Flipping through the channels one night last week I stumbled upon the World Series. Confession: I didn’t know the Series was even being played. Worse still, prior to seeing it live, I couldn’t have told you if I’d missed it entirely, or if was weeks away. I know, I know. Shame on me.
That fact is, I’m just not much of a spectator sports fan beyond watching my own kids at a Saturday morning game. On the odd occasion that my hubby manages to get me to a professional or college stadium, I’m more focused on the company I’m keeping and the offerings at the concession stand than what’s happening on the field (love the hot roasted peanuts, hate the garlic fries). So, when I made these fork-tender pulled pork sandwiches in my slow cooker recently, it occurred to me that they are just the sort of distraction I’m looking for on game day. Plus, they’re a whole lot healthier than the typical greasy line up of nachos and chicken wings.
Pulled pork is usually made using the shoulder, also known as the Boston butt, a heavily marbled cut, which is what makes it so darn juicy when cooked low and slow. My version isn’t as rich and decadent as the classic, but tasty enough that I managed to wolf down a whole one while standing in my kitchen at three in the afternoon. I later had to explain to my crew why I wasn’t hungry for dinner.
You start by cooking the tenderloin in apple cider and barbecue sauce for several hours in the crock pot until the meat is fall-apart tender. Then, shred the pork and coat it in some of the cooking liquid and more barbecue sauce. By swapping out the pork shoulder for pork tenderloin, you cut out about three quarters of the fat. Adding a generous helping of nutrient-packed cabbage slaw makes it even healthier and adds an appealing crunch. The recipe makes a generous portion of slaw, enough to have extra as a side salad.
Sports fan or not, no need to wait for the next big game to eat this. It’s just a suitable for a weeknight supper since it requires very little time in the kitchen. The sandwiches also work great in a lunchbox if you happen to have leftovers. Simply assemble and heat a sandwich (minus the slaw) in the toaster oven and wrap in foil. Pack the slaw in a separate container to be added at the lunch table. The combination of pork, cabbage, and whole grain bun make it a one-dish meal.
I still don’t know who won the World Series, but at least I know what I’m going to cook when the Super Bowl rolls around…that is, unless I miss it entirely.
Slow Cooker Cider-Braised Pulled Pork with Apple Cabbage Slaw
• ½ cup apple cider or apple juice
• 1 cup favorite barbecue sauce, divided
• 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in half, divided
• 1 ¼ pounds pork tenderloin
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• 4 cups shredded green cabbage (about ¼ of a large cabbage)
• 1 large apple, peeled and coarsely grated
• 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
• ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• Black pepper to taste
• 4 to 5 soft whole wheat hamburger buns
Pour the apple cider and ½ cup of the barbecue sauce into the slow cooker and stir until combined. Cut 1 of the onion halves in half again and add to the pot along with the pork and the garlic. Nestle everything down into the sauce. Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for 4 hours or until the meat is very tender and can easily be shredded with a fork.
Measure out ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and set aside. Transfer the pork to a medium bowl until it is cool enough to handle.
While the meat cools, make the slaw. Cut the remaining ½ onion into thin slices. Mix together the cabbage, apple, carrot, and onion in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar and sugar, stirring until the sugar is largely dissolved. Pour the vinegar over the cabbage, add a couple of turns from your pepper grinder, and toss well.
Once the meat has cooled a bit, pull it apart with your hands until the whole tenderloin is shredded. Put the meat in a medium bowl and add the remaining ½ cup of barbecue sauce and the ¼ cup of reserved cooking liquid. Stir until the meat is evenly coated with the sauce.
Divide the meat over the bottom halves of the hamburger buns. Pile a generous portion of slaw on top of the meat and cover with remaining bun. Serve any extra slaw on the side.
Makes 4 to 5 servings.