Sometimes at work, I find myself standing in front of the microwave at around 3 o’clock, reheating that morning’s coffee and dreaming about the weekend. While I try to avoid watching that little glass plate spin around, I can close my eyes for a second and remember what it’s like to spend a day unencumbered by obligations. It’s almost like I forget what Saturdays are like by Tuesday of every week. That moment–that small, desperate moment before a bad cup of coffee–is when I dream up meals like this. I so relish the idea of spending a whole day in the kitchen that I make plans to do just that.
Today, Jason and I woke up around 7, went for a run that ended with coffee at Weaver Street Market, and then came home around 9 to get to work on this pulled pork. It’s a day-long process, truly. It has to be in the oven for 6-6.5 hours, but you don’t have to do anything to it in that time. So, you have plenty of time to do crazy-ambitious things like make your own sesame seed buns.
For these sandwiches, I made a brussels sprout slaw to go with. (Did you know that it’s a brussels sprout and not a brussel sprout? I had no idea until very recently.) A slaw made of brussels sprouts is like the grown-up fancy-pants cousin of a slaw made of cabbage. It has a more intense flavor, but the same crunch. To be honest, the whole meal was sort of a fancy-pants version of a traditional (but sometimes kind of boring) Eastern North Carolina Barbeque Sandwich. I love vinegar-based barbeque sauce, but I feel like the buns you usually get are so soft that they just become immediately soggy when faced with the sauce. To combat this, I made my own buns. Like I said before, this is an all-day sort of situation.
Orange and Avocado Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette: (recipe from NotWithoutSalt.com)
2 navel oranges
1 small shallot, minced
small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
3 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice
salt and pepper
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, minced shallot, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Cut the peel off the oranges, then slice them into rounds. Arrange 4 slices on each plate. Then, halve the avocado and slice each half, arranging the slices on top of the oranges on both plates. Then, sprinkle with chopped parsley and drizzle with the dressing. Serve immediately.
Wash the brussels sprouts, then cut off their stems and peel away any bruised leaves. Then, if you have a mandoline slicer, use that to slice them really thin, starting at the stem end. If not, use a sharp knife and try not to cut off your fingertips. Gently separate the rings and place the shreds into a bowl. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and serve! It’ll stay in the fridge for a couple of days, but it might get a little wilty.
Pulled Pork (Rub and Cooking Method): (recipe from NotWithoutSalt.com)
5-7 pound pork shoulder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t cayenne pepper
3 T paprika (regular or smoked, I used half and half)
3 T salt
1 T black pepper
1 t sugar
1/4 t molasses
2 t cumin
1 T yellow mustard, 2 T dijon mustard
Mince the garlic and add the spices and salt. Add the mustard, sugar and molasses and mix until goopy. Then, rub it all over the pork shoulder (after rinsing and drying it with paper towels). After that, put the whole shoulder into a roasting pan or large dutch oven (don’t worry about putting anything in the pan with it, it will throw off enough fat to keep it from sticking). Put it in the oven, uncovered, at 300 degrees F, and leave it there for 6 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. (I did eventually cover mine, just keep checking to make sure the top isn’t getting too brown.)When the shoulder comes out of the oven, take it out of the pot and use two forks/your fingers to separate the meat until it looks like it should. You can also take out the bones and then chop the meat with a big knife, but I prefer it pulled. It’s up to you!
Eastern North Carolina Barbeque Sauce:
2 c apple cider vinegar
2-3 T crushed red pepper
1 T dijon mustard
salt and pepper
(this time, I used a little paprika because I used it on the pork itself, but it’s optional)
Whisk all ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Then, Pour 2/3 of the sauce into the pot/roasting pan to deglaze the bottom. Throw the pulled pork back in on top of the sauce and mix. Use the remaining sauce for sandwiches.
Sesame Seed Buns: (recipe from NotWithoutSalt.com)
2 t active dry yeast (I like Fleischmann’s)
1 1/3 c warm milk (about 95 degrees F)
2 T honey
4 c all purpose flour
2 t sea salt
1/2 stick butter, softened
sesame seeds for topping
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
Start by heating your milk to around 95 degrees F. Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the honey, milk, and the yeast. When it’s combined, leave it alone for about 10 minutes. When you come back, the top should be foamy because the yeast is eating away at the honey. If it’s not, throw your mixture out and start again. Your water may be too hot or cold (killing the yeast or failing to activate it), or your yeast may just be old–check the date! (Tip: store yeast in the refrigerator for longer lifespan)
Next, put the flour and salt into the bowl, but switch from the whisk attachment to the dough hook. Mix on low until all is combined. Then, add the egg and keep going on med/low while you add the butter one tablespoon at a time. When everything has come together and the dough isn’t sticking to the sides of the bowl, turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel, and leave it alone for about 2 hours in a warm place. (Your house is probably a fine temperature.)
When the dough has doubled in size, roll balls about the size of your fist and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. When you finish that, cover them again with a damp dishtowel and let them rise again for about an hour and a half (they should double in size again).
When they’ve risen, brush the tops of the buns liberally with the egg wash. Then, sprinkle on some sesame seeds. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-35 minutes. Watch them carefully. When the tops and bottoms are golden brown, they’re ready!
Assemble all aforementioned parts and pieces to make sandwiches. Enjoy with beer and laughs. You deserve it after all that work! Next Tuesday, I’ll be thinking about these sandwiches while I lazily watch the microwave plate rotate. How about you?