Sunday, January 3, 2010

Apple Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich with Caramalized Onions, and Dijon Mustard

Possibly the tastiest sandwich ever. Alright this was a multi-day multi-cooking method endeavor. First you need a large peice of pork. I would suggest a tougher cut of meat like the shoulder, filled with flavour, connective tissues, and glorious porky goodness.

Basic Brine (from Charcuterie)

1 gallon, Water
1 cup, Kosher Salt
2/3 cup, Sugar

Now that we have the basic recipe down, its time to think about how we are going to flavour our brine. I did a classic french style brine with bay leaf, thyme, cracked peppercorns, garlic, and cloves (pork loves cloves you know.) Its quite simple, bring everything to a boil, let cool to room temperature, add your meat product and store in the fridge overnight.

Alton Brown promotes substituting half the water for ice, which will allow the brine to cool down much more quickly, and save you time, personally I would listen.

Smoking

Bradley Digital 4- Rack SmokerSmoke, there is nothing more manly, and more Canadian. Smoking is very easy to accomplish, and you can make a smoker out of a cast iron pan, a hot plate, and wood chips. I sadly love crazy projects but, I dont have time... and I own a Bradley Smoker.  I am going to tell you, there are many different ways to smoke, but this contraption will save you the headache. It automatically feeds the wood pellets in, keeps a consistant temperature, and produces alot of smoke.


The secret to a good smoky coating on a peice of meat is the almighty pellicle. Im not a scientist, but a pellicle is basically a sticky coating on the meat which will recieve the smoke better, and is caused by coagulated proteins or something of the like. I would gladly look it up in Harold McGees On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, however I am lazy. So what we are going to do is take the meat out of the brine, and let it sit uncovered in the fridge (yes uncovered.) This can also be accomplished much more quickly by having a fan blow on the meat. I also covered the meat in maple syrup. Get your trusty smoker up to temperature, the Bradleys really are idiot proof, buy one already, stick your pellicle encapsulated hunk of piggy goodness in the Bradley at about 300 degrees F, for three hours or untill we reach an internal temperature of about 160. It helps to stick a probe thermometer in the meat, and have it go off when it reaches the temperature. Note: the meat is not technically cooked at this point, we are just aiming for the smoke flavour.

Braising

Although we have cooked our meat rather slowly, and that has broken down a great deal of tough connective tissue, in order to be able to pull the pork, we have to employ another method of cooking. In this case braising. Braising is a moist heat cooking method, which allows us to cook the meat for a long period of time without drying out. First, we need to think about a braising liquid. Water can, and will work. Water however has no flavour, and we have the opportunity to introduce more flavour to enchance our end product. What is tasty, not to expensive, and packed full of flavour? Beer! Yes, beer. White wine would also work, Red however dosent really have alot of complimentary flavour components going on, so I am ruling it out. Grab your favorite beer, Alexander Keiths in my case, pour it in, and drink the other 23. Ok, well dont drink them yet... its not the time. If you need more liquid (we are looking to cover about 1/2 the product) add more beer, stock, or even top it up with water. I added a few onions to the mix as well. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the meat, cover, and throw in the oven at as low as you dare (I went 215.) The longer, and lower the better, provided you stay out of the food danger zone (180F and below.) I believe this took about 5-6 hours or so, I dont remember (this was the time to drink the other 23 you lush.) Take it out of the oven and let cool to room temperature. You have a choice here, either you can start pulling it apart now, or let it cool overnight in the braising liquid.

*If you elect to let it cool overnight, the gelatin will set, and will we hard to pull apart so you will have to reheat it before attempting to pull it, you will however have better flavour.

Pull.

Almost seems like a waste to throw out all that braising liquid. Let strain it, reduce it, and add some things to make a barbecue sauce. This can be as easy or hard as you want to make it. You could just reduce until it reaches a sauce like consistency (there is a ton of gelatin in there.) But im going to add some flavour. I added some Apple Cider Vinegar, and Ketchup (tomato paste works too, but I was out.) Use as barbecue sauce, or mix in with the nicely shredded pulled pork.

Caramalized Onions

Take about 1 large onion, cut it in half from top to bottom and peel. Cut the top and root end off on about a 45 degree angle, and turn to the cut end is facing you. Now carefully make diagonal cuts, and you should end up with perfect slices. If you elect to slice the other way you will end up with a more tangled caramalized onion.

Heat up a large skillet with oil, dump in the onions. Turn down the heat to about medium high. As the onions cook they will release moisture, that moisture will evaporate, and overtime the onion will begin to caramalize. About half way through add salt, and pepper. The salt will help to pull out more moisture. As the onions cook down and more moisture evaporates the pan will begin to get dry. Here we can take a liquid and add just a bit to wet the pan again and keep the onions cooking down. Were you going to use water? Made yah think didnt I? Thats right more beer. Keep adding the beer in small doses, allowing it to evaporate before introducing more untill the onions are fully caramalized.

The End


Grab a nice think hunk of crusty bread, put some good french Dijon on one side, load up with the pulled pork, and onions.

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