Pulled Pork BBQ and Skillet Cornbread + Pie for Pi Day!

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So Mr. Foodie and I got to enjoy an unexpected snow day yesterday 🙂 Paradoxically, we had planned a dinner designed for being gone at work all day – crockpot pork bbq! As you know, we are trying to utilize our wedding presents in our cooking, so when Mr. Foodie spotted a huge pork shoulder at the grocery store last weekend, he pounced on it and quickly decided the optimal way to cook this massive thing was in the crockpot on low for 9 hours. I decided to take another stab at cornbread, and, this time, to use our new cast-iron pan. Since we popped the pork in early that morning, we had some time to break out Splendor – one of our favorite table games – and mid-game  I discovered (thanks so social media) that it was Pi day! So, of course, I had to make a pie as well 🙂  With all this glorious food we had to have someone over to share it, so my mother and my aunt joined us – thankfully because this really is WAY too much food for two people. We sent them home with leftovers also.

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The Pork

If you feel intimidated by an entire pork shoulder – don’t! It looks scary with the huge layer of fat on top and the big bone in the middle, but a little prep is all you need to turn this thing into the best bbq pulled pork you’ve ever eaten. Mr. Foodie handled the pork prep while I made the spice rub. To begin, trim the fat off the shoulder with a sharp knife, slicing in a downward motion and pulling the fat away from the meat as you go. Make a bed of diced onions and garlic for the bottom of the crockpot. The spice rub was super simple – salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. I didn’t do measurements, but basically, you should have an approximate ratio of 1 salt, 1/2 pepper, 1/3 garlic powder, and 1/4 cayenne – make enough to cover the shoulder. Rub the shoulder with a spice rub, then set the shoulder on the bed of veggies. Pour in 1/2 Cup of water (this is so you don’t crack the crockpot bowl when it heats up). Start on high for 2 hours, then low for 9-12 hours (use a meat thermometer towards the end of cooking to make sure it is safe. Once it is cooked, drain, discard the bone, and shred the meat with two forks – it should pull apart nicely. Cover with your choice of bbq sauce (see ours below) and set to “warm” until you are ready to serve. Mr. Foodie also diced up a small onion and included it with the bbq sauce for a little texture and additional flavor (don’t worry, the onion cooks up a bit so it isn’t totally raw and you can omit this step if you don’t care for onions). The meat was so tender and juicy – low and slow really is the best way to make pulled pork. And I did notice a difference between making it myself and eating pulled pork from the store – our version is less salty and not as tough and stringy as pre-made pulled pork is usually. And you can’t beat the value! We spent $15 on the shoulder which is a lot for a meat purchase, but it made a TON of pulled pork. We gave a bunch away and will still have plenty for leftovers tonight.

BBQ Sauce – Homemade

While the pork was cooking, we made the sauce. I’ve written before about the formula for a basic bbq sauce. Mr. Foodie and I eyeballed it entirely this time, and I’m afraid we were not writing down exactly how much of everything we were putting in. That being said, you should definitely try experimenting with your sauce! When experimenting, keep the golden rule in mind – you can always add, but you can’t subtract, so go easy on the various ingredients – you can always add more if you need to. We started with a basic ketchup, brown sugar, Worcester sauce, salt, pepper, vinegar concoction. We ended up adding garlic powder and hot sauce to our version. I kept testing it (since my palette is a little better than Mr. Foodie’s) to get the right balance of salt, sweet, tart, and spicy – once I was satisfied, we refrigerated it until the pork was done. Let me tell you, it turned the already amazingly delicious pork into the best pulled pork we’ve ever had. I wish I had written down what we were doing so I could replicate it easily –  next time, readers, next time! In any case, it was the perfect amount of sauce (we don’t like it smothering the good meat) and it was a delectable flavor!

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Skillet Cornbread – Basic

For this, I just used the recipe from the Food Network with no alterations. Since it was my first time using the skillet for this purpose, I wanted to follow the instructions exactly. It turned out okay, but I felt it could be better. It had an okay texture, but the flavor needed some punching up. Covered in some butter and honey, it was fine. Next time I might add some fresh corn or something. I know cornbread is one of those things that is easily bought at the store and largely tastes the same everywhere, but I really want to find a recipe that rocks Mr. Foodie’s socks for our bbq nights 🙂 If you do have a cornbread recipe that you like, please send it my way!

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Apple Pie w/ homemade crust

For this, I just used the apples I had in my fridge – you can really use any apples you like, but I do recommend that they at least be firm and slightly tart for the best results. For this filling, I peeled and sliced up the apples – a total of 5 medium sized ones –  squeezed lemon juice and orange juice over them, and sprinkled 1/2 cup sugar and 1 T cinnamon on them. I made my usual pie crust (Ina’s version). Let me tell you, readers, I almost threw this crust across the room yesterday. I made the crust exactly as I always make it, and chilled it for a good amount of time, but when I went to roll it out on the counter, it kept breaking at the edges and sticking no matter how much flour I used. It took both Mr. Foodie and I using hands, spatulas, and super-human will to get the f***ing crust into the pan. Normally, I roll it up on the pin, and gently unroll it into the pan -voila! But not yesterday. I don’t know if the kitchen was too hot, the counter was too warm, the fridge wasn’t cooling properly. I was at my wit’s end. We got it into the pan and I pressed it in to get it to fit, put the broken pieces over the holes, tried to make the top look somewhat normal. It could (very charitably) be described as “rustic,” but to me, it looked like a heaping mess. I’m sharing this little meltdown with you because I want you to know that even people like us who cook all the time face situations in the kitchen which are so. damn. frustrating. Even more so, perhaps, than normal because we are relatively used to things going our way in the kitchen. I’ve made this crust a million times! And yet this time it chose to torture me. The other reason I’m sharing it is because even though it was difficult to get into the pan and not the ideal thickness thanks to my patch job, it ended up tasting wonderful. My dinner guests loved it. Remember what’s important, dear readers 🙂

So that was our fun snow day! What did you end up doing? For more peeks at what Mr. Foodie and I are up to, check us out on Instagram @fairfaxfoodie

 

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