Our New York City kitchen is only slightly larger than a bread box but certainly not large enough to store a slow cooker. So I keep ours in Bridgehampton. Not that I am a particular fan of the slow cooker. The idea of having to brown meat in one pan and make sauce in another seems to defeat the purpose of the slow cooker. Surely its charm is in the one pot approach to cooking. That one pot, sitting all day, cooking away, waiting for you to come home to a fully cooked dinner, has its allure. Dirtying pots and pans and browning meat before heading out for the day, does not. But on a weekend, you can load the slow cooker anytime and await the results. With summer barbecue season about to begin, here’s a recipe that’s a great addition to any summer gathering. You can make it up in advance and you don’t even have to fire up the grill. Just power up the slow cooker.
I did a quick search and not surprisingly, Williams-Sonoma, who sell all manner of slow cookers, also provided a recipe for slow-cooker pulled pork. It doesn’t use the supermarket’s packet of seasonings, which are suspect in that they are likely loaded with preservatives and salt. Instead, I added a recipe for a spice rub and used W-S’ recipe for the sauce to bury the pork in. The ingredients are so everyday, they’re likely all in your kitchen right now. But what pulled pork sandwich can’t benefit from the addition of cole slaw? In fact, Williams-Sonoma’s serving suggestion recommended the side dish but without a recipe. So off I went again and searched “Best ColeSlaw recipe”.
The one that showed up was without question as good, if not better, than any coleslaw I have ever tasted. Cole Slaw comes from the Dutch term koolsla meaning cabbage salad (kool for cabbage and sla a Dutch abbreviation for salade.). The Dutch brought their recipe for chilled cabbage salad to New Amsterdam, whose name was later changed to New York. “Kool” was Anglicized into cole. The Best Coleslaw recipe in the world comes to us not from the Dutch but from one J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Mr. Lopez Alt is an MIT graduate who has a wildly popular blog called Food Lab where he spends a lot of time educating his readers on technique. When he turned his attention to coleslaw, he discovered that coleslaw is best when it has ‘sweated’ for a 5 minute period in both sugar and salt. He also uses a mandolin to slice his cabbage and the red onion in his recipe. And he uses a box grater for the carrots. Then the dressing is added and voilà, wonderful tangy, creamy coleslaw that is…well, the best coleslaw ever. Here are the recipes, starting with the pulled pork followed by the coleslaw.
Recipe for Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork from Williams-Sonoma’s “Food Made Fast” series, Slow Cooker by Norman Kolpas (Oxford House 2007)
Serves 8. Takes 30 minutes plus 8 hours cooking time.
For the Rub:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Sauce:
3 Tbs. canola or corn oil
3-4 lb. boneless pork loin or shoulder
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup tomato ketchup
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light molasses
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 cups your favorite Barbecue Sauce
Soft potato rolls, split and toasted, for serving
1. Rub the pork all over with the spice rub.
2. Brown the pork.
In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the pork pieces and brown well on all sides, about 12 minutes total. Transfer the pork to a slow cooker.
3. Make the sauce and cook the pork.
Pour off all but about 1 Tbs. of the fat from the fry pan and return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until the mixture begins to bubble.
4. Pour over the pork. Cover and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the pork is very tender, 4 to 5 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
5. Shred the pork.
Transfer the pork pieces to a platter. Using a pair of forks, shred each piece of pork, removing and discarding any large pieces of fat.
6. Skim the excess fat off the sauce, return the pulled pork to the slow cooker, add the 2 cups of barbecue sauce and stir to combine. Keep the slow cooker on warm.
7. Serve the pork and sauce topped with coleslaw on top of the sandwich rolls.
Recipe for Best Coleslaw Ever from J. Kenji Lopez of The Food Lab. Serves 12. Active time: 30 minutes. Total Time: 35 minutes
Note: This recipe is easiest to produce with a mandoline-style slicer, though you can also finely shred the cabbage by hand. To slice cabbages on a mandoline, split the head in half, cut out the core using the tip of a sharp chef’s knife, the quarter the cabbage and slice it with the mandoline set to 1/16th of an inch. When grating the carrot, make sure to hold at a steep vertical bias so that the shreds are long instead of short.
For the Slaw Mix:
1 large head green cabbage, about 3 1/2 pounds, finely shredded on a mandoline or by hand (see note above)
1 large red onion, finely sliced on a mandoline or by hand
1 large carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater (see note above)
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
For the Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons sugar
1. For the Slaw Mix: Combine cabbage, onion, carrot, and parsley in a large bowl, leaving plenty of room to toss (you may have to use two large bowls if your bowls are not large enough). Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to combine. Let rest five minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.
2. Transfer rinsed mixture to a salad spinner and spin dry. Alternatively, transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and blot mixture dry with more paper towels. Return to large bowl and set aside.
3. For the Dressing: Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, black pepper, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until homogenous.
4 . Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, sugar, and/or vinegar if desired.