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Happy Fourth of July

It’s the perfect day to introduce you to my all-time favourite sandwich, which happens to contain the ultimate slow-cooked pork, and is also an American classic.

Happy Fourth of July

Today is the fourth of July, which seems the ideal time to celebrate American cuisine. And if those two words happen to conjure up negative images of food, then fellow foodie, please, read on.  

If you haven’t heard of the pulled pork sandwich yet, then believe me, you are about to. It seems to be the sandwich on everyone’s lips and there’s a good reason why. 

It’s the most pork-a-licious meal you are likely to eat and it also happens to be a superb recipe if you need to cook for a crowd (Rugby World Cup dinners perhaps?) – and I guarantee your guests will be raving about it for weeks. Ours sent us text messages the next day telling us they’d been dreaming about it.

It is essentially a pork shoulder which is rubbed in lots of spicy goodness (paprika, cayenne, thyme, brown sugar) and is then slow-cooked for anywhere up to 24 hours, so the meat becomes so fall-apart tender that you can easily shred it, or pull it apart, with two forks. This deliciously spiced ‘pulled’ pork is then tossed in barbecue sauce and placed between two soft white hamburger buns and topped with coleslaw. Yum!  

The cooking time may seem insane, but we cooked ours for 12 hours the first time we tried it and would still say it’s one of the easiest meals we have cooked for eight people, because aside from rubbing it in spices and bunging it in the oven, we were essentially free from the kitchen for most of the day. 

Our first attempt at pulled pork was garnered from a recipe we came across on a food blog. Now, this is the trouble with blogs, you never really know if the recipe is going to work. In magazines and cookbooks, the recipes have generally been tested at least three times to ensure they work, and that generally isn’t the case with blogs. 

While our first attempt turned out pretty well, the meat wasn’t quite as easy to pull apart as I would have liked after cooking it for so long, so I decided to go straight to the pulled-pork expert for his failsafe recipe. 

Frank Nicholas is chef and owner of Blue Plate Bar & Grill in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, which specialises in American cuisine. Frank is a native American (he moved to Australia for love) and all of his recipes are based on places he has lived, and their local specialties – Maine Clam Chowder, Philly Steak Sandwich, and, of course, the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich, for example.

Blue Plate Bar and Grill

My husband and I tried Frank’s method this weekend when my sister and her family came to visit. The use of the beer in the bottom of the pan, and covering the meat while it cooked, worked wonders. 

We decided to leave ours cooking all day, simply because we had the time, and we could barely lift the meat out of the pan because it was falling apart on its own. The flavour of the rub had also infused directly into the meat much more than our previous attempt. Thanks Frank!

It’s easy. It’s delicious and I can’t recommend enough that you try it – whether in your own kitchen, or going straight to the source for Frank’s perfect pulled pork sandwich.

Frank’s recipe is below and his top tips for perfect pulled pork are:

1. Choose a pork shoulder with the bone in – the bone adds flavour.

2. The barbecue sauce is very important as this is what ends up coating the pork. Choose a good-quality brand with a smokey flavour rather than one that is all sugar. Or, even better, make your own from scratch.

3. Cover the pork as it is roasting to keep the moisture and juices in.

4. Let the pork rest before shredding it.

CAROLINA PORK PULLED SANDWICH

Serves 4, plus lots of leftovers

5kg pork shoulder, bone in
3 tbs paprika
2 tbs salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp brown sugar
10 white hamburger buns

Coleslaw
2 carrots, finely sliced
¼ red cabbage
¼ white cabbage
½ cup good-quality mayonnaise
squeeze lemon juice
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 165˚C. Combine spices in a bowl and rub spice rub into pork shoulder. Into a baking pan pour 1 beer (any will work well, but a lighter beer is preferable) and 1 cup of water. Place pork into pan and cover with foil. Place in preheated oven and bake for at least 2.5 hours. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely (until you can handle it). Meanwhile, to make coleslaw, combine vegetables in a bowl. Add mayonnaise and toss to combine; add lemon juice and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. 

To shred pork by hand, the best technique is with 2 forks, pulling the pork until you achieve finely shredded meat. To reheat pork, place in a pan over a low heat and stir in favourite barbecue sauce until well coated. Place generous serving of pork onto lightly grilled hamburger buns (white, soft buns are best) and top with coleslaw. 

Blue Plate Bar & Grill
24 Young St (Entrance on Grosvenor St) Neutral Bay
02 9953 2942
blueplate.com.au

So, fellow foodies, tell me, what will you be cooking for your Rugby World Cup parties?

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