Friday, February 11, 2011

Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coca Cola BBQ Sauce

If I had to cook tonight, we'd be in dire straights.  My energy is gone.  My only desire is to lay on my couch like a blob and watch last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy (yes, I'm still watching - I figured once I made it past the "Denny's a ghost!" season, it could only improve) and an episode or two of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef (I leeeerve Anne Burrell) before collapsing into bed.

Luckily, I am a blob who had, and is now full of, leftovers.  Delicious, tasty tasty leftovers, of root beer pulled pork sandwiches with Coca Cola BBQ Sauce.  

This is easily the easiest freakin' recipe I have ever made.  That was two "easys" in one sentence!  It does require a slow cooker and a lot of time, but the slow cooker does all the work.  You don't have to actually do anything to create the deliciousness (except lay like a blob on the couch watching Anne Burrell).  

Here's the process: you take some pork shoulder.  You put it in a slow cooker.  A sprinkling of salt and onion powder is totally optional.  You pour over a bottle of root beer, and set the slow cooker on low.  You go to sleep.  You wake up in the morning to the smell of sweet, meaty slow-roastedness (which, I might add, is super confusing when you just wake up).  You throw it in the fridge.  When you get home from work, you skim off the fat, and shred the pork, and add some BBQ sauce.  Preferably some BBQ sauce you made yourself, with another ubiquitous soda pop, Coca Cola, as its base.  Just to continue on the soda pop theme of the meal, you see.  

Voila.  Done.*  Root beer + time turns a tough, cheap cut of meat into easy smoky goodness.  How does it work?  MAGIC.  Magic should not be questioned.  

Root Beer Pulled Pork

Adapted from

I owe this recipe idea entirely to my friend Shannon, who brilliantly posted about her success with it on facebook.  The original recipe called for pork tenderloin, which is a much more expensive cut of meat.  For example, what is widely renowned as the best cut of meat on a cow, a filet mignon, is from the tenderloin.  (Yes, I also watch Julia Child with Jacques Pepin.)  So I replaced it with pork shoulder.  Pork butt would also work great.  As an additional note, I cooked mine for 10 hours, but next time I think I'll go for 7, so that I'm able to get a larger shred of the pork.  

2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle of root beer
Coca Cola BBQ Sauce (recipe below)
Hamburger buns
Optional: salt, onion powder.

The night before you want to eat it, place the pork shoulder in a slow cooker.  If desired, sprinkle with salt and a smidge of onion powder.  Pour the root beer over the meat, until just covered.  Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours.  Keeping the pork in the ceramic liner of the slow cooker, place it in the fridge while you go off to work.  When you want to serve, skim off the fat; drain the remaining liquid well.  Remove any bones and large fat deposits; pull the pork a part.  Put back in the slow cooker on low or warm; add the BBQ sauce.  Serve over toasted hamburger buns with some quick-pickled onions (keep reading for the recipe!).  

Coca Cola BBQ Sauce

From Steven Raichlen

I love this recipe because it too is super easy and it can easily be made with things you probably already have in the pantry.  No need to buy the expensive bottles in the store when this takes less than 15 minutes to whip up.

1 cup Coca Cola
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup A-1 steak sauce
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and gradually bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat slightly to obtain a gentle simmer.  Simmer the sauce until reduced by 1/4, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add to pulled pork or, in the alternative, transfer to clean jars, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until serving.  Mr. Raichlen says it will keep for several months in the fridge.  

Quick-Pickled Red Onions

*Somewhere in there before the "done" stage, I suggest quick-pickling some red onion to top off the pulled pork before you smoosh it between the pillowy mounds of a potato-bread hamburger bun.  Technically, this does raise the difficulty of the recipe, but only by a tenth of a percentage point, as quick-pickling onions involves two things: 1. Mixing a bunch of stuff in a bowl.  2. Slicing the onions and adding them to the contents of the bowl to sit for at least an hour.

From Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Anne Burrell (Hey!  I knew I was watching her for a reason)

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 good shots of hot sauce (Tabasco or Sriracha)
1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Let sit for at least an hour - a couple of hours or overnight makes it even better.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Waste Not

I cannot stand wasting food.  Maybe it was drilled into me at Sixth Grade Camp, where if we left even a scrap of edible food on our plates, points were deducted from our cabin (all the cabins were in competition, you see).  Maybe it's just something that got passed down to me from grandparents who were born into the Great Depression.  Either way, unless it is growing mold, or so past its expiration date that not even I can justify using it, I have a very hard time tossing food.

When I do finally toss it, I try to keep as much as possible out of the trash.  Our compost is full of inedible fruit and vegetable scraps, and the birds in the front yard have gotten an old potato and a quarter of a sliced apple that never got eaten.  Onion tops, carrot peelings and the tops of celery all become stock for soup.  But a new challenge has recently arisen:


My boyfriend buys bread whenever he goes to the store.  He's decided he's not a big fan of sandwich bread (which keeps almost forever if you keep it in the fridge); he likes the artisan breads.  You know, the kind that go stale in two days.  The kind that you need to make into something, like sandwiches or croutons, before they become so hard they'd smash your bones if they fell on your foot.

So, I've been making lots of sandwiches, and lots of salads with croutons.  But the two of us just can't seem to make our way through the end of the bread before the dreaded staleness sets in.

That's why I've resorted to a freezer bag of bread ends.  It looks like this:

And ends up like this, with the aid of my beloved food processor:

I once tried to make homemade bread crumbs in the blender.  It worked, but not before I started to fear that the blender was going to spontaneously burst into flames.  So I'd recommend using the food processor.

I used to scoff at homemade bread crumbs.  Especially for things like meatball recipes, which, it has been my experience, actually work better with the very fine texture of store bought.  But for recipes like this delectable cauliflower dish, or on the tops of homemade macaroni and cheese, they truly make all the difference.  Once I've turned that freezer bag of bread into bread crumbs, I put the crumbs in a Tupperware and throw them back in the freezer, where they are ready whenever I may need them.

The moral of this little post is to waste not.  Turn that trash into treasure!  Or something cliched like that.  But whatever you do, eat some homemade breadcrumbs, golden and crunchy with salt and butter.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cupcake Fondue

My wish came true, here's cupcake fondue!

As you may remember, I posted a link to Bake It Pretty's recipe for cupcake fondue, and was very excited to try it! I was unable to procure a fondue pot, but it was not necessary for this faux fondue. The icing does not need to be kept warm to stay a dippable texture. Please click the link above for the recipe, and check out my pictures below to see how my version came out! It makes an adorable spread. (Feel free to ignore the chocolate covered cashews, they were my neighbor on the dessert table!)

 The cute bowls came from the $1 bins at Target, and I filled them with all kinds and colors of sprinkles! I also offered two flavors of icing, one made with lemon juice and one with pomegranate juice. The lemon was a hit, but my fiancĂ©e said the pomegranate tasted like Fruit Loops!

Katherine's boyfriend was an eager volunteer when it was time to show the proper way to add sprinkles, and equally eager to taste the results!

 Simple to make, pretty to display, fun to eat, and delicious!
I will certainly make these again for another party.

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