Oh I have had the good fortune of eating in some
of the best restaurants in the world. World famous Guy Savoy's namesake temple to gastronomy in Paris (twice). American legend Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Yountville. Le Cirque 2000 in New York. And perhaps, my favorite of the lot. Restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain. They are all wonderful. But they are not barbecue. You can have a passion for cooking. But no cuisine (other than French or Basque, perhaps) is considered "a passion". Except that is for barbecue.
I thought about this passion long and hard. And then I pulled out my crock pot. You probably think I need a slap in the face. But I'll get to that later.
Democracy and the Bill of Rights? Important milestones in governing our nation. Women's Suffrage. Its impact on civil government cannot be underestimated. The Civil Rights Voting Act of 1964. No doubt a gut wrenching change millions had to deal with. All of these milestones of society emerged through conflict. This country was founded on barbecue.
This kind of cooking is complicated. I don't mean the actual technical act of the cooking itself. Low and slow. Mesquite and Hickory. Indirect heat smokers. Nothing overly complicated at an execution level. Find a heat source. Light a fire. And let it go. The complexity comes down to a simple issue. No one can agree what defines real barbecue.
First of all, what meat do you use? Beef. Pork. Chicken. Once that is sorted then you have to argue about what is the best cut. Brisket. Loins. Ribs. Racks. Butts. Shoulders. Legs. Sausage. Some misguided people actually believe only beef brisket qualifies as BBQ. But I am a pork lover. I am ready to make my stand so bring it on.
And then there are the flavoring bases. Marinades. Dry Rubs. Wet Rubs. Brines. Vinegar based sauces. Tomato based. Heat. Sweet. Spicy. Smoky. I'm a wet tomato based sauce lover. I've actually had heated conversations about the whole wet vs. dry method of BBQ cooking. Don't invade my personal space on this topic as it won't turn out too good for you.
Now you just try having a rational barbecue conversation with someone from Memphis, or Texas. Kansas City or Georgia. Birmingham or Santa Maria. There is no agreement on what constitutes real barbecue. BBQ is a passion. Someone just might get hurt.
You'd think with my love of low and slow cooking I would sing the merits of mesquite. Or perhaps smokers. But I don't. Yeah, I'll stand outside in the hot sun for hours, clothes smelling of smoke. Wiping sweat off my brow. I'd rather pay someone else for that commitment however. But I still love eating barbecue at home. Which is why I use my slow cooker. I'm getting funny looks from people across the country right about now. But for my favorite type of barbecue, pulled pork in a sweet and spicy tomato based sauce, there is simply no need.
Simple and easy to make, a little water, some sliced onion and a good cut of pork are all that is needed to turn out fantastic BBQ. And the key for this recipe is that when the cooking is half way done you simply drain the water and chop the meat. Adding back in some homemade sauce and fresh chopped onion for the second round of cooking forces the meat to put off its liquid, causing a tenderness that forces a concentration in flavor. I've had pulled pork sandwiches at Smoki-O's in St. Louis. A small altar to porcine eating. This version is just as good.
I like making my own barbecue sauce. There are plenty of good versions you can purchase that are store bought. But I feel that if I am going to skip the whole "smoke your own and make a personal commitment" experience, the least I can do is cook my own masterful sauce. Oh, I'm a sauce guy as you well know and as I have written about previously here. In this version, I ad libbed a basic Steven Reichlen tomato based treatment, substituting a cajun rub for a dry BBQ rub and adding in extra cayenne. For me, the whole reason to do a tomato based sauce is to get the interplay of spicy versus sweet. You can start modestly and then add in 1/4 teaspoons of pepper to get to the right "low burn". I had a reasonable rendition of this at Dreamland BBQ in Birmingham a few times. They have been making BBQ since 1958. Although I call this a "Kentucky Black Bourbon" sauce, technically it isn't since it isn't purely vinegar based. I add in Balsamic vinegar and a touch of bourbon. A couple of bites of this and you'll start trash talkin'.
OK, OK. Calm down now. It's not done in a smoker. Or over wood. But this is cooked slowly and comes out meltingly tender. As my friend Bren over at FlaN Boyant Eats likes to say this is "slap yo mama in the face good". Let the fighting begin...
Recipe for Pulled Pork with Kentucky
Black Bourbon BBQ Sauce & Creamy Slaw
3-4 lb pork butt or shoulder
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce
Kentucky Black Bourbon BBQ Sauce
1 cup Heinz ketchup
1/2 cup Heinz or similar chili sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 TBSP prepared yellow mustard
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP bourbon
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper, with more to taste for heat
2 cups sliced red or green cabbage
1/2 carrot grated
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 TBSP sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
11/4 tsp pepper
4 soft hamburger buns
Put 2/3 of the sliced onion on the bottom of a 6 qt or larger slow cooker/crock pot. Lay pork roast over the onions. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and lay remaining onion slices over the top. Set cooker on "High" for 4 to 5 hours. Do not break the seal of the lid. Remove pork to a cutting board and let rest for 5 mins. Drain liquid and discard onions in slow cooker. Chop the pork into 1 to 2 inch pieces and add back into the crock pot. Add chopped onions and 1 1/4 cups of BBQ sauce and stir. Cook for an additional 4-5 hours on "Low" stirring 2 or 3 times. Using two forks, shred the pork.
Kentucky Black Bourbon BBQ Sauce
Combine all ingredients with 1/2 of the cayenne pepper in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil slowly and stir. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally until thickened. Check the sauce for heat and add more cayenne if needed.
Whisk together the mayonnaise and the sour cream until smooth. Add in cider vinegar, salt and pepper and stir. Mix cabbage and carrot with the dressing and let sit for 30 minutes.
To serve the Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Wrap the buns in foil and heat in a 275 degree oven for 10 minutes. Mound 1/2 cup of the pulled pork on the bottom bun half. Place 3-4 TBSP of slaw over the top. Slather the top bun half with some of the remaining BBQ sauce. Serve with dill pickles on the side.