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"Greg Got A Slow-Cooker!" Part 1

Posted by Amie / March 31, 2010

Greg Got A Slow-Cooker!Maybe this is more aptly called "Greg FOUND A Slow-Cooker"...but either way, a long time after a slow-cooker made its way into the home of Greg Bouchard (of Montreal Weekend Playlist fame), we set off to break (in) his slow-cooker by making Pulled Pork, the ultimate slow-cooker meal.

Take a very cheap, fatty cut of meat, cook it for hours in a sweet barbecue sauce, and when it's so tender that it basically falls off the bone, pull the meat apart, mix it back into its own sauce and scoop a pool of the warmest, most comfortingly sweet and tangy meat you'll ever make onto a huge, soft bun.
Not pork shoulderThis is not what we bought, but it's an example of some of the other cuts of meat and fat (upper-left corner) available, laid out in the window as if they were beautiful.

Okay, fine. A slow-cooker is a Grandmotherly appliance, sure, but pulled pork needs a piece of meat big enough, thus manly enough, to make it okay. It takes a little bit of forethought to get this cooking 6 hours in advance of meal time, but come on, 4lbs of pork shoulder?...I don't personally really want to eat that, but I'll put my Grandmotherly appliance skills to use to help out a hungry guy in need.

Greg Got A Slow-Cooker.Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder (Mild! I learned my lesson with the Spicy Sweet Potato Soup)
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns (or 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper)
1 cup barbecue sauce (whatever kind you like. A tomato-based barbecue sauce, like Bulls-Eye, works well, but even ketchup is fine)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar (use less of this if your barbecue sauce has vinegar in it. Or just add more brown sugar)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
1 apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3lbs boneless pork shoulder, or 4lbs bone-in, trimmed of excess fat
8 large buns. Something fluffy and white, like kaisers. Greg suggests Portuguese buns. Conveniently located near the butcher shop we went to on St-Laurent.
Charcuterie FairmountWe ended up at Charcuterie Fairmount trying to remember how to ask for pork shoulder in French. You can also replace pork shoulder with pork butt, says the original recipe, but I had a harder time figuring out that translation. I grew up on a cul-de-sac, but I really didn't want to insult the butcher accidentally while he was wielding a ridiculously large knife. From the size of the piece of meat he cut on his wooden slab, I could tell that it would be best to be overly polite. "Est-ce que vous avez d'épaule de porc?" How'd we do??

Huge piece of meat in hand (well, in bag. It's kind of important to be hygienic with huge slabs of meat, even if the butcher didn't seem to mind) we headed to La Vieille Europe to select a barbecue sauce. I kind of get excited when I buy bottles of things at La Vieille Europe. They have an incredible selection that you won't find at your average Provigo or Metro, and I convinced Greg that we should take advantage of the opportunity to shop there (well, I said I'd pay. Subtle convincing. Like a knife...).

The barbecue sauce we found had vinegar, raisins, not a lot of sugar, and most importantly, it had no preservatives. No corn syrup or things I couldn't pronounce. Really you could pour a large bottle of any kind of barbecue sauce right over the pork in the slow cooker and it would work out perfectly, but adding the onions, garlic, spices and other ingredients makes a kind of enhanced barbecue sauce. Probably the cookbook that the recipe originally came from couldn't publish the recipe if it just said "Place pork in slow-cooker, pour over barbecue sauce, turn slow-cooker on". So we made enhanced barbecue sauce to feel better about our culinary abilities. You can do as you see fit.
Adding OnionsBack at Greg's we chopped onions and garlic and measured out the rest of the ingredients. The olive oil heated up in the skillet and the onions we added the onions.
Adding Spices5 minutes later they had softened, and in went the garlic, chili powder and pepper for 1 minute. I actually counted to 60 (Indian cooking has made me paranoid about respecting a recipe when it gives a short amount of time to stir things. Ground spices burn really quickly, and messing up the sauce is about the only way to mess up the dish).
Pulled PorkA first slow-cooker experience can set the tone for all future slow-cooker experiences so I felt like I was under a lot of pressure to not mess this up.
Adding barbecue sauceThen in went the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and liquid smoke. We skipped the worcestershire sauce because the barbecue sauce had enough flavour in it. I insisted on the liquid smoke, though, because there's really nothing like it. Kind of like roasted marshmallow ice cream from my favourite ice cream place in Toronto, coincidentally named "Greg's". It actually tastes like a marshmallow was roasted over a fire and then crushed into ice cream. The servers there really hate every time yet another "Greg's" newbie exclaims, "It actually tastes like a roasted marshmallow!"

Speaking of sweets, while we were getting ready to make the recipe, Greg's door rang. He ran back from the door really excited holding a package. If you're a podcast listener you'll know that Greg's mom is often featured on the show as the sender of cookies that are eaten during the recording. Usually the cookies are amazing, and sometimes other baked goods are compared to it and never measure up. Greg tried to convince me that his mom didn't ALWAYS send cookies, contrary to how it seemed from both the podcasts and the appearance of Easter cookies and peanut butter eggs in his apartment on the day we happened to be making pulled pork. I obviously don't believe him. His mom is apparently pretty amazing, and so are her buttery Easter cookies. This I believe.
Trimming FatBack to the skillet. I brought the sauce to a boil while Greg trimmed the excess fat from the huge hunk of pig he planned to eat 6-7 hours later. I asked him to taste the sauce and tell me what it needed. I was worried it would be too vinegary, since I'd added the apple cider vinegar and there had already been vinegar in the barbecue sauce. I think I was right since he said it probably needed more brown sugar. We added about a 1/4 cup more. Then I stirred in the chopped apple.
Pouring sauce over porkFinally the pork went into the slow-cooker and the sauce got poured over top. My work here was done. Now Greg was on his own. I have no idea what happened next...



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