I know those of you reading this from heat-drenched states such as Arizona and Texas will laugh, but it really has been on the warm side here in Oregon, with temperatures hovering in the upper 80s and low 90s.
That hasn’t stopped our appetite for barbecue. But it does make you think once, twice, three times about firing up that grill and tending to it in the heat. If I had to tend to a hot grill in 90-degree weather I’d drink too many cold margaritas to stay sober by mealtime, not to mention that the meat might get a little too carbonized from my inability to focus on the grill and not let my alcohol-soaked mind wander to the plump figs that are ripening on our fig tree, to the rose hedge, or to the birds splashing in the birdbath in our backyard.
You don’t have to fire up the grill for great barbecue baby back pork ribs or pulled pork barbecue. It will take longer, but you can just sear the meat in a pan and then plop it in the crockpot (a.k.a. slow cooker), add the barbecue sauce, and let it slow cook for most of the day. You’ll be surprised at the results. And while we’re on the subject, I just can’t understand why anybody would buy barbecue sauce. It’s just so easy to make and it’s so much fun to improvise. I don’t think I’ve ever had to throw out an experimental batch. The trick to it is to keep tasting and adjusting until you like the results.
This was the case when I was trying to come up with an Asian take on barbecue sauce. I started by sautéing a chopped onion in some oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the onion was translucent, I added a half cup of whiskey, 1 small can of tomato paste, and a half cup of brown sugar, stirring until the sugar was completely melted. Then I added a quarter cup of hoisin sauce, stirred and tasted. I decided I needed some tangy flavor, so I added two tablespoons of tamarind paste, stirred and tasted again. I was almost there. It was still missing something. I was thinking about adding cider vinegar but decided instead on rice wine vinegar, a couple of tablespoons. I decided to dilute the sauce a little by adding a half cup of water, and brought the sauce back up to a simmer, stirring all the while. I tasted again and decided it was perfect.
I browned a couple of pounds of inexpensive pork boneless butt or shoulder roast, cut into large cubes, placed them into the crock pot along with the barbecue sauce, turned the pork in the sauce to coat well, and then covered and cooked for 5 hours, turning the meat every few hours.
I decided to make an Asian-style slaw to go with the barbecue sandwiches and used Napa cabbage, julienned carrots and a soy-sesame-ginger dressing from Trader Joe’s. By dinnertime I was set and the kitchen was still cool. And so was I.
Pulled Pork Asian Barbecue Sandwiches
- 2 pounds (.9 kg) boneless pork shoulder or butt roast cut into large cubes
- 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) oil
- ½ cup (120 ml) whiskey
- 1 8-oz. (240 ml) can of tomato paste
- ½ cup (120 ml) brown sugar
- ¼ cup (60 ml) hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) tamarind paste
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice wine vinegar
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
Sear the pork in a pan over high heat and place in a slow cooker.
Make the sauce by sautéing the onion in oil. When onion is translucent, add remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the sauce to the slow cooker and turn pork several times in sauce to coat. Turn slow cooker to medium-high and let cook for 5 hours, occasionally turning the meat.
Using two forks, take one piece of pork at a time and shred the meat by pulling apart and then returning it to the slow cooker. Serve on top of buns topped with slaw, garnish with pickle spears and chips.