Pulled-Pork Sandwich with Pickled Onions and Radishes

Pulled-Pork Sandwich with Pickled Onions and Radishes

I’m not going to tell you that slow-roasting a pork shoulder is the quickest path to dinner – far from it – but, for a weekend cooking project, it definitely pays off in spades. 

There are actually two different cuts that get called pork shoulder: “Boston butt” and “picnic shoulder.” Either is fine for this, but do get bone-in and if possible, pasture-raised. Boston butt is easier to find but I tend to look for picnic because it’s usually sold skin-on and I like to make crackling.

True, there is a bit of planning involved here but most of the time is inactive and the end result is so worth it. It’s perfect for a relaxed kind of party (the best kind, in my opinion) where people don’t mind getting messy or sparring over bits of crunchy pork skin. 

I combined two recipes here, one is Momofuko-style with a sweet/tart glaze from Bon Appétit (I love the flavors but it didn’t include crackling). The other is a Jamie Oliver recipe which I used mainly as a technique to get crispy skin. 

What you wind up with is a huge pile of delicious pulled pork with a tart vinegary glaze and a sheet of crackling that you can cut up and distribute as you like (or eat by yourself when no one’s looking). This would be perfect on its own or in tacos, quesadillas, grilled-cheese sandwiches (try one with bleu cheese!).  I definitely recommend making something pickled to go along-side (we made both Quick-Pickled Red Onions and Sweet & Sour Pickled Radishes). We also made a version of this Asian Cabbage Salad, but without fennel since we didn’t have any. 

We meant to take a picture of the pork coming out of the oven, but Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1 was just starting and … well, there are some things you just don’t trust your DVR with.

We also meant to take a picture of the crackling … but we ate it. 

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Pork Belly Bánh mì Sliders

Pork Belly Bánh mì SlidersWhat to do with leftover pork belly: Make Bánh mì sliders!

I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally do a very shameful thing when I buy too many vegetables.  Since I’m already over-sharing, I might as well admit to another terrible habit. I really enjoy cooking for dinner parties and family get-togethers, but way too often I’ll wrap whatever protein is left over in foil and throw it in the freezer where it will stay for months, gathering frost and becoming less appetizing by the hour (I’m looking at you Easter ham).

I know, I know. There are so many great things to make with leftovers. Soups, stews, salads, casseroles, and honestly I do make these things but the sad truth is the thrill is usually gone and I’m doing it to not be wasteful, as opposed to being actually inspired. So you can see why I was nervous as I wrapped the remains of the Crispy Pork Belly with Soy Honey Glaze in its foil coffin (I’m feeling dramatic today) and tossed it in the freezer. “You were so good”, I said to it mournfully, “but it’s been two nights and I’m ready for a salad”.

Several weeks went by and every few days I would guiltily toss the little frozen pork belly package to the side as I looked for dinner options. Then it hit me; Pork belly Bánh mì sliders. As it happens, we were going to have a few friends over for a Halloween/birthday get-together and it would be nice to have something a bit more substantial than dips. Turns out they were good. Like, really good.

This is now officially my favorite use of pork belly. The sweet, vinegary pickled carrots and daikon really cut through the richness of the pork. The crisp cucumber and bright cilantro make it light and fresh. Seriously, not kidding, make the pork belly just so you can make these sliders.Pork Belly Bánh mì Sliders

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Crispy Pork Belly with Soy Honey Glaze

Crispy Pork Belly with Soy Honey Glaze
Crispy Pork Belly with Soy Honey Glaze

I may have mentioned that Matt and I went to the UK last summer and ate a lot of pork belly.  It was consistently one of the best dishes we had all over several parts of England and Wales. If there’s one thing the British know, it’s how to make excellent crackling (that sound you hear is Matt furiously listing all the other things British people are excellent at. (So far;  crackling, funny shows, more funny shows, chicken keeping). I’m sure there’s more but we’ll leave it at that for now.

This was pretty much a nightly conversation on our trip. Emily: “We have to make this when we get back” (distractedly tries to figure out recipe). Matt: “Stop looking at me like I stole all the crackling!” (whilst licking crackling-glazed fingers).

Well, we’ve been back for six months and our local shop now has lovely local pork belly and we thought we’d finally try to make it in our local stove. In England, it was often paired with bubble and squeak, and a hard cider sauce but I really wanted  to try a soy and honey glaze combined with the crisp crackling we found on our trip.

If you can get (good quality, ethically raised) pork belly with the skin still on – you’ll need the skin to get truly crispy pork belly – it’s definitely worth seeking out. It’s a very affordable cut and it’s also very rich, so you’ll want small portions. That being said, I wouldn’t bother cooking a piece smaller than about 2 pounds because it will shrink a lot in the oven and could dry out. There’s also so much you can do with the leftovers.

It’s absolutely lovely paired with a fried egg and this Pickled Cucumber and Avocado Salad (really any crisp, vinegary greens would be great). I also really love it with Sesame Roasted Pears and a tart kale salad. But my all time favorite use of pork belly is Bánh mì sliders. So, so good.

Crispy Pork Belly with Soy Honey Glaze

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