Last November when I was developing the menu for the Bull Outdoor Products Grill For Good event [benefiting For A Reason, an amazing organization dedicated to helping educate the children of Haiti] I wanted to come up with a unique tray-passed appetizer that would represent the flavors of Haiti and get the palates geared up for dinner. In doing some research on Haitian foods, I came across an amazing resource in Fine Haitian Cuisine by Mona Cassion Ménager. I took inspiration from her recipe for Griot (Griyo) which is pork shoulder that is deep fried and then braised in citrus juices and habanero chile (similar to a Cuban mojo).
In reading about griot, I found that it is generally served with Pikliz (spicy vinegar and chile soaked vegetables) and Banana Peze (twice fried pressed plantains; or tostones). So in the spirit of competition cooking shows, I combined an entire meal into one bite (okay, really two or three bites). Plantains look like bananas on steroids (more info about plantains here) and the fried plantain is made from the unripened green fruit and is not at all sweet – more like a thick-cut potato chip. The pikliz can be made from different vegetables, but I opted to use mostly cabbage as a play on the Carolina tradition of pulled pork and vinegar slaw. Final result: AMAZING! The plantain made a perfect canapé and the pickliz provided a nice acidic counterpoint to the rich shredded pork shoulder.
One of the things I enjoy about working with food, is the chance to think outside the box and create “mash-ups” of different cuisines. This pulled pork is great on its own and would be equally fantastic on a slider bun topped with the pikliz, or better yet, on a Hawaiian sweet bun for a game day event buffet.
Please check out the picture below for the pikliz recipe:
Click the picture below to be taken to instructions for making banana peze (tostones), click the picture below. Note: pre-made tostones can be found in the freezer section in most Latin American and Caribbean markets or online here.
Caribbean Pulled Pork
serves six to eight;
twelve to fifteen as an appetizer
(inspiration from Fine Haitian Cooking by Mona Cassion Ménager)
3 pounds pork shoulder
2 habanero chilies, slits cut on sides
8 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 white onion roughly chopped
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil
For the rub:
2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Grated zest from 1 orange
Method: Indirect heat grilling
Trim the pork shoulder so that the fat cap isn’t much more than 1/4-inch thick. Score the fat with a very sharp knife in a 1-inch crosshatch patter and set aside in a large resealable plastic bag.
Grate the zest of one of the oranges and set aside covered in the refrigerator to be used later in the rub. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest of the remaining two oranges, then squeeze the juice into a medium mixing bowl. Squeeze the limes into the bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into the bag with the pork, squeeze out excess air and seal. Marinate pork in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the shoulder from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Combine the rub ingredients and use all of it to season the meat – make sure to work it into the scored fat cap.
Set up the grill for indirect cooking with medium-low heat – make sure you have plenty of gas! Place a drip pan below the grates where the roast will sit; stabilize the temperature around 300°F. Place the pork, fat side up, over the drip pan and close the grill cover. Total cooking time will be 4 to 6 hours depending on the size of the roast and how often the grill cover is opened. The pork will be ready and falling off the bone tender when the internal temperature reaches 195°F. Remove the roast from the grill and wrap in aluminum for for 20 to 30 minutes. Griller’s Note: if you would like to add some smoke, do so by all means. I would recommend a lighter fruit wood – orange wood would be ideal.
For the sauce: Pour the pan drippings into the reserved marinade and let settle. Use a fat separator or a small ladle to remove the fat. Transfer to a large saucepan and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Unwrap the pork and remove the the fat cap and any pieces of skin. Using your hands or a couple of forks, pull meat apart into strands 1/4- to 1/8-inch wide and a couple inches long. Transfer pork and any juices to serving bowl. Strain in the sauce and toss to combine.
However you choose to serve this – as a slicer, on a Hawaiian sweet bun, or on a fried plantain chip – top with a forkful of pikliz and enjoy!
Cheers and Happy Grilling!