This one goes out to my family in Sacramento.
My family celebrates every special occasion in the same manner. Birthdays, Holidays, Funeral Services, Memorial Services, Engagements, Pregnancies…..you name the occasion, and the wagons will circle at my late Grandmother’s farm. We are also benefited (and incredibly lucky) by having numerous talented home cooks at our disposal. Every time we gather for a meal, there are inevitably enough leftovers for two more diet-busting dinners.
However……take one guess at how many dishes on that table I contributed to? If you guessed anything other than, “None,” you are incorrect.
I love my family so much. I am proud of my heritage and know I am fortunate to have a multitude of strong family memories centered around food, large dinners, and laughter. Akin to so many brooding pre-teens and teenagers, I was absolutely unappreciative of these gifts while they were readily accessible to me. In elementary and middle school, I was a picky eater. I essentially used family dinners as an excuse to Hoover up – yes, I eat like a truck driver at these things – rice, mashed potatoes, and fruit salad, with the occasional piece of pumpkin pie or leftover appetizer to round things out. I shunned all vegetables except green beans, broccoli, and corn, and was so opposed to tomatoes, squash, and pickles, I might as well have been allergic to them.
So I realize I’ve created my own circumstances. I know it’s difficult for them to take me seriously as a cook after eighteen years of picky eating and marching numerous flaky significant others through our gatherings.
I wish I could cook for my family…..once.
I am hindered by being the youngest adult cousin and living almost 500 miles away. I realize there is very little room for me to sneak in edgewise with a side dish or dessert option, since everyone in the family already has their signature contributions to each meal. Dip and deviled eggs, baked beans, roasted, smoked, or blackened meat (brisket, teriyaki chicken, etc.), the list goes on. My family is full of nurturers who feed others, hard workers who never complain, and strong believers who stick together.
I just want to feed them, damn it.
I’ll put the request out there. I know you guys have real jobs and kids and such…..but on the off-chance you’re reading this whiny, selfish blog entry on your coffee break, between phone calls, or during commercials….the best birthday present I can currently imagine (aside from my usual request for no presents in lieu of a donation to the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation) would be to cook a meal for all of you.
You don’t have to love it. You don’t even have to like it. I would just feel incredibly honored to have the people who have funded my formative years and compose the majority of my core try my food. For those of you who are only here for the pulled pork recipe, I apologize for the “Full House” worthy speech. It’s below, and it slays. Make it at the risk of eating nothing else for four days.
Pulled Pork and Bonus Curating My Cooking’s Signature BBQ Sauce Prototype
For the Pork:
- 2 Heads of Garlic, halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup ish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt and Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Dried Thyme
- 2 teaspoons Mustard Powder
- 2 teaspoons Paprika
- 2 teaspoons Fresh Ginger
- Zest of 1 Orange
- One 1 and 1/2 lb. Pork Butt (it’s called a Shoulder Roast now, but it’s Pork Butt, okay?)
- 1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup White Vinegar
- 1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
For the BBQ Sauce:
- 1 and 1/4 cups Ketchup
- 1 cup Cola (I highly recommend Mexican Coke)
- 1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
- 1/4 cup Crystals Hot Sauce (any other supposed “Louisiana” hot sauce is not up to snuff)
- 2 tablespoons Molasses
- 2 tablespoons Cornstarch
Turn your oven to 350.
Roast the garlic (season the halves with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher Salt, and Pepper to taste) for 1 hour ish. Let cool and squeeze the garlicky goodness out of the cloves. Trust me, the extra hour is worth the extra flavor. Plus, it gives you an hour to crack a beer and relax.
Combine the roasted garlic cloves with the thyme, mustard, paprika, ginger, orange zest, and 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a bowl and make a paste out of it.
Place the pork in a roasting pan, season on both sides with salt and pepper to taste, then rub the paste all over both sides of it. Use your hands. Get dirty and messy. It’s going to be amazing. Cover the roasting pan with foil and roast for 2 to 6 hours, depending on your oven’s degree of heat. (Stop every 45 minutes to baste the pan juices over the meat.)
If you’ve got a meat thermometer, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 200 Degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you’re obviously looking for the meat to be cooked cooked all the way through. That’s not pink anymore, for our newer students.
A Note: When I tried this recipe, I was able to get the appropriate texture after 2 and 1/2 hours of roasting, but I had to chop up the pork a bit. The longer you cook the pork for – provided you are willing to nurture, baste, and love it like a small child or puppy, ideally until the meat is literally falling apart – the more flavor it will have.
Once the pork is done roasting, combine 2 tablespoons of the fat/pan juices with the light brown sugar, white vinegar, cider vinegar, and one cup of water in a pot over Medium Low heat until bubbling. Toss this with the chopped/pulled pork and season with more kosher salt and pepper to taste.
To Make the BBQ Sauce: Combine all BBQ sauce ingredients in a pot and boil over Medium heat until glossy and thick.
I served this on Kings Hawaiian Rolls alongside killer cheese grits and sauteed kale made by my dear friend (and newest Netflix employee) Cully.
I’d say this is worth at least one bite.