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.  

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