Tag Archives: pork

Barbecue Pulled Pork

I’m a barbecue fanatic. Kruegers are looked down on in my family for not asking for barbecue sauce with fries at a restaurant. There are 3 different brands in my fridge rightthisveryminute. I’m SERIOUS about barbecue. And luckily, there are others who share my obsession enthusiasm.

See, there are these guys in Bloomington called, affectionately, the Ribs Guys. More accurately, they are called Ribs Guys! because people are generally excited when they see them. The proprietors of a restaurant called Smokin’ Jack’s Barbecue have a stand at all the home football games (17th and Dunn!) and a handful of random Fridays and Saturdays where they sell ribs, smoked sausages, pulled pork sandwiches at great prices. You get the same foods they sell at the restaurant for in-the-parking-lot-of-a-convenience-store prices. NOTHING could be better. Meredith and I have a system where we call or text (in capital letters, obvs) to let each other know when the Ribs Guys! are at their post. Then we eat barbecue sauce-slathered ribs before we go to fancy military events. Because we’re normal.

The problem of course, is that it’s now basketball season and the Ribs Guys! don’t hang out at the food mart when it’s cold out. So I get a hankering for their food at inopportune times and figure out ways to make a version myself. Take this pulled pork for instance: take a cut of pork, some sauce and liquid smoke, a crock pot, and a wheat bun and you, Sir, have some heaven on a plate there. And it couldn’t be easier.

Ingredients:

1 pork roast or pork butt
salt and pepper to cover
1 Tbsp liquid smoke (or mesquite liquid smoke)
1 Tbsp teriyake sauce (opt)
about 1 C barbecue sauce (or a mixture of multiple brands)

As I said, I like to use different sauces for different foods so I assemble an assortment. You can use any brand or type of sauce you like. (I also really like Tony Roma’s Carolina Honey sauce but I’m out of it at the moment.) This time I mixed Sweet Baby Ray’s (a classic) and Jack Daniels Honey Smokehouse with a little mesquite liquid smoke and teriyaki sauce. They combine to form a complex and smokey flavor.

Don’t I sort of sound like I’m talking about wine? Just substitute some words there and I’m a sommelier. For real.

This is so easy. It’s barely a recipe. You can use pork shoulder, pork butt or a lean pork loin like I used here. Rinse it if you want and apply salt and pepper over all sides. Pour the liquid smoke and teriyaki sauce in the slow-cooker. Add the barbecue sauce(s) and stir well. Turn the heat to high* and add the pork.

Brush the top of the meat with a silicon brush. I really hate using natural hair or wooden-handled brushes for this since, hi, it’s raw pork and that creeps me out. Slosh barbecue sauce all over the top and cook for about 5 hours.

*If you have more time, reduce heat to low or medium and increase cooking time. I only had 5 hours this time so that’s what I did but roasts taste even better the longer they are cooked.

Oh hello.

See how tender and succulent this is? It falls apart. Use two forks to shred the pork and separate everything into consistently-sized strips. And it really is tender enough for this. The only reason for a knife is to cut the long strips in half so you don’t end up with long dangley pieces.

When you’re finished, spoon all the sauce into a bowl and set aside. Dump all the pork into the slow cooker (set to warm or very low) and pour on the sauce. Depending on the size of your cut of meat, you might need more or less. You might also want less sauce on your pork. It’s all a matter of taste. So spoon or pour on a little at a time before stirring and testing to see if you need to add more. I used all my sauce (<-surprise) (<-sarcasm).

This will stay hot for hours if you are at a party or pot luck. In fact, I kind of can’t wait to make this for a pot luck or superbowl party. Everyone will love you when you make it! Serve on a wheat bun or roll and top with a little extra barbecue sauce if you want.

I won’t judge you. In fact, it will make me want to be your friend.

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Fennel & Mustard-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

It saddens me sometimes when I realize certain taste differences between Chad and myself. He won’t eat cooked spinach. Period. He doesn’t gravitate to the sweet or even the sweet/savory. Such limitations result. But of course, I don’t like spicy food, onions, or bell peppers (quelle horreur!). I suppose it evens out. My point is: Chad may never grow to love mustard like I do. This fills me with sadness and at the same time, injects me with intense determination. I recently found victory in the form of this fennel and mustard seed-crusted pork tenderloin. Both flavorful and budget-friendly, this is a great main dish for company or for freezing. Often, you buy tenderloins in packages, cut in half. This allows for fixing, then freezing, then fixing again. Or pork sandwiches. Make this if you like mustard and herbs. If you hate all things remotely licorice in flavor, omit the fennel. Trust me. I got your back on this one. If you are pro-licorice, go for it. Fennel is one of those things people tend to hardly use but I can’t figure out why because it’s so intense and delicious. And so is this brined pork.

I pretty much never make pork without brining. The only exceptions are pork ribs or slow-cooked pulled pork. But roasts, chops, and tenderloins are always brined. Here’s why: Brining or marinating in a salted liquid helps meat stay moist and adds flavors (the same way a regular marinade would) like salt and other additives. This time the additives were Dijon and stone-ground deli mustard. And brining doesn’t take long. I brined this pork for 20-30 minutes while I made the side dishes and the finished product needed no additional salt–the perfectly balanced saltiness came from the brine alone. I do the same thing with Thanksgiving turkeys but it takes a lot more salted water and vegetable stock. And a five-gallon paint bucket lined with a giant food-grade plastic bag. Is it weird that I brine Thanksgiving dinner in a paint bucket I keep on the porch?

I also make use of my new latest cooking gadget when making this dish. I wanted one ever since I saw the next-door-neighbor of my dreams use one on his show. Alton raved about them and I could completely see why. Not sure about your oven temperature? Doesn’t matter. Not sure that the time in the recipe will work exactly for you? Who cares! Afraid of over or under-cooking that meat, bread, etc? You can’t!

So easy. You will always make this at the right temperature. Just push the thermometer end into the thickest part of the meat before cooking and close the oven door on the cord. Then a bell goes off and it’s done. No worrying or stressing about ruining dinner because you’ll have to try really hard to ruin it. It’s not expensive. If you cook frequently, get it. If nothing else, get a regular probe thermometer (the one without a cord and timer) so you can measure the temperature and see if you need to cook it longer. I’m not even giving you a cooking time because it’s not fair to assume that your cooking will be the same as mine. The factors include: how big is the cut of meat? what temperature was it when you started cooking it? is your oven temperature correct? really? are you sure? was it fully preheated when you threw the tenderloin in there? These are all reasons cooking times can vary. My OCD self had issues with this whole thing when I started really cooking (not just making things to eat). But I saw someone and meditated and now I am at peace with my imperfect oven and my gaggle of measuring devices.

1 C water
1/2 C salt (I used kosher)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp stone-ground mustard
1 whole pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp parsley
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/3 C breadcrumbs (I had Italian style)

Heat the water until almost boiling. Add the salt and stir until dissolved. Pour in some room temperature water to cool it off. Add in the mustards and stir well. Place the tenderloin in a large plastic bag and add the mustard brine. After sealing the bag, use your fingers to smush the clumps of mustard and massage the liquid into the tissues. Let this brine in the fridge or on the counter for 20-30 minutes and turn the oven on to 375. Meanwhile, stir together all the remaining ingredients to form the crust coating. Then go make some side dishes or read for class or clean the bathroom floor. When you’re done brining, pour out the brine and rinse the pork (you don’t need all that extra liquid and salt) and trim off any fat clumps. Lay on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle on the crust mix. When the topping is all laid on the top of the pork, use your dry fingers to smush the breadcrumb/herb mixture into the pork. Drizzle olive oil all over, push the thermometer into the thickest part, and stick in the oven.

When it reaches at least 160 degrees (I go for 163 just because I’m paranoid) it is done. Let it sit 10 minutes before you slice on a diagonal, being careful not to scrape off the topping.

Some mustard is usually acceptable if there is broccoli somewhere in the meal. Mr. Carnivore loves broccoli so I usually serve this with some steamed florets and roasted potatoes. Green salad or (gasp!) sauteed spinach would be delicious too. Tonight it was mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. And my goodness. Pork is rarely allowed to be this tender and flavorful. Remember those dry, tasteless pork chops you had that one time that made you hate pork chops forever?

This is a recipe for salvation.

Pork Ribs & MY Rib Rub

Firstly, I have to say thanks to all the readers. I thought I’d have, oh, 12. But then I kept seeing the number of views for the day go higher and higher. EIGHTY-EIGHT views on March 7. Wow. Thanks, readers, for your interest and support. It makes me excited to blog and more determined to do a post every day (didja notice? I’ve been trying. No promises…but I’m trying). I’m thrilled to think that y’all are reading and even more thrilled to think you might try a recipe. Thank you. Now let’s talk about ribs. (Mom, don’t feel obligated to read this post.)

Every barbecue-lover has a preference about ribs. Some like beef, some like pork, some like spicy, some (hi there!) are too wimpy for it. Some are pro-barbecue sauce, some are strictly rub people. I’d like to say that I’m an equal-opportunity rib eater, but alas that’s not true. I simply can’t handle super spicy food and beef ribs are typically on the tough side and give me a stomachache. So I lean toward pork ribs and I’m a flip-flopper on the rub vs sauce debate. I’m really fine with both or just the rub. I always use a rub though, wet or dry, and I think fellow barbecue-lovers will love mine. I will say that if you go by regional barbecue divides, mine is closest to Kansas City-style. If you’ve never made ribs at home, do it!

There are just so many reasons to make ribs at home, folks. 1. You control the spiciness–a factor important to spicy and nonspicy people alike. 2. You don’t have to risk getting the lesser cuts of meat when you eat dinner late. Ever go to a rib joint and get the tougher ribs because you got there late? Such disappointment! Not so at home. 3. Possibly the most important reason: no one will care if you have barbecue sauce on your face, shirt, skirt, forearms, or in your hair. Messy eaters, enjoy. 4. You also get to make them for family and feel awesome. When you make delicious food, do you ever get so excited and proud of yourself that you walk around all puffed up and arrogant? Confession: I do. It happened most recently when I made my first batch of salted butter caramels. It also happened long ago when I first made these ribs.

1 full rack of pork back ribs*

Kristen the Carnivore’s Rib Rub (*This is plenty for 2 racks of ribs or 1 rack & extra)

1 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp paprika
1/2 Tbsp chipotle
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp onion powder
3 Tbsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 275. Stir all the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Smell it. Love it. Rinse and dry the ribs and sprinkle on a few drops of liquid smoke (or liquid mesquite smoke). This is optional but the liquid smoke is delicious if you are cooking these in the oven and not outside on a grill. Now apply one-third of the rub mixture. Use your fingers to press it into the surface. Flip the ribs over and sprinkle on more of the rub (you will use 1/2 of the entire batch of rub for one rack). Put the whole rack of ribs on a baking sheet with a long strip of aluminum foil on it. Wrap the foil around the ribs like a package and cook for an hour and a half.

When you remove the ribs from the oven, unwrap and toss the top of the foil. Flip the ribs over and cook for another hour and a half. This is so easy to remember, no?

When you’re done cooking, let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into individual ribs or batches. Top with your favorite barbecue sauce or don’t!

It’s best to serve this with, um, mashed potatoes and broccoli or mac and cheese and a big salad. I wish I could tell you that we did make broccoli. I wish I could tell you Chad didn’t make more deep-fried mushrooms. I wish I could tell you that. But life’s not a fairy tale and, um, I myself may have just eaten these with water because I added a little too much chipotle powder.

The point is that you won’t be tied to Tony Roma’s if you make these at home. Try it!

Leek, Mushroom, and Bacon Quiche

My mother had cooking phases during my life. When I was really little, she made vegetarian everything. We filled colorful plates and bowls with vegetable-laden pastas, chilies, stratas, and her super-cinnamon-y coffee cake. When I think back to those days, I wish I had staked my claim then and there on those dishes to use for my kids someday. Eating anything out of a shocking yellow bowl or a vivid orange plate is fun. They would totally eat their vegetables!

During her second marriage there were clear plates and meatloafs. There were STUFFED BELL PEPPERS (ick) and gravy-topped pork chops. But during my early childhood, there were bright melamine dishes. And there were quiches.

One of my favorite fillings for quiche is the rag-tag team of leek, mushroom, and parmesan. Want it to be substantial enough for dinner? Just add potato! Want a boy to eat it? One word: BACON. With enough bacon, my man will eat anything. Armed with this knowledge, I set out to make my first quiche all by myself. I turned to Saint Julia for the crust recipe because I rarely trust myself to stray far from tradition on things like crusts.

The versatility and leftover-friendliness of quiches comes from the freedom to fill them however you want. So if you are missing an egg or are just short on milk, no problem. And if you adore scallions or can’t find good leeks, swap out as you please. If you’re a vegetarian (Hi Mom!), omit the bacon. Trust me, there’s plenty of flavor without it. Tell me your combos in the contents!

Crust (adapted from Julia Child and modified only slightly because it IS Julia Child)
1 1/4 C AP flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
3 Tbsp ice cold water
You should know that I have a big ole honkin’ tart pan. Like, who am I? Why did I think I needed this? But at the same time it works well for me as I’m not huge on crusts and prefer a larger ratio of filling. Deb at smittenkitchen used this same Julia crust for her leek and port mushroom quiche and apparently wanted a different ratio too. So modify your crust as you see fit.

Preheat your oven to 400. Dig out your food processor and dump in the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to combine. Add cubes of butter straight from the freezer. It will look very loose, but don’t worry that’s what the water is for! If your processor has a feed tube, pour the water through while it is running. Otherwise, add in small doses and pulse until the dough holds just together. The amount of water you need will depend on the humidity, how you measured your flour, and what you ate for breakfast that morning. Okay maybe not that last one. Chill the dough for an hour or so before quickly rolling it out on a floured surface and gently working it into the tart pan. For my dough, I can just barely get even coverage and that’s fine with me. Line it with foil and pierce holes all over with a fork. Place pie weights or dry beans in the foil and blind bake for 8 to 9 minutes. When done, lower the baking temperature to 375.

3 red potatoes, boiled and sliced
6 slices bacon (use whichever you like best, but we like turkey bacon for this)
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
1 lb white or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
4 eggs
2/3 C milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Fry up the bacon until crispy in a large saucepan. Set aside. Saute the leek in melted butter and leftover bacon fat over medium heat. When they are translucent and fragrant, sprinkle in salt and pepper and add sliced mushrooms. The mushrooms don’t need to cook too much, just absorb excess fat and heat through. When they are finished, set aside.

Now whisk together eggs and milk. Add salt, pepper, and leek and mushroom mixture. At this point you’ll want to lay the slices of potato on the bottom of the tart pan. Try to get even coverage. Now crumble bacon into the bowl and stir together. Pour into the tart crust and top with parmesan shavings. I use about a fourth of a cup but it’s up to you. Bake for 20-35 minutes. I know it’s a large gap in cooking time, but your tart pan might be way smaller or way deeper than the one I use so these things will vary. You might also find it works better to lower the temperature if your tart pan is deep.

It smells so good, is healthy, and reminds me of my childhood and my mama. Sigh.

And then my boyfriend put hot sauce on it.