BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

There are some days where I just can’t leave good enough alone. Just home made pulled pork would have been good enough. Store bought buns probably would have been good enough. Best Foods mayo would have been good enough. And certainly, prepared BBQ sauce would have been good enough. But is ‘good enough’ the best? Is a labor of love? I don’t think so. So I present to you, my ‘everything made from scratch’ BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich (save for souring my own cream and developing my own yeast culture).

I absolutely love BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. My mom is a super picky eater and does not eat ANY condiments besides BBQ sauce, so I learned to love it at a young age. I did quite a bit of research after landing on this as my main course for hosting dinner club this month, and even though I’m a thick, sweet BBQ sauce kind of gal, I decided on a couple BBQ sauces to make. And while I was researching options I came across the Not Without Salt post where the blogger does indeed make her own buns and I thought “why not?”. Finally, with all these beautiful things coming together why, oh why, would I dress my hand cut cabbage with ‘lite’ mayonnaise taken from my parents’ house? That’s right, I didn’t.

Even though I’m a Kansas City BBQ sauce fan, I really liked both of the sauces I made. The other was a bourbon sauce with lots of acid, less tomato sauce and a nice viscosity & tang. I let both of them set over night to let the flavors mingle and really get to be BFF, then strained out the onions before serving. They both were rich, thick, a spicy and a bit sweet so it really comes down to your personal preference. I slow-cooked the bone in pork shoulder for over 9 hours, and at the end it really did fall of the bone, was succulent and left behind a commingling of juices, some of which I mixed back into the shredded pork. After shredding it, I dressed the meat in a bit of both sauces and brought the squirt bottles to the table for everyone to add more of her favorite.

I’d also been wanting to make bread for a while. I bought yeast not too long ago and since I was on a roll, this seemed like as good a reason as any to break out the dough hook. I was taken with how beautiful these buns were. They are light, fluffy, just the slightest bit sweet that really do make them buns rather than bread. I let my Kitchen-Aid do all the work and only had to touch the dough once. It couldn’t have been simpler, or more tasty.

While I am NOT a coleslaw person, I did fall in love with it a bit when I was in college. The Buckhorn Steakhouse was only in Winters, CA at the time and would come to the Davis Wednesday Night Farmer’s Market and serve their thinly sliced steak sandwiches with an apple, raisin slaw that was to die for. It turned me on to slaw as a sandwich topper and it’s an essential piece to a good BBQ pork sandwich, in my book. I stuck with a traditional cabbage coleslaw this time, but did hand whip some mayo at the last minute. I made it for the first time when Bon Appetit came out with their egg issue and it was delightfully simpler than I expected. It’s so rich and creamy and loaded with flavor that you just don’t find in store-bought mayonnaise. Not to mention, I’m not as grossed out about eating it knowing that it’s only eggs and oil.

And that’s it. The simple thoughts and hard work behind just wanting to turn something so basic into something hand crafted with love. The hard work did pay off, as everyone at dinner club was really pleased with their sandwiches and the choice of two sauces. Not to mention my friend and I who had leftovers today for lunch decided that it’s even better when you let it all sit a night – if you can wait that long.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

SESAME BUNS from Not Without Salt, recipe available here

PULLED PORK: rub down a 5 ish pound pork shoulder with the rub in the above Not Without Salt link. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit in fridge overnight. Place in slow cooker following day and cook on low for ~9 hours until fork tender. Remove from cooker, shred and dress with BBQ sauce and cooking liquid to taste. If you are just making one sauce, you can probably get by with one recipe of the below Kansas City one, but will maybe want two of the bourbon sauce.

  • Bourbon BBQ Sauce, recipe available here
  • Kansas City BBQ Sauce, recipe available here

COLESLAW:

1/2 small head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced. 1/4 head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced. 1 carrot grated. 2-3 spring onions very thinly sliced. Mix together with dressing. Can be done a couple hours ahead of time. But the longer it sits the softer it’ll get. Overnight will yield a tasty, yet watery slaw.

Dressing: 1/4+ a little more to taste, sour cream. 1/4 cup mayonnaise. 1-2 tsp lemon juice. 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar. 3/4 tsp sugar. 1/4 tsp salt. Pepper. – Mix ingredients adjusting quantities to taste.

Mayo/Aioli: 1 egg yolk, 2 tsp water, 1 small garlic clove grated, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup grapeseed/canola/olive oil or mixture of two (use no more than 1/4 cup olive oil,  as the olive flavor can be too powerful). Whisk the egg yolk, water, garlic and salt together. Continue whisking vigorously while drizzling in the oil.

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Berry Roasted Pork Tenderloin

I can’t belive this is the first pork dish on the blog. Because, the thing is, I really like pork -tenderloin, pulled pork, chops and on occasion, some ribs. It’s just that it can be a bit challenging: depending on the cut and preparation you risk drying out; to brine not to brine. ¬†There are quite a few things to consider. That said, I thought it was finally time to challenge myself and give it a go! Truthfully, I have an idea for another recipe and I figured I’d better get a practicing. So here we go: Berry Roasted Pork Tenderloin.

I love tenderloin cuts of meat. For a long time (specifically those pesky middle school years) I hated meat because of the fat. It just grossed me out. To this day I am very peculiar about what I like, but have become more accepting of meat in general, while leaning toward leaner, whiter meats – putting pork tenderloin right up my ally. I found the base for this recipe in my America’s Test Kitchen Cooking For Two cookbook, which I will be telling you more about later. It was originally supposed to be all cranberries, but seeing as that me and my corner store couldn’t come up with all the cranberry goods, I substituted with various berry ingredients and am really happy with how it turned out.

The sauce has black berry jam (homemade by my dad) cranberry sauce and fresh strawberries. It was thick and powerful, and while a bit sweet this first time, it went really well with the pork. I think you could make a dozen different varieties of this, so I’d encourage you to mix is up and throw some things together that you think would go well together! Below is the recipe I used, with a couple of suggestions on how I might suggest mixing it up. But overall, for me, this was a new and exciting flavor profile for pork that I will definitely be trying it again.

Berry Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 cup cranberry juice (could substitute part of this with red wine)
  • 1/2 cup blackberry jam
  • 3 tsp balsamic vinegar (could increase the amount of vinegar)
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries (could use a variety of different berries)
  • 1 ~24oz pork tenderloin

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in an oven proof pan and add garlic and thyme until fragrant, abt 30 seconds. Add Juice, jam, vinegar and mustard. Simmer until slightly thickened. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Nestle tenderloin into liquid and transfer pan to oven. Cook until done (suggested for pork is 140-145 degrees). I cooked mine about 30 min and it was perfectly pink inside, whether or not that is 140-145, I don’t know… Remove pork and let rest 10 min, covered with foil tent. Season sauce with salt and pepper and keep warm until pork is done resting. Slice pork to serve and serve with sauce.