. It’s been in the garage since our construction when I removed anything from my kitchen that doesn’t get regular use. Of course the crock pot could be perfect; no heat in the kitchen to make things worse, and a relatively fuss-free dinner after the sun dipped below the horizon.
Plan B allowed me to be able to sit on my patio alternating between the sun and the shade (because it will take a bit of effort to get some color into my winter legs and a trip to Puerta Vallarta with girlfriends is in the works…), reading my book, and enjoying the breeze we are lucky enough to have on this hill. By tomorrow, it’s supposed to be 30 degrees cooler if you can believe that.
I don’t. They never quite seem to get the weather reports right here!
It’s the busy season for my husband so that means dinner is later with each passing week. There is no complaint from me because I’ve gotten used to it over the last many years — and I’m not the one working late.
The later schedule allows me to think a bit longer about dinner if I’ve procrastinated, or, as in this case, have something ready that takes almost no time to prepare because it’s a) classified as something that can be made ahead of time — as in the day before; or b) it’s left-over. You’re welcome to choose whichever version you’d like, but I’m going with choice a because that’s what I did.
Pork shoulder was on sale for some ridiculously low price if i purchased two roasts wrapped together, so I thought, what the heck. Each weighed about 4-5 lbs. I separated them when I got home, freezing them in ziplock bags knowing that I’d find something that struck my fancy.
My fancy ended up being Pulled-Pork Sandwiches but I had to roast the pork to begin with. Now you could enjoy the slowly roasted pork for dinner one night, then the pulled-pork sandwiches the next, but my roast wasn’t all that big and I know that had we eaten it after it came out of the oven, there wouldn’t have been enough for the sandwiches.
This recipe caught my eye because of the capers. I can’t get enough of those sun-dried and brined flower buds that grow in the Mediterranean region. In fact, I no longer rinse them as most recipes advise, because I enjoy the tang the brine adds to whatever it is I’m cooking. There’s never enough brine to lose the unique flavor of the capers no matter what I’m making — especially with this recipe.
Nothing like a little blogging break, huh? It wasn’t planned, exactly, but the combination of finally moving my Mac back up to the office from where it sat for a few weeks on the kitchen counter, and a very busy weekend left me completely not interested in climbing the stairs to even check email for the past few days.