The NFL Playoffs are underway and Elizabeth Karmel, "Grill Master" of Four Points by Sheraton hotels, is firing up the perfect game day eats -- North Carolina-style Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tangy Tailgate Sauce and North Carolina "Red Slaw."
NORTH CAROLINA-STYLE PULLED PORK SANDWICH
Hickory or Apple wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Bone-in Pork (Shoulder) Butt, Boston Butt, 7 to 9 pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Tangy Tailgate Sauce (see below)
North Carolina "Red Slaw" (see below)
Package plain white hamburger buns (Martin's Potato Rolls) (no sesame seeds)
Prepare either a charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking.
Remove pork from wrapper. Do not trim any excess fat off the meat, this fat will naturally baste the meat and keep it moist during the long cooking time. Brush pork with a thin coating of Olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside on a clean tray until ready to cook.
Before placing the meat on the grill, add soaked wood chips. Place chips directly on white-gray ash charcoal briquettes or in the smoking box of your gas grill. If using a charcoal grill, you will need to add charcoal every hour to maintain the heat.
Place pork in the center of the cooking grate fat-side up. Cook slowly for 4 to 5 hours at 325°F, or until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the pork registers 190°F-200°F. The meat should be very tender and falling apart. It there is a bone in the meat, it should come out smooth and clean with no meat clinging to it. (This is the real test for doneness on the barbecue circuit.) Remember, there is no need to turn the meat during the entire cooking time.
Let meat rest for 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using rubber food-service gloves, pull meat from the skin, bones and fat. Set aside any crispy bits (fat) that has been completely rendered and looks almost burned. Working quickly, shred the chunks of meat with two forks by crossing the forks and "pulling" the meat into small pieces from the roast. Alternately, you can chop the meat with a cleaver if you prefer -- but then you have "chopped" pork bbq, not pulled pork. Chop the reserved crispy bits and mix into the pulled pork.
While the meat is still warm, mix with enough Tangy Tailgate Sauce to moisten and season the meat, about 3/4 cup. The recipe can be made in advance up to this point and reheated with about ¼ cup additional sauce in a double boiler.
Serve sandwich-style on a white hamburger bun and top with North Carolina "red slaw. ‘Serve additional sauce on the side, if desired.
TANGY TAILGATE SAUCE
Double the recipe if making this sauce to dress both the pulled pork and the slaw
2 cups Heinz apple cider vinegar
1 cup Coke Zero
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1/2-1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (the more flakes, the hotter the sauce*)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1h teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1 cup Heinz ketchup
Mix all ingredients together and let sit at least 10 minutes or almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. (*Note, the longer the sauce sits, the hotter it gets since the heat from the red pepper flakes is brought out by the vinegar. Start with 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes and then add more to taste. )
NORTH CAROLINA "RED SLAW"
Tangy Tailgate Sauce
1 medium head green cabbage, chopped not shredded
Mix enough sauce and cabbage together until it is well mixed but not quite wet. Refrigerate. As the slaw sits, the cabbage will release liquid. Stir occasionally and add more sauce if needed. Let sit 2 hours or overnight.
* Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Karmel, ‘Grill Master’ of Four Points Hotels