This was one of those recipes that was either going to turn out fabulously or flop like a dead fish. Thankfully, it turned out even better than I had expected.
I had been craving pulled pork sandwiches and while seasoning the pork shoulder before braising it I spied some green cardamom pods in the spice cupboard.
Inspiration hit and I tossed in 5 pods and a nice fat star anise and it was - as the old Guinness commercials say - Brilliant!
This is one of those items that is going to take a while to prepare. The onion jam that covers the shoulder while it's braising take a few hours to make and then the shoulder should braise for about 5 hours too. I usually make the onion jam the day before and keep it in an airtight container overnight.
I will add that it is completely worth the time it takes to make - and to be fair it's not exactly labor intensive - the low temp-long braising makes the pork shoulder just melt like butter. All that marbling fat melts and lends the most amazing flavor to the meat.
This is the first time I've ever made my own BBQ sauce - and it surely won't be the last. For my first attempt I was extremely pleased with the outcome. It's perfectly sweet and smoky with such nice garlicky undertones that just thinking about it makes my toes curl.
The star anise and green cardamom pods add an intriguing depth of flavor to the pork. It's not overtly present, but presents itself as a layer just underneath the BBQ sauce that piques the palate.
Star Anise and Cardamom Spiced BBQ Pulled Pork
Yields approximately 12 servings
2 1/2 lb. pork shoulder (aka butt roast, boston butt, etc.)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (or whatever stock floats your boat)
1 portion onion jam (recipe follows)
1 star anise
5 green cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 portion BBQ sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 275 F.
Season the pork shoulder all over with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in an ovenproof baking dish with a lid, approximately 4-6 quarts. Coat the entire top of the shoulder with the onion jam. Pour in the chicken stock and liquid smoke and add the star anise, green cardamom pods, and bay leaves. Cover and cook at 275 for about 5 hours, checking after 4 hours for doneness. It is finished when pricked with a fork and the pork easily pulls away from it. If there is any resistance at all return to the oven. Using two forks, pull the pork into shreds, discarding as much of the marbling fat as possible. Pour off the extra cooking liquid, if any, and remove the star anise, bay leaves, and cardamom pods. Mix the BBQ sauce into the pork and serve on buttered, toasted buns.
3 lbs. yellow onions
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Slice off the root and bud ends of the onion, and place on its end. Cut the onion in half vertically and place flat onto the cutting board. Slice thinly along the lines of the onion - this will help the carmelization process. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the slivered onions and stir to coat. Cook the onion over medium to medium-low heat until medium golden brown - about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, stirring every ten to fifteen minutes. Adjust the temperature to keep at a constant simmer - too low and the onions will steam instead of caramelizing, too high and they will burn. Keep a close eye on them. When the onions have sufficiently browned, stir in the brown sugar and vinegar. For a more prominent onion flavor in the finished dish, simply remove the jam to another dish and save to use in the BBQ pork. For a more subtle onion presence, puree the jam in a blender or with an immersion blender in the pot before using.
3/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon golden syrup (Lyle's is widely available in US grocery stores)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, smashed into a near paste and minced finely
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
This is a nutritional estimate, regard it as such.
1 serving = approximately 4 oz. without bun or additional condiments.
18 g carbohydrates
27 g fat
24 g protein