Crock Pot Kitsch: Pulled Pork Sliders on Homemade Kaiser-esque Rolls
I finally broke down and bought a crock pot. I can actually technically say crock pot, since crock pot is a proprietary term coined by Rival, the company who started the craze back in 1971, and that’s the brand I’ve got in my meaty clutches. I had very little desire for one of these contraptions until we had a horrendous week-long heat wave in Seattle last July. Since it’s Seattle and we hold steady in the temperate high 70’s for most of the summer, no one owns an air conditioner. Consequently when the heat wave hit, everyone was ducking for cover in malls, lakes, pools, even staying late and arriving early at the office each day since a/c is like a mandate in the corporate office building world.
One of the most crippling aspects of the heat wave for me was not being able to turn on my range or oven without upping the house temperature to a cool 115 degrees. I survived for a couple of days eating things like AHI POKE and ceviche, but there comes a time when a girl needs a roasted chicken, damnit! In a rare stroke of genius, I borrowed a slow-cooker from a neighbor one night, plugged it in outside (against manufacturer recommendations) and slowly simmered a chuck roast in barbecue juices. The next morning I pulled the meat apart and we had awesome barbecued beef sliders with no need to reheat for the next few days. Ever since then, my estimation of the slow cooker has gone way up. I confess to feelings of superiority toward the appliance in question prior to that time, but it practically saved my life this fateful summer, so my feelings dissipated into a healthy longing that I’ve just now satisfied. I think all my animosity came from some notion that slow-cookers were an anathema from the culinary generation I most reviled; one that popularized microwaves, tv dinners and all things instant. I’ve since amended my estimation, why here I am caressing one with all the tenderness of a new mama.
I decided my first big project with my new crock pot should be pulled pork because, in the spirit of embracing new things, I’ve also recently begun to eat pork after a 28 year hiatus. I’m 31 now if that gives you a clearer indication of how long it’s been. After an ingredient-finding forage at the local Whole Foods where I learned that pork butt is apparently referred to as pork shoulder so as to make it sound more appetizing (you see, there’s a reason I didn’t eat the stuff for so long!) I tucked into my swine recipe with reckless abandon. I modified an old standby barbecued chicken recipe to accommodate for my perception of the taste differences in chicken and pork, and below is what I came up with. Since I made these babies less than a week ago, I’ve had requests from three separate folks at the dinner party for the recipe, so I’m going to chalk them up as a success. Homemade Kaiser rolls make all the difference in the world. It’s getting to the point where I won’t eat a burger without fresh hot buns straight from the oven, and once you taste these puffy darlings, you’ll know just what I mean. The recipe is one I’ve tweaked and perfected over time to my own preferences. I’d suggest making it verbatim at least once before you decide to change things up too much.
Kaiser Rolls (without the poppy seeds and funny shaped tops)
- 1 lb self-rising flour (can use all purpose too, but I like the puffiness with this flour better)
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp barley malt syrup
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg white
- 1 ¼ c water
- Combine all dry ingredients in bowl of standing mixer except active dry yeast and .5 tsp sugar. Dissolve the active dry yeast and sugar in 1/c c warm water until slightly fermented. Give the dry ingredients a few spins with the dough hook to combine them, then add water, eggs, butter and active dry yeast mixture.
- Knead on medium setting of mixer for about five minutes, scraping down bowl and adding flour if necessary. The dough is not a dry dough, but you don’t want it so wet it sticks to everything either. Once you have achieved evenly distributed dough, grease a large bowl and put the dough in it covered by a tea towel. Leave it to rise in a warm spot in the kitchen for one hour.
- Punch down the dough, and allow to rise for an additional hour.
- Form the dough into 12 small, even sized balls. You can make more or less depending on the size you want your rolls, but adjust the cooking time if you deviate too much so as not to end up with burned buns. Let the balls rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes.
- To shape the balls, flatten into a disc and pull the outer edges of the disc under the middle so that the middle becomes the top of the roll and place the formed balls on a baking sheet. Cover and let rise one final hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450° and put a shallow pan of water on the lower rack so that there is steam in the oven to assist in baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once during baking.
- 1/3 c ketchup (I prefer to make it myself)
- 1/3 c cider vinegar
- 1/3 c Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp colemans mustard
- 1 tsp Hungarian paprika
- 10 whole cloves (you can put them into a tea strainer or cheesecloth, otherwise you’ll want to fish them out prior to serving)
- ¼ c brown sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- ½ tsp liquid smoke
- 1 small chili pepper halved but kept intact
- 16 oz Dr Pepper
- 1 medium onion quartered
- 3 lb pork butt (or shoulder as it’s more commonly known)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- Put all ingredients into the crock pot except pork butt, salt and pepper and cornstarch. Rinse and pat dry pork butt and generously salt and pepper. Whisk ingredients gently to combine, but not so vigorously that the pepper seeds infiltrate everything. Add pork butt and cook on high 4-5 hours.
- Remove pork butt from liquid when it is fork tender and pull it apart down to shredded pieces with two forks. Discard any fat or bones. Fish out the cloves and the chili pepper from the liquid mixture. Mix the cornstarch with ¼ c liquid mixture then whisk it back into the mixture. Return the pulled pork to the crockpot and cook on high another 30 minutes to thicken sauce and combine flavors. Serve on Kaiser rolls with cheese, homemade mayonnaise and a tear of lettuce.