Winter is a good time to get out the crock pot and slow-cook a meal. Pulled pork for sandwiches is especially suited to this kind of cooking. The key is to use a cut of meat, boneless pork butt roast, that has a lot of flavor to begin with. The moist heat and long cooking time tenderizes the pork, intensifies the flavor and the end result is that the pork just literally pulls apart. For this recipe, I added some Cajun-inspired spices to heat things up.
Cajun cuisine has evolved over the years and it increased in popularity in the 1980’s due to the cooking of several Cajun chefs whose notoriety became well known around the world. Paul Prudhomme, John Folse and local T.V. personality, Justin Wilson, come to mind. Paul Prudhomme introduced the world to blackened red fish and other “hot Cajun dishes.” Although part of a larger picture, it seems that the “spicy” is what stuck and is now synonymous with Cajun cooking.
For my pulled pork, I decided to continue this theme–using Cajun spices in the recipe. Most Cajun spice blends use cayenne pepper as the main ingredient, so you need to be cognizant of how much you add depending on how much you like spicy foods. Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning is a brand that is familiar with people here in Louisiana and is a household name for us. There are many, many spin-off’s.
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning can be mail ordered or it may even be available locally. If you prefer to be brave and make your own spice blend, I’ve listed the essential ingredients below.
The key to pulled pork is to use a pork roast that benefits from slow, moist heat. Pork butt roast, shoulder roast or sirloin roast will work. I marinated the boneless pork butt in a blend of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, brown sugar, dried mustard, black pepper and thyme for an hour prior to cooking.
My husband mentioned that his boy scout troop added liquid Zatarain’s Shrimp and Crab Boil to their boiled pulled pork; I thought that sounded like a novel idea. Liquid crab and shrimp boil is a concentrated blend of spice essences including red pepper, bay, cloves, black pepper, thyme and marjoram. It goes well on meat and chicken as well as seafood. I added it to the crock pot of pulled pork. A little goes a long way, just a Tablespoon for a quart of water, is all you need. It added a little zip to the pork and potatoes.
I prepared the pork roast two ways–in a crock pot and braised in the oven. You could also pot boil it on top of the stove. I added liquid shrimp and crab boil to the pork cooked in the crock pot and added new red potatoes during the last hour. The potatoes soaked up the crab boil. Since boneless pork butt roasts weight about 4 – 5 lb, I used a large crock pot. It took about 3 hours to cook the roast on high setting. For low setting, approximately double the cooking time.
In the oven, I added a can of beer to the roasting pan, then covered the pan securely with foil and cooked at 325 degrees for 30 minutes per pound or 2 1/2 hours. The liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan should be about 1 inch; add more water during cooking if needed so there’s always moisture in the pan. The internal temperature of the pork roast should be 160 degrees when done. I suggest checking with a themometer. This version retained more of the spices. Both were delicious!
For serving, I served the poboys with marinated pickled cabbage slaw and homemade bread and butter pickles and onions.
Homemade Cajun Seasoning Blend
If you don’t have access to Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or any of the other blends on the supermarket shelves, blend your own:
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp each of: red cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder; and ¼ tsp powdered thyme and black pepper.
A printable form of the recipe is at mayleeskitchen.com