As the picture at the bottom shows, pulled pork is literally meant to be pulled, not cut, apart. We think of this as an American dish, and there are varieties across the country — although this is dominantly a Southern dish. But variants of pulled pork abound around the world. After all, it serves a basic purpose: how can you take a barely edible cut of meat and transform it into something that people actually appreciate.
The answer is twofold: spice and time. You apply a lot of spices to the outside, and you cook for a long time over relatively low heat.
We had made a large, large quantity of the House Rub from Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook when we made their barbecued chicken last week. With leftover rub, we had a head start. [The Pitt Cue Co. recipe for pulled pork shoulder their way is different than this one, involves both rub and a complicated sauce, and is something Suzen and I will try later this summer for you.]
Suzen stopped at The Smokehouse of the Catskills, a German-family institution just outside Saugerties. I sat in the car and waited and waited. Suzen can enter a meat market and look at the sausages as if they were the Mona Lisa. She did emerge with a smile and just a bit of a puzzled look.
“It’s six pounds, but boneless and skinless. This is going to be an experiment.”
Not, it turns out, much of a risk experiment.
Suzen patted down the pork with the House Rub, recipe below. Then, instead of using an outdoor smoker of some kind, we reverted to our trusty Cameron indoor smoker. Across the bottom of the smoker, she put a few tablespoons of apple chips and then just dusted them off with some mesquite chips as well.
Why not just use mesquite because we are smoking? Five hours of mesquite is a lot, a lot of smoky flavor. We wanted to taste meal, not charcoal.
We put the pork in the Cameron metal box and closed the lid. We stovetop cooked for a mere 8 minutes. Then put the sealed box into a preheated 300°F oven. That’s really it: rub, stovetop cook, oven cook, pull apart with a fork.
The Cameron box is metal with a very tight fitting lid. You do get a wonderful smoked result, but the box captures and employs all the moisture that is released from your meat. So the meat will definitely taste smoked, but it is most certainly not dry.
How did we serve this lovely dish as a main course? We didn’t. For next weekend I’m going to post the Pitt Cue Co. British version of the Iceberg Wedge. No bacon here. It’s pulled pork!
In the meantime though, before the salad recipe, feel free to smoke away. A well-constructed pulled pork is delicious. And I do invite you to look into the Cameron smokers. Honestly, we use ours regularly and have loved it for decades.
Yield: 10 ½ ounces
- 1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- ⅓ cup fine salt
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- ¼ cup regular paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
Toast the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and coriander seed in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes, shaking the pan, until the spices release an aroma. Tip into a bowl and let cool.
Blitz the toasted spices in a blender to a rough powder. Combine with the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Keep in a sealed container for up to 1 week.
Sources: House Rub from Pitt Cue Co.: The Cookbook
Photo Information [Top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/40th second at ISO-3200
Photo Information [Bottom]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5 for 1/80th second at ISO-3200
For the record, I don’t own a chickpea farm or chickpea stock. I would not recognize a chickpea farm or bush or bog But I’m getting to enjoy them in a spectrum of preparation. Recently I’ve blogged about perfect lemony, velvety hummus, a hummus made with red peppers and paprika and Tabasco, and baked chickpeas with spice. Here’s a magnificent way to combine chickpeas with meat.
A pork loin is roasted with vegetables and wine. Separately, the chickpeas are cooked in wine, broth, and lemon juice. The two parts on combined on the serving plate, chickpeas on the bottom and pork on top.
Chickpeas do have a natural flavor, but they are bit of a flavor sponge. Here, the chickpeas find added flavor from the stock and lemon juice. They acquire a “bite” that contrasts very favorably with the pork loin. Pork loins can be, it must said, a tad boring. The flavor is lovely but most recipes end up tasting nearly the same. This recipe is a wonderful example of how to expand the flavor envelop.
This recipe is from the definitely wonderful Classico e Moderno: Essential Italian Cooking. Author Michael White is a culinary leader with his books and most especially with his restaurants. He knows the food that upscale clients relish and this recipe is surely one of them.
Pork Loin with Chickpeas and Ricotta Salata
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 boneless pork loin roast, about 2 pounds, trimmed of excess fat and tied
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head of garlic, halved horizontally, plus 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 Spanish onion, cut in ½-inch dice
- 1 carrot, cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 celery stalk, trimmed and cut into ½-inch dice
- 5 sage sprigs
- 5 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 1 ½ cups dry white wine
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 cups canned chickpeas
- 1 to 2 cups chicken stock
- 4 ounces ricotta salata cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Heat a wide heavy pot over high heat. Pour in the canola oil and tip and tilt the pot to coat it, heating the oil until it is shimmering and almost smoking. Season the pork loin with salt and pepper, add it to the pot, and cook, using tongs to turn it occasionally, until it is browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to a large plate.
Add the halved garlic head, onions, carrots, celery, 2 of the sage sprigs, and 3 of the bay leaves to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a small roasting pan and place the pork loin on top.
Discard the oil from the skillet, pour in 1 cup of the wine, and use the wooden spoon to loosen and flavorful bits cooked onto the bottom of the pat. Pour the wine over the pork loin and place the roasting pan in the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the roast reads 150° to 160°F. Remove from the oven and transfer the pork loin to a cutting board. Cover the pork loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil and tip and tile the pan to coat it. Add the sliced garlic cloves and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Add the remaining ½ cup wine, the lemon juice, and remaining 3 sage leaves and 2 bay leaves, bring to a simmer and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and enough stock just to cover them, bring to a summer, and continue to simmer until the chickpeas are warmed through and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
To serve, carve the pork loin diagonally into thin slices. Divide the chickpeas among 4 plates, top with the pork, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with pepper and top with the ricotta salata shavings.
Source: Classico e Moderno by Michael White
Photo Information [top picture]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/10th second at ISO-3200