I LOVE pulled pork. Juicy, smoky, tasty, it's the pinnacle of porkly arts*. Why, I wondered, don't we see more variations? The basic idea of slow-cooking** a fatty cut so that the flavor of the rub and the pork blend perfectly. But could the traditional cumin/cayenne/garlic/onion/brown sugar mix be expanded? Obviously, yes. My first test? Dried Mexican chilies to go for an almost dry mole flavor.
However, I am my mother's son, so a single test wasn't enough. I had to opt for a secondary cut because of circumstances beyond my control***, so I didn't get the preferred shoulder with a nice fatty layer. To counter this distinct disadvantage, I made two adjustments: 1) After I covered the meat in rub, I wrapped the cut with bacon -- then covered that in rub. 2) I had prepared for a few months by adding a bit of a fatty layer to the cook, too.
With these changes, I threw it into the oven and awaited the results. And this is what I found:
The foreground is the bacon, which is all kinds of tasty. This is definitely going to be added to the rotation. The meat itself was dry and a bit tough -- definitely a far sight from the shoulder. And the rub? A win. It's a darker flavor, and not as sweet as my standard recipe (taken from here). But the anchos gave it a smoky flavor. It needs a bit of a lighter hand, so I'll try it next time with more cinnamon and some ground coriander. I'd like to get some cilantro in the mix, but I think the ideal will be fresh cilantro garnish and avocado slices on a homemade tortilla. Sadly, this will have to wait until the next batch.
A VERY rough approximation of a recipe:
6 Ancho Chiles
4 New Mexico Chiles
2 Pasilla Chiles
One handful whole cumin seeds
One handful whole black pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
Grind the chiles, cumin and pepper, then mix all together to make the run. Then, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of tastiness!
* OK, fine. It shares its place atop the pork pyramid with bacon.
** If you want to claim that only smoked pulled pork is "real" pulled pork, that's cool. But you won't get any of what I make in the oven.
*** I woke up too late for the farmer's market.