I was looking for a twist on a classic pulled pork and cole slaw sandwich when I eyed my sister's garden brimming over with kale. I worked backward from there. The slaw is lemony-tart and has that super savory, lip-smacking quality of miso while the apple and carrot lend a little sweetness. The pork is fragrant and flavorful, and the whole combination, while hearty, isn't too heavy. The recipe multiplies well and would make a great appetizer in slider-size. If you can't get hold of dried shiitakes, use double the amount of fresh (crimini mushrooms will work, too), and sauté them along with the onions. I use chickpea miso, but any lighter-style soy (or other) miso will work fine. —vvvanessa
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: vvvanessa is a blogger, Bay Area-ite, and the brains behind some of our favorite kitchen hacks.
WHAT: A just-messy-enough pulled pork sandwich and bonus kale & apple slaw -- our new go-to cold-weather side.
HOW: Brown & braise pork. Shred & stir slaw. Toast buns. Heap, eat.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The pork is beautifully spiced and falling apart tender in less braising time than you'd think. And we always love a new use for miso! —The Editors
2 hours 30 minutes
Chinese Pulled Pork
2 1/2 pounds
boneless country-style pork ribs (or boneless pork shoulder/butt, cut into large cubes)
small onion, peeled and sliced thin
cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
slices of peeled ginger, roughly 2 inches long
dried shiitake mushrooms (pre-sliced)
white wine or mirin
water or chicken stock
rice wine vinegar
toasted sesame oil
sturdy, good-quality hamburger buns, Kaiser or potato rolls, or ciabatta rolls
Kale and Apple Slaw
white or yellow miso paste
fresh lemon juice
rice wine vinegar
toasted sesame oil
extra virgin olive oil
ground white pepper
tuscan/dinosaur/lacinato kale stemmed and cut into extremely thin strips (about 4 loosely packed cups in total)
small Fuji apple, cored and grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 1/2 cup total)
medium carrot, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 1/2 cup total)
For the pulled pork, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven and brown the pork on two sides over medium heat, working in batches as necessary to avoid crowding the pan. As the pork is browned, remove it to a plate.
Once all the pork is browned, add the onions, garlic, and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally to pull up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until they begin to soften, about 5-8 minutes. Add in the star anise and mushrooms and stir for another minute more.
Nestle the pieces of pork back into the pan. Add the soy sauce, wine, vinegar, water/stock, and sesame oil, and stir to distribute. Add in additional water or chicken stock as necessary to bring the liquid level to about halfway up the pieces of pork (it's fine if there's a bit more than that). Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle-to-moderate simmer and cover the pot.
Braise the pork until very tender, about 2 hours.
While the pork is braising, make the kale slaw. In a large bowl, combine the miso, lemon juice, vinegar, olive and sesame oils, and pepper to make a thick dressing. Toss in the kale, apple, and carrots, and mix continuously for a couple of minutes to coat the kale very well. Make it at least an hour or two before serving. Store in the refrigerator.
When the pork is fork-tender and falling apart, remove it from the pan and onto a large plate. Remove any unwanted hunks of fat still remaining, and shred the meat with two forks (or your fingers if the meat is cool enough). Skim the fat from the pan and discard. Also discard the star anise pod. Reduce the sauce over medium-low heat to about 1/2 cup (if there is more than that).
To assemble sandwiches, place a heaping mound of shredded pork on the bottom half of each bun. Drizzle a tablepoon or two of reduced sauce onto the meat. Top with a generous mound of the kale slaw. Top with the other half of the bun, and serve.
If you like an extra-spicy, vinegary kick, slice 1-3 hot peppers (jalapeño, serrano, habañero, Thai, or a combination of) and set them in a cup of rice wine vinegar before starting the pork. Spoon the vinegar over the meat (as much or as little as you'd like) before adding the kale slaw on top.