I hope all of you are doing as well as can be expected during these hard times. I have started to have a couple of people over for simple meals out on my porch. You can have a nice small party and practice social distancing without having anyone inside your home. The recipe for this pork dish is a good one for this type of entertaining. It can all be cooked beforehand, is easy to serve and does not need to be piping hot.
I love pulled pork sliders, but the thought of cooking anything for more than an hour in my home oven on a hot summer day is pretty daunting. I decided to use pork tenderloins. Even though the tenderloins have very little in common with a well marbled pork butt I thought I could concoct a flavorful slider from the tenderloin with a distinctive barbecue sauce and a good rub. It turned out well and I will make it again. I suggest you use this abbreviated version of ‘pulled pork’ during warm weather and save the long-cooked pork for winter. It is a great summer treat and I suggest everyone give it a try. Make the sauce and rub ahead of time (up to a week) and make enough to keep in your kitchen for all kinds of things. I am also including recipes for the rub and homemade barbecue sauce. If you don’t have time to make the rub and sauce just buy them at the store.
Summertime Faux ‘Pulled Pork’ Tenderloin Sliders
These mini sandwiches make a great potluck dish or a fun lunch or dinner for a hot day. If you are staying safe and eating out on your porch – these slicers are perfect. Everything can be made ahead of time and heated up just before service. They are good hot or at room temperature. Because you are using tenderloin of pork there is less fat to heat you up on a warm day. But don’t be fooled into thinking you are losing flavor – this faux ‘pulled pork’ has a surprising depth of flavor.
Small slider rolls are sometime hard to find and I suggest the following: Make them yourself, cut bigger dinner rolls in half, or use the finger rolls often sold in the supermarket. Sliders are tasty topped with coleslaw or shredded lettuce. Have fun with them and stay cool for this last half of summer.
- 2 Pork Tenderloins
- 2 onions thinly sliced
- Brine for the meat (see recipe below)
- Dry Rub (see recipe below)
- Barbecue Sauce (see recipe below)
- Make the Brine:
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup salt
- 3 to 4 cups of apple cider
Mix the salt and sugar with 2 cups of hot water. Dissolve thoroughly, let cool and pour over the tenderloins. Add the apple cider to cover the tenderloins. If there is not enough liquid fill the rest with water so that the meat is submerged. Place a heavy plate on top of the meat and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and no longer than overnight.
Smoky Tea Rub:
- 1 cup Kosher or canning salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup paprika
- 1 cup ground ancho or chipotle peppers
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
- ½ cup black cocoa powder
- ¼ cup black pepper
- 1 cup lapsong oolong tea (a smoked tea you can find in the supermarket – empty the bags)
Mix all the ingredients together and put in a mason jar with lid. Shake until they are well combined. You will have extra rub, but it will keep indefinitely in the jar and you will find many uses for this tasty flavoring. You can do this a few days to a week ahead. I always have some in my kitchen to flavor any meat that I cook.
This is a simple red barbecue sauce that reflects the traditions of Texas or Kansas City. I give you my recipe – but feel free to add or subtract ingredients that appeal to you. I have a couple of rules – Don’t use liquid smoke and use fresh garlic and onions as opposed to powder. Of course, rules are made to be broken – but you will have a better product if you follow the rules. Barbecue sauce imparts a complexity of savory, hot and sweet flavors to anything you are grilling. I always use a few of each of these flavors in any sauce I make -molasses, sugar, maple syrup and ketchup for sweet, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, whiskey, peppers and garlic for savory and cayenne or red pepper flakes for heat.
Make a few quarts – it keeps for at least a month in the refrigerator. I’m sure you will find many uses for it. Cut this recipe in half or double it –it has a lot of ingredients but is simple to make. Of course, you can always use your favorite bottled sauce.
- 3 large onions- thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic peeled
- 3 cups ketchup
- 1 medium or large jar roasted sweet red peppers- drained
- 1 12 oz. can tomato puree
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses
- ¼ cup maple syrup (optional)
- 1 cup sweet Thai chili sauce (optional)
- 1 cup bourbon whiskey (can use apple cider if you want)
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 2 tablespoons of the smoky tea rub from the recipe above
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or steak sauce
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Olive Oil for sautéing
Heat a bit of olive oil in a large, high sided sauté pan and add the cloves of garlic and the onions. Sauté on medium low heat till they are softened and transparent. Take off the heat and add the ketchup, the large jar of peppers and the tomato puree. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes and add the brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, bourbon and sweet chili sauce and cook for 5 more minutes until everything dissolves. Take off the heat and add the cayenne powder, smoky tea rub, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Put the whole mix into a food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree. You can use a blender or immersion mixer if you don’t have a processor.
Cook the sauce for another 15 minutes and let cool adding water if it is too thick or cooking it longer if it seems too thin. You now have a sauce worthy of any barbecue that will keep refrigerated for up to a month.
Finishing the Pork Tenderloin:
After the pork has been in the brine long enough discard the brine and pat the pork dry. Put your dry rub all over the pork – massaging it in well. You can leave the pork like this in the refrigerator or grill it right away.
Set the grill on high and when it has heated up place the loins right on the grill surface. Immediately turn the heat down to medium, baste the top of the pork with your barbecue sauce and let grill for about 4 minutes. Turn the pork over and baste the top with your barbecue sauce and let grill for 4 minutes. Do this one more time. The pork should have a nice dark char on the outside (not burnt). Remove the pork from the grill and let sit for about 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloins across the grain of the meat in very thin slices. Don’t worry if it is a little rare it is going to cook again. Put the sliced pork aside in a bowl. Keep all the juices in the bowl.
Meanwhile thinly slice the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes in olive oil. Put the pork in and cook it with the onions for about 2 minutes. Add enough barbecue sauce to the pork and onions to make it fairly wet and cook for another minute or two. Set aside. You are now ready to make the sliders. You can put in more sauce if it looks dry.
Putting the Slider Together:
Put the ‘pulled pork’ on the bottom of the roll. If you are using finger rolls you can leave the sandwich open faced.
I like to put coleslaw or shredded lettuce on top of the pork. Another nice addition is a little pile of caramelized onions on top.
These are really fun to serve and always bring good comments for the chef.