The Best Kind of Labor

While the rest of the Los Angeles swarmed the Labor Day weekend beaches to beat the heat, see the big waves and watch Laird Hamilton shoot the Malibu Pier, we elected to stay on the mountain, be satisfied with our Pacific breezes and almost-ocean views, and do what most people do for the holiday — barbecue.

The day's star attraction

The day’s star attraction

To be more precise, smoke. When I don my pit master hat, I usually default to one of two things — North Carolina pork shoulder or Texas brisket — or sometimes both. This weekend, it would be the latter. Like a morbid cartoon, I caught a particular pork shoulder winking at me from the meat aisle at the grocery store, and was smitten.

I like to serve smoked meats with some sort of bread — Texas brisket, for example, all drippy with beer-infused pan juices, is best with plain white bread to sop along behind the meat. For the fatty vinegary richness of North Carolina pork shoulder, I chose a bread that is close to heaven — King’s Hawaiian Bread — to make what are popularly termed these days “sliders”.

"Uh oh, am I on the menu!??"  Not just yet, my precious, not just yet...

“Uh oh, am I on the menu!??”
Not just yet, my precious, not just yet…

I woke at dawn and set to work, putting coals on the fire, rubbing the pork shoulder, soaking large chunks of local oak. By 6:45 the shoulder was smoking, and I set out into the state park for a run. Other than tossing in some coals and chunks of wood every hour or two, the smoking takes care of itself — just the right kind of labor for Labor Day.

In a break with type, I loosened my grip on control of the menu and let the handful of friends and neighbors we’d invited bring contributions — so in addition to my sandwiches, we also wound up with guacamole and margaritas, Greek lamb pita sandwiches, Dominican black beans and rice, and large fresh salad of baby greens, grilled hatch chiles and a teriyaki tri tip.

Maybe it was the heat of the day or the happy confluence of wine, beer and tequila. But somehow, it all worked.

*    *    *

Pulled pork slider with jalapeño slaw
serves 6

2 cups smoked North Carolina-style pork shoulder, shredded
1 cup pork cracklings, chopped
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. Tabasco or other hot sauce
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
12 King’s Hawaiian Bread rolls
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 cup slivered white onion
1 small jalapeño, shaved or thinly sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup dill pickle juice

I use the skin from the pork shoulder to make the cracklings. After smoking, I cut the skin off, let cool, cut into thin strips, and fry in vegetable oil over medium high heat until crisped and puffed. You could also use bacon for a similar crunch if you would prefer not to deal with the cracklings. Or you can purchase cracklings from your nearby Mexican carniceria.

Mix together ketchup, vinegar, sugar, hot sauce, celery salt and pepper. Stir into shredded pork shoulder and place in a covered dish in a 170-degree oven to keep warm.

In a salad bowl, mix together cabbage, onion, jalapeño, mayo and pickle juice. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Compose sliders: Cut the Hawaiian rolls open in half, scoop a tablespoon of pulled pork onto the roll, top with a pinch of cracklings, and then a tablespoon scoop of slaw. Replace the top slice of the roll and serve.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dana Fashina
    Sep 02, 2014 @ 15:27:21



  2. Michelle
    Sep 06, 2014 @ 01:24:11

    Doesn’t that look delicious? Well, to everyone but poor Precious.


  3. Trackback: Willa’s Brisket | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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