Monday, April 28, 2008
It never escapes my thoughts that any number of the readers of these essays are people like me: Their loved ones travel a great deal, sometimes for months or years. They are on their own as they dine. I look forward for them as I do for myself to a moment when their homes return to whole; when there are once again many faces at the table.
When our table flourishes anew because Josh is home, as it did early last week, I feel intact again. The kitchen and dinner service are the largest piece of what I know about families and gatherings. These times are so precious to me that before the business of war came into my life, I do not believe I realized people could or would be separated from the family table in civilized culture. My Mom and Dad, you see, always made it home for dinner, as did Chris and I. I don't remember that it was a rule, we always thought of it as a nice place to be.
Now I know the world is not geared to things so civilized as families eating together each night as I wanted to believe when I was a child: People have to go, and they do not get home before dinner. But when they do, when they are among us, we are thrilled and complete. We sit at a table in order to put ourselves back together. We eat because food is good for the body but sometimes far better for the soul.
This is an exhuberently large dish. The kind you make when your home is whole. Intact. Complete. The kind consumed as a snack over a few days after the inital serving. The kind that warms you because it reminds you of something simple and comforting: That we're all here now and hungry, thank Goodness.
Pulled Pork for a Whole Family
You will need the largest slow-cooker for this recipe. You do not have to reduce the sauce once
the shoulder is cooked but the sauce will be watery. The reduction makes a thick and vibrant bbq sauce, which every pulled pork needs.
1 - 6 pound pork shoulder (aka picnic shoulder)
2 yellow onions, peeled, ends trimmed, and cut into quarters
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup coffee
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup stock, beef preferrably, chicken if not
1 cup ketchup mixed with 1 tablespoon of water to thin
2 tablespoons hot sauce, more to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
Plug in the slow cooker and set the dial to high. Wait a few minutes until the porcelin portion of the cooker feels hot to the touch. In the meantime, cut the pork from it's packaging and rinse well under warm water. Set aside.
In the porcelin basin of the slow cooker place all of the ingedients but the pork shoulder and stir gently for a few minutes until just warm enough for the brown sugar and ketchup to have dissolved into the mixture.
Place the pork shoulder into the mixture in the basin, skin side up. Cook on high for 6 hours, checking periodically after 5, and removing the meat when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the shoulder registers 160 degrees. Remove the meat to a broad, high sided bowl or platter.
Into a medium saucepan, ladle liquid from the bottom of the slow cooker until you have 4 cups or so. Place the saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the liquid is noticeably thickened and reduced by half. Set aside.
With two forks, shred all the lean meat from the bone. Discard all fatty meat and bones. Pour the sauce reduction over the pulled pork and serve with mashed potatoes or rolls to make sandwiches.