…and I’m not talking about that cupcakery of no small notoriety. After 12 weeks as a working professional, I think I’ve climbed milestones and have finally grown into my adult skin. And what’s surprising is that I feel comfortable in it! I want to flex these newly developed muscles and show them off in a tight muscle tee. It feels so good to leave behind my adolescence, my angsty and unsure self. What’s left is a confident, mature, poised (I think), not-awkward (in my head anyway) individual, who skirts between professional by day and social by night. It’s backed by a healthy dose (some would say too healthy) of self esteem and self assurance. I have a good idea of my own self worth and a whole lot of self respect. What’s more, I can proudly look at those old flings, those doubters, all the ex-es, and horrible bosses and spit out- you weren’t ever good enough. It feels so good to know (and even better if everyone else knows), that those doubters or old bosses and bad flings and terrible ex-es will never find anyone better to fill the vacancy. AnhD is making waves, going places, and moving up in the world. She is never looking back. Victory is the sweetest revenge.
But this new skin wasn’t easy to come by. It didn’t just appear overnight. It was sweat and hard work and long hours. It was years of preparation, and months of fine-tuning. This skin is self-made. And unique. But I am certainly not taking all the credit for its making. I have to thank the doubters and ex-es and bosses and heart-breakers who contributed to this skin – thank you for making me a little wiser, a little bit tougher, and a whole lot stronger. Cheers to you, and may I never see you again. Hell hath no fury as a woman seeking vengeance.
To celebrate this victory and my new skin, I prepared a perfect summertime meal for my family. Smokey and savory pulled pork butt, smothered in a delicious molasses sauce, then served alongside a sweet and tangy cabbage coleslaw. All this sandwiched between a nice Vietnamese baguette to give some added texture and a perfect base to absorb all the bold flavors. Now, typically pulled pork recipes utilize a Boston pork butt, which is a misnomer as it is actually shoulder meat. I find that pork shoulder is too fatty, so used leaner butt instead. This was made for a weeknight dinner and so I had to quickly infuse flavor into the meat in a short period of time – thus, I allowed the pork butt to brine in extra salty marinade for a few hours prior to crusting the meat with a flavorful dry rub. Also, to achieve the tenderness of pulled pork in a limited amount of time, I first broil the meat for color and caramelization, then braise the meat for a couple of hours until the meat is tender right on the stove. A slow-cooker can be used here if you can’t occasionally tend to the stove.
Molasses Pulled Pork
I looked over a few recipes before creating a hybrid of my own, though I highly recommend the picture tutorial from kevin & amanda.
3/4 c molasses
1/2 c salt
3 lb pork shoulder or Boston butt
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed
2 qts water (or enough to cover meat)
For Dry Rub:
2 tbs ground cumin
3 tbs garlic powder
3 tbs onion powder
1 tbs cayenne pepper
2 tbs salt
1 tbs ground pepper
2 tbs paprika
1/2 c brown sugar
For Braising Liquid:
1/4 c salt
1/2 c molasses
For the brine, combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl or heavy-duty Ziploc bag and submerge pork butt in marinade. Seal and place in fridge for at least 2 hours (I prefer overnight). Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for dry rub and set aside.
After >2 hours have passed, remove meat from brine and place in a roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towel. Generously cover pork shoulder with a thick layer of dry rub, making sure to get into the crevices of meat as well. It should look something like this:
Preheat broiler to 500*F. The high initial heat will help the meat form a crust and lock in all the flavors. Place roasting pan with meat into heated oven, and carefully monitoring the butt, allow to caramelize for 15 minutes, or until a deep golden brown and some char appear. Should look like this, or perhaps even a shade or 2 darker. This helps add an authentic ‘smokey’ taste to the meat without any actual BBQing or smoking. Rotate as necessary to achieve even browning.
Once the meat is nicely browned, remove from broiler. In a large pot, fill with about 2 inches of water or just enough liquid to braise the pork. Into the liquid, add another 1/4 c of salt and 1/2 c molasses. You may even initially use the brine liquid, and continually add water to it as the water evaporates. Heat on high until boiling then add broiled pork meat. Turn heat down to just a simmer (low heat) and cover pot with lid. Allow meat to simmer for at least 2-3 hours, or until meat is tender. Every so often, add a bit of water to (1) prevent the pork from burning; (2) keep the environment, and thus the pork, moist. Likewise, the meat and braising liquid can also be thrown into a slow cooker at 225*F right before you leave for work, and should be done by the time you get home – this is less ideal though, as I find that the meat actually becomes too soft, and lacks texture. Once cooked through and tender, the internal temperature of the pork should register about 200-215*F on a thermometer, and a knife or fork through the meat should meet very little resistance.
Once the meat is done cooking, remove the meat onto a separate tray or platter to cool, but reserve the liquid to create a sauce. On high heat, boil the braising liquid until it has reduced by half and has thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt, sugar and/or vinegar, chili powder as needed and to taste. While I like my sauce sweet, I’ve heard that Carolina pulled pork is extra vinegar-y, so please adjust the seasoning to your liking. Set sauce aside for serving. Meanwhile, once the meat has sufficiently cooled, use 2 forks to shred the pork meat. Dress the meat with the reduced sauce. Alternatively, you can also use store bought BBQ sauce, which is a huge time saver if you don’t want to reduce the liquid into a sauce yourself.
To serve, split open your choice of bread – most people use hamburger, but my family prefers baguettes. Fill the baguette cavity with a copious amount of meat, and add extra sauce as needed. Top with freshly made coleslaw (see here for recipe), a crack of black pepper (or like my daddy, Sriracha), and serve with some delicious iced tea. It’s a perfect summertime meal.
So after reading this entry, you may think I’m terribly full of myself. My ego is completely out of check. I am the epitome of narcissism. While I do not deny any of these charges, allow me an opportunity to defend myself. Somewhere during the growing-up process, it is important to have certain revelations. One of them, is the realization of self worth and value. While working over the summer, I came to better understand how to accurately evaluate my self worth and my contributions to the world as a human being. I have real world value. I can deliver products and services that have real world value. What I do and who I am are valuable. In the past, I never understood that about myself. I settled on the first job I could get. I settled on the first boy who even showed remote interest in me. Looking back, I sold myself short. I didn’t understand this concept of self-worth nor could I effectively demonstrate it. It’s not gained by flattery or superficial means, but a willingness to work hard and the ability to feel proud of one’s handiwork. Now, I am allowed to be more picky and choosy of my future bosses, my potential friends, and what I want out of life. My self-worth prohibits me from accepting mediocrity or anything less than amazing. So to all those second-best choices and less-than-perfect decisions, know that never again will you plague me. Know that I have come out stronger, and that my victory over you is the sweetest revenge.