Such were my groans of pleasure last week at lunch time, the Hitherto Certified Anti-Pulled Pork Brigade caved in and begged for a taste.
That ‘brigade’ of course, were the Little Humans in the house and immediately, upon experiencing the succulent, spiced meat they demanded to know, “Why didn’t we get this for lunch too?”
To that, I had no answer except to say, they didn’t even want to sample it the previous time I pulled the pork apart, when it had exited the slowcooker.
This time though, it was too late and the Little Humans had had to make do with their own favourite trashy lunch of potato waffles, beans and cheese, which they’d already finished, just as I was sitting down to my brioche bap packed full of the left-over pulled pork and home-made coleslaw – with a side of tortilla chips for the added crunch factor. We know how to rock the Casbah at Rancho Relaxo.
“Soz, you should have said yous wanted some,” was all I could manage. “There’s none left now. Yous’ll know for the next time, sure.”
I was unwholesomely pleased and in more ways than one.
A friend recently gave me a copy of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Kitchen Confidential’ and I started the book last week as I sat sated and smiling, following my latest pulled pork lunch.
I have always liked the American chef and have watched a few of his TV shows, most notably No Reservations (possibly the best name for a TV food show ever). So far, literary-wise, I’m about a third of the way through and it’s great. Shocking but great. However I was amazed to learn of the moment that the late Mr Bourdain realised food and/or cookery would play a prominent role in his future.
He was on holiday in France with his brother and parents and during a trip out to oyster beds, he ate a raw oyster, mainly to spite his aghast folks as the sibling recoiled in disgust. That moment, when the brine-y, ozone-y, live shellfish slipped down his gullet and he saw the look on his family’s faces, he realised that food was power. And he wanted more of it.
Upon reading this, I realised that I had just had a similar experience, when the Hitherto Certified Anti-Pulled Pork Brigade were appealing for a taste. Food certainly has a power, especially when it’s great food and a new taste or experience comes out of the blue, like forked lightning on a clear day.
From the combined looks of the faces of the Little Humans when they first sampled the pulled pork – awe, delight, shock, indignation (all in that order) – I now know that in that moment they too experienced the power of food. I also know that when next the slow cooker is dug out and the necessary ingredients are assembled for the pork, they will be first in the queue for lunch. Bibs optional, but recommended.
Seriously though, I really wouldn’t be averse to the wearing of bibs when eating this version of pulled pork. It’s comfortingly messy and the sort of unpretentious food that makes you feel as though a magical form of alchemy just took place under your nose and without you noticing.
Honestly, if I had been eating the last morsel of the pulled pork brioche bap and Marilyn Monroe had landed into my kitchen to do a swap with a wheelie bin full to the lip with caviar, truffles, foie gras and Malteasers out of the Celebrations box, I wouldn’t have handed it over.
Not for that special prize wheelie bin, not for the cure to cold sores not even for a night on the tiles with Ms Monroe herself. Yes, it’s that good. But don’t just take my word for it because it’s deceptively easy to do.
Pulled pork aficionados will likely scoff at this recipe but I couldn’t care less.
4 boneless pork steaks (about a kilo’s worth)
2 tsps of ground cumin
2 tsps of smoked paprika or normal paprika (I’ve tried both and they’re both great)
2 tsps of soft brown sugar
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of fine sea salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper – about ten turns of the mill
pinch of cayenne
3/4 of a pint of good cider
4 tbsps of barbecue sauce
coleslaw (half a red onion, a quarter of a white cabbage and a small carrot all shredded and with enough mayo to bind)
Start by getting the herbs and spices and sugar and salt and pepper out and mix in a small bowl. Once combined, rub this concoction around the shoulder steak, into every nook and cranny.
Give the cider a minute in the microwave to take the chill off (it helps the slow cooker come to a cooking temp) and then pour this into the slow cooker, add the steak and cook on high for about five hours, until the meat is falling apart and your kitchen is full of the kind of scent God’s own perfumier might make on his day off.
After that time, remove the steaks to a large bowl, shred – or ‘pull’ – with two forks and then spoon in about a quarter of the cooking liquor. Mix this through to keep the meat moist. Remove the remaining cooking liquor to a saucepan and when it cools slightly, skim off the fat from the top.
Put the pan on a high heat and as it bubbles, add the barbecue sauce and let it reduce slightly for a couple of minutes.
Add half of this highly flavoured sauce to the pulled pork and mix through and then place the rest of the sauce in a bowl for dipping purposes. And that’s basically it. Toast the brioche buns, lay on a generous portion of the pork, top with coleslaw and then tuck in without delay. And don’t forget to dip the sandwiches as you go!
Not even if Marilyn landed in with a wheelie bin full of Tayto Spring Onion Crisps!