Here's the Rub
A secret blend of sugar and spice turns an inexpensive cut of pork into a shredded delight.
(Photo by Jim Scherer / Styling by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven)
Inexpensive, loaded with flavor, and delightfully stringy, the cut called "Boston butt" makes mean pulled pork sandwiches. You don't need an elaborate outdoor smoker - or even a grill - to cook the meat, we learned from Dorchester residents Vince Droser and Nancy Anderson. After eating pulled pork at a local spot, the two began making their own at home, right in the oven. They begin with a dry rub and let the butt slow roast for the afternoon. After shredding, the succulent meat is heaped onto soft rolls. Pile on creamy slaw, a simple vinegar spritz, or tomato-based barbecue sauce, and you'll hardly believe how Southern your kitchen has suddenly become.
MAKES ABOUT 1 1/2 CUPS
6 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons hot or regular paprika
4 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground mace
In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, chili powder, cayenne, and mace. Toss well.
Transfer to an airtight container until ready to use.
PULLED PORK SANDWICHES
A Boston butt doesn't come from the back of the pig, but rather from the shoulder. In How to Cook Meat (William Morrow), Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby write that the cut was named early in American history. In Colonial times, the shoulders were packed into "butts" - the word for barrels - for shipping or storage.
1 boneless Boston butt (5 to 6 pounds)
1 recipe dry rub (see above)
8 soft buns or bulkie rolls (for serving)
Set the oven at 300 degrees. Have on hand a large flameproof casserole that holds the meat with plenty of room at the sides. A Dutch oven with a cover is ideal, or use a roasting pan and foil.
With your hands, coat the pork with the rub. Use only as much as you want to season the meat.
Set the pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, brown the pork on all sides. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with the lid, and transfer to the oven.
Roast the pork for 5 to 6 hours - it makes plenty of juice without adding liquid - or until the mean can easily be pulled off with a fork. Remove the meat from the juices and transfer to a platter. Set it aside until it is cool enough to handle.
Add 1 cup of water to the cooking juices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, scraping the bottom of the pan. Tip all the juices into a heatproof bowl; refrigerate for several hours or until thoroughly chilled.
Using your hands or two forks, shred the pork, discarding any fat around the meat (there is plenty). Transfer to a container and refrigerate.
Skim and discard the fat from the cooking juices. Reheat the juices over high heat. Add the shredded pork and bring to a boil again. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pile the meat onto soft buns or bulkie rolls and top with a vinegar or barbecue sauce and creamy coleslaw.
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
In a bowl, stir together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Store in a glass jar.
MAKES ABOUT 4 CUPS
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup ketchup
1 cup canned tomato puree
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon hot or regular paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and salt and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring often, or until the onion softens.
Stir in the pepper, vinegar, brown and granulated sugars, ketchup, tomato puree, lemon juice, mustard, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and nutmeg. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens.
In a blender, puree the mixture until smooth. Leave to cool completely.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
ASK THE COOK: Shell Game
My son is allergic to eggs, so I am always looking for egg-free recipes. Some call for egg substitutes, but in cases such as a pie crust that includes brushing with egg or breading instructions that direct you to dip food in egg, can the egg be skipped or a substitute used? Will this make a difference in the taste or texture?
JAMIE SPENCER /// Winchester
If the egg in a recipe is part of a coating and not integral to the structure or leavening of the mixture, then, certainly, it may be either omitted or replaced. But it's difficult to omit the egg in, for example, a cake recipe that calls for beating eggs with sugar. Brushing egg white onto a bottom pastry crust before baking will to a certain extent help waterproof the dough so it does not become soggy when filled; you can skip this step entirely. For a top crust, egg is used to lend a shiny finish to the cooked pastry. Brushing the crust with a little heavy cream will have the same effect. Standard breading procedure calls for dredging the chicken, fish, or vegetable in seasoned flour, dipping it in an egg wash, and then coating it with bread crumbs. But the middle step need not include eggs. Milk or even water can be used for the "wet" step, so long as it will moisten the flour and provide a coating to which bread crumbs will adhere. Some popular fried chicken restaurants omit any kind of final breading and simply take the chicken back and forth several times between a liquid and seasoned flour. It would take a very discriminating palate to notice the difference in taste, and the texture should be light and appealing.
Answer by Peter J. Kelly, a chef-instructor at Johnson & Wales University.