IMG_5714Here’s the rub.

Sometimes you have all the time in the world, and no time at all.  Some days, you are home, but not available.  Some days everyone shows up for dinner–just not not at the same time. Some weeks gang up on you, so that Monday’s slow start becomes Friday’s hurricane of activity. In those hoursdaysweeks, I want a solid meal early in the week and fast leftovers for the week’s harried end. I want something that will keep from 4:30 pm until 8 pm, when everyone is finally fed. This thing should tolerate being reheated and have a few leftover tricks up its sleeve. I know, this is asking a lot.

But there is such a thing as pork shoulder, which can be more versatile and forgiving than a lot of people in your life.  On Sunday night, I gave it a dry rub, left it to marinate over the long, dark night, took 15 minutes to prep on Monday morning, and let it cook for 10 glorious, unsupervised hours. Anything that will leave me alone for that long is doing something right.

By evening, there was warm, succulent pulled pork for sandwiches and leftovers for lunches and  warm, savory bowls with biscuits later in the week.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons brown mustard
1/4 cup malt vinegar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 3-4 lb pork shoulder
This is technically a braise, with a pseudo-barbecue sauce, but it’s easy and effortless and tasty. Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Nothing needs to be very exact.
Combine the paprika, garlic powder, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, kosher salt, and cumin and shake or stir to combine. Rub the mustard all over the pork, then generously apply the dry rub. You may have rub left over.
Place the meat in a Ziplock bag, then seal and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
In the morning, set a heavy pan on high heat and brown the pork on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan, set it aside, and deglaze the pan with about a cup of water. Pour the deglazing liquid into the slow cooker. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 more cups of water to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Return the meat to the slow cooker and cook on low for 10 hours.
When the meat is done, remove it from pan and shred it with 2 forks.
If necessary, at this point you can pour the sauce into a small pan and simmer to reduce until it thickens and reaches the consistency you like.  Taste it, and, if you like, add: ketchup, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire–whatever you think it needs.
Serve the meat topped with the sauce, or return the meat to the pan with sauce and gently heat. It’s delicious on soft, warm potato rolls, or heaped in soup bowls. Sides of mashed potatoes, biscuits, coleslaw, warm greens…