You can find great things in the oddest of places. Light years ago, when I used to drive all over the world (or at least it felt like it) delivering food to grocery stores, I ran into one of those hidden gems you see being showcased on the Food Network roadshows serving up a mind-bending meal.
I was making a special delivery to a Safeway way up in Willits, Ca a Hwy pass through town on the 101 smack in the middle of the vast redwood forest of Mendocino county. With a population of fewer than 5,000 people, it’s small, but that didn’t stop a BBQ vet from Atlanta from building an old school Southern bbq smokehouse.
This place was a hole in the wall cliche to the bone. Small town, strip mall, inconspicuous, and a chef/owner who obsessed over his craft. Luckily for me, this chef decided to open his shop right next to the Safeway I was delivering to so it caught the corner of my eye as I headed into the store. It was going to be a long ride home so I drop in on my way out to see what he was cooking.
I can’t remember the name of this place or even the name of the owner, but I will never forget what I walked out the door with that day. As I drove back through the serenity of the mountains, trees, and vineyards of Northern California, I had the satisfaction of eating the hands-down best pulled-pork sandwich I had ever sunk my fangs in. The meat was smoky, sweet, tangy, and unbelievably tender. Every time I make pulled pork at home, I am striving to get close to that memory.
Unfortunately, the lumberjacks and mountain folk of Willits, Ca didn’t appreciate the treasure they had hiding next to Safeway, and the place eventually had to close its doors but not without leaving a significant impression on me and many other people along the way. Here is one method for making yourself a bit of heaven right at home. Let’s cook some pulled pork
- Pork shoulder about 4 pounds or so
- 1 and 1/2 Tbsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 2 Tbsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- Wash the pork with water and dry off with paper towels
- Blend spices and rub all over the pork shoulder. Cover the meat with parchment then wrap the plate tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24
- Pull the pork out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you are ready to cook it. Set your oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 325 degrees
- Line a roasting pan with enough parchment paper, so it hangs over the side and set the pork inside. Wrap the parchment over the pork then cover the entire pan tightly with foil
- Bake for 3-4 hours until fork-tender (a fork smoothly goes in and out of the meat)
- Remove from the oven but leave it covered and let rest for 30 minutes
- Remove parchment paper, then with two forks, pull the pork apart into shreds while mixing it with all the juice in the pan. Add more salt if necessary
- Try some of these side dish ideas below
- Sweet potato salad
- Green beans
- Cauliflower rice