I frequently post food pics and if I made the masterpiece itself, I’m often asked for the recipe. While there is most certainly a time and a place for the rigidity of cooking directly from a cookbook, my take on the culinary world is more artistic. The chef is allowed artistic creativity and the creative process to do as (s)he pleases — a pinch of this, a smidgen of that, and a dash of something else. When in doubt, try it out. I will often do a little homework online or flip through a cookbook for rough amounts, but after that it’s all left to the imagination. And memory.
So I made some pulled pork not too long ago and hosted a big ol’ dinner. It wasn’t pulled pork in the southern BBQ sense, but more of a slow roasted, spicy carnitas recipe that we served with pico de gallo, some frijoles, and atop a tortilla. This was Mexican night in Girona. Ole!
I was asked for the recipe for this carnitas/pulled pork, but I don’t have a rote, verbatim recipe. Instead, what follows below is my stab at pulled pork. And since I was asked for the recipe on no few than two occasions but the diners on hand, I trust it was at least palatable. Ready? Cook!
Tedwardo’s Spicy (but not too spicy) Carnitas Deliciosos:
In a nutshell it’s: dry rub, sear, cover and bake sloooowwwww and looowwwwww, then sauce, and shred.
Dry rub recipes you can find online. I usually look at a half dozen and then wing it. Salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, garlic, brown sugar, maybe clove, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, etc. If you want sweeter, more brown sugar. If you like spicier, more red pepper.
Dry rub recipes are always insanely too large. If you follow the typical recipe, you’ll probably end up making enough for a BBQ once per week for the entire summer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Just a heads up. Furthermore it stores well since it’s just spices. Even if you “contaminate” it and have it touch the raw meat, just put the excess in a bag and freeze it. (And if it’s not contaminated, also freeze it. Just ’cause I said so.)
Next go buy a pork shoulder. Or “pork butt”. Or “Boston pork butt”. I don’t know why they have these names but surely Google does. This buying step is easier said than done in Spain than America. And now a brief story: I was at the big Red Market in Girona and I asked for a “pork shoulder please” (in Spanish, of course. I think “uno hombro de cerdo, por favor” was my request) and as I waited and my eyes drifted the other way, my adorable little old lady server pulled out AN ENTIRE HALF 200 POUND PIG out of the freezer! It was great. I casually responded, “Naw, that’s a bit large” and bought something 1/100th the size. That’s all just a heads up; if you ask for a pork butt, I imagine you’ll get the latter regions of tripe. And if you ask for a Boston pork butt, they’ll have no idea what you’re saying. Good luck.
I truly think any big piece of pork will do. But for sure ideally you have bone-in. More flavor, far less dry, well worth it.
I’ve had my best results when there’s an entire 1″ layer of skin/fat on half the cut. I chop most of that off to the best of my speedily ability. Again, just like the bone, leaving some on will keep it moist. Furthermore if you’re scared of fat, this entire thing cooks in the most miraculous fashion that the juices all fall to the bottom, TONS of fat falls to the bottom, then you later separate these two components and you have some delicious, super lean meat. Magic? Almost. Exquisite? Obviously.
Cut off obvious bits of fat too, in addition to that skin.
Next put the meat into a plastic bag and chuck in some dry rub. Ehh, probably a 1/2 cup of rub. Shake shake shake.
Put a pan on the stove and chuck it up to high. Get it hot. Then wait another minute so it can get even hotter. I don’t bother using oil but you can if you want. And if you do, make it smoke!
Delicately huck meat into the pan and after waiting a little while, roll it around so that all sides get browned. Maybe 90″-2′ per side. If it’s getting blackened that’s totally fine.
Next put the meat into an oven-capable pan and then into a preheated oven at about 250F. Save yourself some serious clean up and line the pan with aluminum foil. Then cover the pan and seal it best you can with more foil. Or a lid. Whatever.
I’m sure there’s a simple formula for time as a function of weight. If the meat is about 1/2 the size of a proper NFL football, then I reckon 8 hours. Or find a proper recipe and Google it. But I’m yet to find overcooking it to be possible. And undercooked pork is gross so don’t bother doing that.
Okay it’s now afternoon and your pork is done. Remove meat from pan and put all the liquid into some sort of liquid container dealie, relatively carefully. As in, don’t stir or try to mix the liquid or pour it unnecessarily fast. Just pour it into said container. To expedite things, put that into the fridge. Or don’t, frankly I don’t care. As the temperature drops, you’ll see the fat rising to the top and the succulent and spicy jus sinking to the bottom. It’s slightly gelatinous and totally amazing.
Let’s fire up the stove again and over medium-low heat we’re now going to make BBQ sauce. In a stove pan of whatever size you want, mix up ketchup, molasses, random dry rub spices, and a splash of liquid smoke if you’re awesome. Stir and let simmer a bit. Also, skim the fat off the contain I mentioned in the previous paragraph and put that rich, brown pork sauce drippings into the pan. Oh man, that’s the good stuff! Simmer for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 minute, whatever.
With your cooked pork now cooled to room temperature, take a fork in each hand and shred it. You will find this step either incredibly tedious or incredibly satisfying. The meat should shread somewhat like a hot knife through butter. And if not, then you did something wrong and just give up now.
Once shredded, pour stove-top-BBQ-sauce-mixture (once you’ve tasted it and given it your nod of approval) over the shredded meat. I’ve found that I almost always have too little liquid. As in, it’s hard to over sauce it. Go nuts here cause the meat is now a sponge and sucks it all up.
Eat. Then eat more because as we recently discussed, it’s lean and therefore good for you.