Friday, June 1, 2012

Getting by with a little help from my friends: Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Jalapeno Slaw

As mentioned previously, I’m recovering from a spinal surgery that has rendered me useless in the kitchen.  For the first couple of weeks, due mostly to the coincidental food poisoning less than a week after surgery, I was firmly anti-food.  I know I’m starting to return to normal not just because I can move my head a bit side to side, but because I’m itching to cook or bake (or even steam, for crying out loud, so long as it’s me doing it).  I have had this link open for days, but I’m nowhere near ready to knead.  And this  one has been calling to me again – all cinnamon spice and sweet.  When I can lift a pot in and out of the oven, I’m all over that one.

The worst thing about this stage of the healing process is boredom – I’m just vigorous enough to want to be active and social but it’s better imagined than done.  I get sore and cranky and sometimes just cry unattractively for no reason.  That’s just not fair to one’s friends, and my friends deserve the best.  I've had persistent, dedicated visitors these last couple weeks, armed with homemade scones or dinner or movies and unafraid to put goo on my wound or brave the grocery store at dinner time. 

It was weather for eating out this past weekend, and I’d been in pajamas for two weeks and I was aching to flex my hostess muscles.  Felix humored me with strict guidelines: he was not going to spend his day cooking and his night cleaning it up.  Therefore, I could play hostess if I took help – from the store in the form of prepared foods and from my lovely friends.

Before dinner we snacked on Cypress Grove goat cheese, local Adam’s Ranch olive tapenade, and crackers that are likely not as good as homemade, but are damn tasty nonetheless and require no baking or dish washing.

For the main event I chose pulled pork sandwiches with slaw.  I used a good quality store-bought sauce but made a great dry rub for my pork butt (shoulder) and Felix did the literal heavy lifting – putting two four-pound roasts in the oven, well rubbed, for 7 hours.  I used this method and a combination of dry mustard, brown sugar, salt, pepper, hot chili powder and a chili powder blend (Penzey’s Chili 3000, which I didn’t love in chili and repurposed as a rub with great results).  Small brioche rolls were purchased and Felix made our absolute favorite slaw recipe, below.  It’s adapted from Smitten Kitchen and originally Bobby Flay’s.  It’s genius, particularly if you’re not a huge mayo fan and you like some kick.  In this case, slaw should be on the sandwich, of course, but it makes a great side dish for enchiladas or tacos or ribs or burgers on the grill.

Our friend Nicky brought a bean and avocado salad – citrusy and smoky and substantive – and our Rachel brought a bright, sharp wild arugula, tomato and avocado salad of which I had thirds (!) .  Finally, or should I say (Grand) Finale, Molly brought these cookies by Ronnie Fein.  Absolutely amazing team effort - I'm so grateful.

Jalapeno Slaw

1 cup green onions, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 jalapenos, stem removed and seeded
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1/2 cup pure olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

1 very small head or ½ large head purple cabbage, finely shredded
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Combine first six ingredients in blender and puree until very smooth.  When ready to serve (and not before, unless you want a sodden, soggy, separated swirl of sad cabbage at your supper), combine shredded cabbage and dressing.  I like to put the cilantro leaves on the top of the serving bowl or platter, rather than mix them in.

Enjoy – this made for a wonderful, low stress meal among friends when I desperately needed it.  There’s nothing like breaking bread with friends to make you feel like part of the world again – particularly if that bread is full of pork.


  1. This was the perfect start to our summer! I am looking forward to many more of your delicious recipes. xx Rachel

  2. What great memories! Like Pavlov's dog, my mouth is watering all over again...