Category: Catering etc.

The Ubiquitous Pulled Pork Recipe

Pulled Pork Hoagie

With Mary being a travel nurse now, and the two of us moving around the country on a regular basis, we have plenty of opportunity to feed other people. We occasionally feed not only the people we stay with, but more often we feed the staff she’s working with in a given facility. In the previous post and recipe I included an image of the Chicken Noodle Soup I’d made for her co-workers in Gallipolis, Ohio. Now a few months later, after making BBQ Pulled Pork for her co-workers in Cody, Wyoming, one young lady asked me for the recipe.

Looking through this blog and my other sites, it dawned on me I’d never posted this particular recipe. I’d posted a few versions along the way using specific ingredients … But as far as my “generic” recipe went, the procedure I use most often, it was nowhere to be found.

What’s most interesting to me about this recipe is really how simple it is. There is very little preparation involved, and once it gets going it basically takes care of itself. You only need to keep an eye on it from time to time to make sure it’s progressing nicely, accomplishing a few tasks to help it on its way.

Pulled Pork Tacos

I use this recipe for many reasons and in varying amounts. At home, most batches weigh less than 10 lbs and will sometimes last almost a week. But for larger groups I’ve made catering batches that sometimes weigh almost 30 lbs. On occasion there are leftovers from those batches and we’re able to bring some home. But in other locations, when I go to pick up the crockpot or other serving vessels, there is nothing left for later.

BBQ Pulled Pork can be served in many ways. Most times I’ll simply provide buns and plates, as well as bowls and forks for those diners who would rather forego the buns. Lately I’ve also been including a bowl of good cole slaw for use as a side or for those who like to add the cole slaw to the top of the meat on a sandwich. Pulled Pork can also be used in omelets, burritos, tacos, hoagies, or any other dish where small pieces of juicy meat can be enjoyed.

Two pork shoulders for a large gathering, approimately 10lbs each, on a rack in an oval roasting pan.

There are two different cooking methods I use for BBQ Pulled Pork. For larger amounts, particularly when we’re not on the road, I’ll use an old-school blue oval granite-finish roasting pan, with both a rack and a lid. Various sizes of this roasting pan are available, as well as round and rectangular configurations. But for this recipe, it’s really the rack for inside the pan that’s important. With larger pork shoulders I’ve also had to set the lid aside and cover the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil instead. But the rack is always inside under the pork.

The other device I use, especially when traveling, is a 6-quart crockpot (aka, a slow cooker). Liners which make for easier cleanup are available near the aluminum foil in most grocery stores for use with these cookers. It really doen’t matter what size the cooker is, as long as the pork shoulder you’re cooking fits in it comfortably so the heat can surround the shoulder properly. This airflow is why I use the oval roaster with a rack for larger amounts.

A 7.5 lb pork shoulder in a 6-quart crockpot, using a slow cooker liner for easier cleanup.

The key decision to make is what style combination of rub and sauce you want to use. My go-to rub really isn’t a rub: It’s my favorite spice mix for just about anything, Miracle Blend from Alden Mill House in Alden, Michigan. When my wife starts a new assignment, I make sure to have plenty of this stuff in the pack-out. You can also use a simple combination of salt, pepper, garlic, and any other spices you’d like, and simply add them directly to all sides of the pork.

There are also a couple rub recipes I use to achieve certain flavors:

Brown Sugar Rub

  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/4 cup Sea salt
  • 3 tbsp Black pepper, coarse ground
  • 3 tbsp Granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Marjoram

Savory Rub

  • 1/2 cup Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup Black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1/4 cup Granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp Ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp Smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Marjoram

I’ve also been known to just throw ingredients into a bowl and mix them by hand to create a rub, not really measuring anything, adding other ingredients to taste depending on my mood. You can be as creative as you’d like, achieving whatever flavor profile seems best.

The sauce we use most often is Sweet Baby Ray’s Original. For savory sauces, Montgomery Inn and Stubbs are excellent choices. Make sure to have about a half gallon of sauce for every 10 lbs of pork.

A batch of completed pulled pork, ready for transfer to the crockpot for transport.

Start with a 9 – 11 lb bone-in skin-on (if you can get it) pork shoulder. Generously rub all sides of the shoulder with your rub or seasoning mix. For an oval roasting pan: Place the pork skin-side-up (or fat-side-up) on a rack in the roasting pan, cover it with a lid or aluminum foil, and roast it at 225F for eight-to-ten hours. Test the pork (see below) after about the seven hour point. If not done, continue cooking, testing every 20 minutes. For a crockpot: Line the crockpot with a commercial liner and add the pork, skin or fat side up. Cook it on low for twelve-to-fourteen hours. Test the pork (see below) after about the eleven hour point. If not done, continue cooking, testing every 20 minutes.

In testing the meat you’re not looking for a given internal temperature, but rather the meat flaking apart like a good fish fillet, without being mush.

Remove the meat from the heat. While pulling the pork apart into a large stock pot, remove and discard the skin, fat, and the bone. Add your desired sauce to the pork and stir, completing the pulling for a good texture. Heat the sauced pork through in the stock pot before serving.

Building 6-Foot Subs for a Baby Shower

Click this image for a larger version.

What do you do when someone you seriously love, like a daughter, asks for six-foot subs for an event? How do you handle what seems a request with all kinds of possible logistical problems? Well, lemme tell ya’ …

It’s a simple concept: Guys aren’t supposed to attend baby showers or even be anywhere near the things. I’ve been told to drop women and girls off at such an event and have heard at the last minute, “I’ll call you when we’re done”. This can mean the shower might last one hour or possibly four hours. You never can tell until the call comes.

I have to say though that I’d been to a baby shower over 18 years ago. Adam (building the sandwich in the photo on the left) hadn’t quite been born yet. His mom’s sister flew from Michigan to Virginia to be at the shower, but Adam’s mom didn’t know about the surprise shower or that her sister was coming at all. At the hospital she worked at, Adam’s mom showed up at the conference room for a “meeting”, complete with a notepad and pen … and was completely and happily surprised, not only at the shower her co-workers were throwing for her and Adam, but also that I’d brought her sister to the hospital shower as well.

This past weekend we held the shower for my daughter Briahna and our yet-to-be-born granddaughter Allie Grace. Baby daddy Andrew was also there, and we insisted he be an integral part of the shower.

Briahna decided early-on she wanted a pair of six-foot subs for the meal for her friends and relatives, along with the food a few other family members would provide. She asked me to handle the kitchen and I commandeered Adam as well.

Going through the need for the subs, Adam and I quickly discovered one thing: Buying pre-made six-foot subs is expensive. And honestly, they’re not difficult to make from readily-available ingredients. The end result also has a much more reasonable cost as well.

I’ve mentioned Country Market in Adrian, Michigan, a few times in some recent posts. For this particular project the bakery and deli came through for us in providing all the main components of the two sandwiches themselves. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very bottom …

This past Saturday morning, the morning of the event, I realized I’d neglected to get “platforms”. Adam and I would be building the sandwiches in a kitchen, then moving them out to the party area to the buffet table. We knew we’d need a stable pair of six-foot platforms to do this. Fortunately there were a couple lengths of pine 1×4 in the garage. Adam cut these down to the correct length. Once we got to the kitchen, I wrapped the boards in good aluminum foil and sealed the foil with Scotch tape. Really, it’s that simple, and looks halfway decent.

As soon as Adam and I had decided to do this build ourselves, we also knew there was no way to make, buy, or even successfully transport sub rolls that were a full six feet in length each. So with Country Market‘s help, we cheated. The bakery department makes a very nice 18″ French bread that’s between four and five inches wide. Eight of these would give us the length we needed but I ordered ten just in case, which turned out to be a good decision. On the boards, the pointy heels of the breads were problematic. So we cut the heels off eight of the breads. Lining them up on the boards they were slightly less than six feet for each sub. We then trimmed up a ninth bread to fill in the empty lengths.

Adam used a serrated bread knife to cut the breads horizontally. After opening them up, we started laying out the meats. Bree had asked for a simple Club sandwich: ham, chicken and turkey. I figured the best way to handle the meat was to get a pound of meat for every foot of sub. Country Market’s deli sliced up four pounds each of Di Lusso ham, Kretschmar off-the-bone chicken and Butterball turkey. Folding each slice loosely in half, we eyeballed what it would take to lay the meats out accurately. The chicken and turkey were also cut rather thin and had good grain. Unfortunately, those characteristics made them both a little hard to handle … but Adam did a nice job in ensuring the meats were evenly distributed in layers over the full twelve feet.

Once the sandwiches were built we took one out to the table. For the front sandwich though, we decided a pre-cut would work well to keep the buffet line  moving. We removed it from the board, took the board to the buffet table, then cut the whole length of the sub in the kitchen in 1-1/2″ sections that we then moved wholesale back to the serving board.

Click this image for a larger version.

Condiments we laid out were mayonnaise and mustard, slices of American and Swiss cheeses, tomatoes, sweet onions and Romaine lettuce. Real simple.

So what happened? A few things actually. First, Briahna and Andrew really appreciated the subs. A couple guests also said, “This is way better than Subway!”, which in my opinion really isn’t that big a deal …

But there was one issue we didn’t anticipate. It was the fact that, yes, it was basically a room full of women, probably 50 or so. Not guys … women. Meaning … we had over seven feet of sub left over! We never cut the back one, and there were full slices of sub remaining on the front board.

With enough guys in the house and a couple giveaways, there isn’t anymore sub in the fridge today, two days later. That tenth French bread is still in there though. Maybe we could make some really interesting grilled cheese sandwiches. There’s sure a lot of cheeses left over yet …

The happy parents: Andrew, one of the other guys at the shower, with Bree.

Jeanne’s Catering, Grand Haven, Michigan

Baguette Slices with Roast Pork Loin and Pumpkin-Chipotlé Ceviché

This past Wednesday evening as the Michigan Association of Mayors Summer Workshop got underway in Grand Haven, Michigan, I got the chance to make a new friend. I tend to leave Mary on her own in these situations as we’re most certainly not at these events for my own benefit. While she was off reconnecting with other folks from last years’ summer workshop, such as Mayor Janiece “Chi Chi” Rogers of Rockford, Mayor Gerri Moen of Howell, Mayor Bob May of Hastings, and Mayor Roger Bergman and City Manager Pat McGinnis of Grand Haven, I was off taking pictures of … well … of course … the food.

Asparagus wrapped in Phyllo Dough and Prosciutto

The people I found on the other side of the buffet under a tent near the Grand River were Jeanne Welling and her Aunt Sally. Jeanne was the one who made a lot of the main dishes, but she made sure to give credit for the delicate desserts to Aunt Sally. Between the two of them they can knock an event such as this one right out of the park, and at the same time make it look easy.

Members of the Michigan Association of Mayors enjoy the evening buffet prepared by Jeanne Welling and Jeanne’s Aunt Sally.

As I chatted with Jeanne I learned quite a bit about what she does. She owns a restaurant called Jeanne’s Café on Robbins Rd., there in Grand Haven off highway 31. The restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch, closing at 2 in the afternoon. But while it’s only open a short time each day, she also told me she offers 25 different omelets on her menu. Yes, you read that correctly … 25 different omelets. Longtime readers will know of my hankering for a good omelet and that Adam and I have done omelet buffets for groups in the past. I was immediately making plans to visit Jeanne’s restaurant the following morning.

Jeanne’s Smoked Salmon Platter

It seems that, when Jeanne was trying to start the catering portion of her business, no bank would lend her the money. Her customers, whom should properly be called her “patrons”, didn’t like this one bit. Five of them came forward and put together the money Jeanne needed to get the business going. The results are as you see here; beautifully-made food for private, corporate or government events, which tastes as good as or even better than it looks.

Monroe Mayor Mark Worrell chats with Mary at the reception Wednesday evening.

All of us, city leaders, spouses and assistants alike, ended up heading back for more from the delectable buffet created by Jeanne and Aunt Sally. At one point Jeanne quipped, “I guess they didn’t like the salmon”. Of course she was smiling … all that was left was the skin! The group had made fast work of almost everything on the buffet with wonderful comments coming from from every table. This was a truly enjoyable buffet, made by people who know and appreciate good food.

A display of Aunt Sally’s two-bite Key Lime Pie desserts

As I’d mentioned earlier, I was already planning on visiting Jeanne’s restaurant the following morning. I wasn’t feeling too badly about dropping Mary off at the Grand Haven Community Center the next morning and heading over to Jeanne’s Café for a breakfast on my own. Jeanne had already told me she was cooking breakfast for the group at the Community Center anyway. So much for the Association’s agenda, which indicated the attendees should eat at the hotel as there’d be a fuller breakfast there.

And little did I know. I ended up with breakfast with some unexpected new friends at the Café myself the next morning …

Recipe: Chilled Shrimp Pizza Appetizer

This is about as easy as it gets for a nice appetizer that’s full-flavored with some good contrasts in flavor and texture.

Getcha some premade pizza crusts, some Heinz ketchup, ground horseradish, shredded mozzarella cheese, and some 71-90 shrimp, no tails and deveined.

Mix 1/2 cup ketchup with 2 teaspoons of the horseradish. Add a bit of granulated garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Mix it well.

Spread the sauce on one pizza crust. Lay out the shrimp neatly and sprinkle with the cheese. Cut into 2″ squares … and serve and eat.

That’s it. Too easy. Not quite sure why I didn’t do this before.