Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork and Western North Carolina-style Barbecue Sauce

Turns out that I just love pork, which puts to rest all my former pretensions toward vegetarianism. Go ahead. Snicker.

During the last two years, going home to TN/NC requires at least one visit to a great barbecue place. My first forays into the indigenous cuisine were at The Ridgewood (this links to a video that will give a sense of the ambiance of The Ridgewood) and Dixie, where you can get an Alabama white barbecue sauce that is my favorite at Dixie (which sports no less than 6 to choose from).

Just last week I was visiting my parents and got to have great barbecue twice--once at Phil's Dream Pit in Kingport, TN and once at Little Pigs Barbecue in Asheville, NC. Real barbecue requires hickory smoking, which I could never replicate at home, but I thought I would give oven roasting a try. I bought a hunk of pork shoulder, which for some folkloric (I'm sure) reason is actually called Boston butt. Using the Joy of Cooking (75th anniversary edition) as a reference point, I made a dry rub with chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic salt, and brown sugar. I let that permeate the meat for a couple of hours. Then I seared the meat in olive oil in a large cast iron dutch oven, which then went into the oven for about 2 1/2 hours at 325 degrees. The result was tender and flavorful, if not smoky. But then, I can't always taste the smoke in genuine pit-smoked pork.

The sauce was inspired by two of the sauces I tasted recently. I wanted it to be sufficiently vinegary, but not thin. I wanted the tomato base, but mustard too. Here's the sauce recipe, approximately:
1/2 cup ketchup
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. grainy brown mustard
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T. smoked paprika
2 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. fish sauce
1 T. olive oil
a splash or two of hot sauce

The trick, really, is to keep tasting it until it tastes right to you. Goes well with a nice Zinfandel, which you can't get at Phil's Dream Pit!