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Day Twenty Six: BBQ Pork Stuffed Mini Corn Muffins

4 Apr

On Saturday night we all convened at another friend’s house to watch the Final Four games. UCONN won, which was nice. Amidst the game watching there were babies bouncing (and scooting across the floor at high speeds), wine drinking, and of course, food eating.

My contribution to the event was mini corn muffins stuffed with bbq pork. I had a smaller chunk of the shoulder left, which I figured I could use up for some snacks to bring along. I almost feel like this dish is kind of cheating, not really following the rules of my challenge – it is just too easy. But I’m still counting it – 100 different recipes will require me to get pretty inventive real soon.

I’m not including a recipe with this, since it is quite simple. Just throw your pork shoulder (mine was about 1/2 lb) in the crockpot with some onions and a splash of stock/broth for a few hours on low. Meanwhile, make up some bbq sauce if you aren’t using your favorite bottled kind. When the pork is done, chop it up and mix it with the bbq sauce. Whip up some cornbread (I made a gf version with cornmeal and white rice flour), and you’re almost done. Using a mini muffin pan, spoon a small amount of batter into each cup, then add some of the chopped pork, and cover with more batter. I did three variations – one with just pork, one with pork and sharp cheddar, and one with jalepenos and pork. Serve with some bbq sauce on the side to dip the little muffins in, and that is it. Pretty easy, huh?

These were all eaten up – great finger food for a party. I think they’d be great using a normal size muffin tin, which would yield a more substantial sandwich-like muffin. The larger ones could work well as a part of a light lunch with a salad. It seems like it would be a great thing to take along for a picnic or a beach day.

Day Twenty One: Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Nectarine Bourbon BBQ Sauce

21 Feb

One of the things I love most about pork is how perfectly it goes with fruit, and how versatile these applications can be.  In fact, the next three dishes I’m making for the challenge involve fruit in some manner. Fruit and meat is such a great combination – the fruit adds a little something you can’t find elsewhere. Another thing I love that can be mixed up a million different ways? BBQ sauce. And how convenient that the two go so nicely together.

I am by no means a bbq sauce master, and I really have only one sauce down pat (which I’ll use in a recipe somewhere down the road). But I do love playing around with flavors and trying new versions, like this one with dried nectarines. I’ve never had a dried nectarine before, only apricots and peaches, but we received a nice bag of them in our recent CSA box. It was such a random addition, so I knew I had to work them in some pork dishes. Right when I opened the box, I couldn’t wait to try one of these. Turns out they are REALLY dried – so much so that you can’t really just eat them like you would other dried fruits. Thus, I realized I needed to soak them real good in some sort of liquid in order to use them. Hmmmmm, what should I use? Oh, yes, bourbon of course.

I’m not against using ketchup in a bbq sauce, but I just don’t think it is necessarily a “universal” ingredient in all tomato-based bbq sauce recipes. It can be too sweet sometimes, in my opinion. I guess there are times when I just want to start from a blank slate so I can sweeten it to my own taste.  So I use tomato paste to achieve the rich tomato base without the added sugar/sweetness (other than what naturally occurs in the tomato itself).

The recipe below worked out beautifully. So many great flavors that melted together. The consistency was nice and thick and tasted quite fresh and homemade, just the way I like it. The sauce hits you in waves – first, you get the tartness from the vinegar; next, another layer of tart, but sweet, from the nectarines; then, you get the smokeyness from the chili powder; and lastly, the heat from the cayenne. SO good.

The nectarines aren’t standing out like a sore thumb, but rather melt right into the sauce – at first, you don’t really know what that flavor is, but you eventually figure it out. The bourbon does get a bit lost, but that can easily be rectified by added more and more, of course.

I highly recommend trying this one out – delicious, comforting and satisfying.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Nectarine Bourbon BBQ Sauce

  • 1/3 cup dried nectarines
  • 3 tbsp bourbon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 of an onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • cayenne pepper, to tast
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb pork shoulder
  • Hamburger buns, or other rolls

Chop the dried nectarines and soak in 2 tbsp bourbon for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Drizzle some olive oil in a saucepan and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and brown. Add the remaining ingredients (except the last tbsp of bourbon) and simmer for about 15 minutes. When done, cool for about 10 minutes then transfer to a food processor and puree. Add the final tbsp of bourbon and stir.

Place pork shoulder in a crockpot and add some of the sauce, just enough to coat the outside of the pork. Cook on low for about 6 to 8 hours, until very tender. Shred the pork and add the rest of the bbq sauce, stirring to incorporate.

Spread butter on both halves of the buns/rolls and broil until melted and browned. Top with pulled pork and any additional toppings you’d like (I used a simple coleslaw).


Day Eight: Cubanish Grilled Cheese

8 Nov

Rudi’s Organic makes quite possibly the best bread you can find in a grocery store, in our opinion.  Hearty, but fluffy, and just tastes darn good. Kinda pricey for bread, but worth it. So, needless to say, I became very sad when I learned I can’t eat real bread like Rudi’s. I tried really hard to like gluten-free bread, but if anyone has ever picked up a loaf of the stuff, the sheer weight alone is reason enough not to buy it. Sure, there are some decent ones that I can eat as long as it is toasted and the flavor is overpowered by lots of good fillings, but the texture is what always gets me.

That was until I was browsing the frozen section of Whole Foods and saw the greatest thing ever – Rudi’s Organic Gluten-Free bread. And it was on sale. I nearly screamed. Even without reviews, I knew this stuff would just be good. When I got home with my new treasure, I toasted some up and it was just as good as I remember the real stuff being. Perfect texture and taste.

Now that I’ve made this discovery, I am relearning the basics of using bread. Egg, bacon and cheese breakfast sandwiches, toast with butter, grilled cheese and bread crumbs are all back in my life. Grilled cheese is the one thing I think I’ve missed the most, and I get so jealous every time I’ve seen Christian make them.  But no longer.

So now I’m getting creative with grilled cheese, which led to Saturday night’s dinner, something I called a Cubanish Grilled Cheese. It takes the idea of a Cuban sandwich and throws it into a more grilled cheese format. It was delicious – cheesy goodness mixed with flavorful shredded pork, mustard and pickles. It probably would have been even better with a good crusty roll, like those used for a real Cuban sandwich, but I’ll take what I can get…..and so will Christian.

The amount of pork I cooked was way more than you need for the sandwich, leaving some good leftovers (we just ate it cold the next day, but it would have been really good in a quesadilla or for tacos).

Cubanish Grilled Cheese Sandwich

  • Pork Shoulder (I used about 3/4 lb, which yielded enough for leftovers)
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 onion, sliced into wedges
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 4 slices swiss cheese
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mustard (I used dijon, but anything would be good)
  • 4 slices of bread
  • Butter

Put the whole shoulder piece into a crockpot with the orange juice, lime juice, onion and garlic. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or on high for about 5 hours, until the pork is tender and shreds. Shred the pork and mix with the onions and the pan juices.

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Turn over, and on one slice for each sandwich, spread on some mustard; cover with one slice of swiss cheese. Pile on some pork, then pickles, then another slice of swiss chesse, and top with the second slice of bread. (You can put mustard on the 2nd slice of bread if you want).

Melt butter on a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add the sandwiches and cook until browned and toasted. Turn over and cook the other side.

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