Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pulled Pork vs. Carnitas: Pulled makes a comeback

Previously I touted the superiority of carnitas when it comes to preparing a pork shoulder. I stand by the assertion, but I just made some pulled pork that closes the gap.

This technique is not how most people make pulled pork. Its more like an indian dish at the beginning, make a masala to build intense flavor, then braise the meat with this masala. But there are more European elements. The meat is seared first and braised in a liquid more common to a tuscan stew. The braising liquid becomes a bbq sauce then it is mixed together at the end like a southern pulled pork.

The flavor in this is interesting. It isn't exactly a tomato base, but there is tomato in it. The vegetables, particularly the parsnips, make a potent base. Then the cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika combine to make a sweet and intense sauce.

Hardware:
Dutch oven, sized appropriately for the hunk of pork. I used an enameled cast iron pot.

Software:
4-5 pound pork roast. Shoulder or boston butt, bone in is probably better but not necessary.
.25 cups canola oil
.5 cups finely diced onion
.5 cups finely diced carrot
.5 cups finely diced parsnip (thats right, parsnips)
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 cups diced tomato. I used 5 plum.

Spices:
1 T cumin seeds
1 3 inch cinnamon stick
1 T coriander
1 T smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 T salt
.5 tsp ground mustard

Braising liquid:
2 cups stock, chicken and/or lamb. I used a homemade combination of both.
1 cup red wine
.25 cups balsamic vinegar
zest of 1 lemon
bay leaf

Process:
Preheat over to 300 F.
Liberally salt the pork on all sides. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to bring it close to room temperature.

Masala:
Put the canola oil in the dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds.

When the seeds sizzle, add the onion, carrot, parsnips, and cinnamon stick. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the garlic for about 2 minutes.

Once all the vegetables are soft but not browned, stir in the rest of the spices, let it cook for about 1 minute.

Remove the masala from the pot to a separate dish.

Braised Pork
Sear the pork on all sides. It should get a nice browning.

Add the masala and the tomato. Pour in the braising liquid until the meat is 2/3 covered. This is important. 2/3 of the meat should be covered. This leads to proper braising.

Scrape up anything on the bottom of the pot. Put the lid on, put in the oven for 3-4 hours (3 for a 4 pound roast, 4 for a 5).

When its done, remove from oven, take the lid off and let it cool for an hour or 2. It is important to cool the meat in the liquid or will get dry.

When the meat is cooled off (it doesn't have to be room temperature, just cool enough to handle) move it to a big bowl. Shred it by taking two forks, simply pulling it apart.

BBQ Sauce:
Return the pot of braising liquid to the stove, (remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf) simmer until reduced by about half. You are looking for an intensely flavored liquid because when you mix it with the pork, the pork has a calming effect on the spices. Taste the reduction, add salt or sugar is needed.

Now we have a decision to make. This pot is chock full of pork fat. Highly saturated, cholesterol laden, delicious, delicious pork fat. So you can use that pork fat or remove a good deal of it. If you choose to remove the fat, let the pot cool for a bit, then put it in the fridge over night. The fat will congeal on top then you can easily take it off.

This is just the braising liquid pureed. Dump it in a food processor or use a hand blender to smooth it out. I used a hand blender to puree it while still warm in the pot. If you cooled it off in the fridge, you might have to warm it up again, but maybe not.

Pulled Pork:
Mix some of the bbq sauce with the shredded pork. Amount is up to you, depends how wet you like it. Serve on a roll or with some cole slaw.