Taking care of a toddler for a full day is a challenge. And on rainy days, when we are confined to the indoors, it’s nearly impossible. At least for me. Usually this wouldn’t be a concern for us in Texas in July, but this week, surprisingly, the forecast is rain.
When Jack and I run out of things to do, the easiest solution is often to buy a new book, or puzzle, or game. Or pay for some form of mindless entertainment — like museum tickets, or train rides, or mini golf . . . and not that anything is wrong with any of these things! . . . but after reading this article (which I’m not sure I fully agree with, by the way), I felt like I should at least make some effort to close my wallet and instead open my mind.
Enter cheap creative solution number 1: The Indoor “Sand” Box
Here’s what you need: (1) one large tray; (2) one bag of dried beans; and (3) assorted mini construction trucks. Dump the beans in the tray. Set the construction trucks in the beans. Invite your child to play. In total, Jack probably spent an hour playing with his indoor sandbox over the course of the day. [Ding, ding: Point for mom.]
Now, as Jack is only two and a half, his attention span is fairly short, so I knew one creative solution would not be enough.
Enter cheap creative solution number 2: The Indoor Basketball Court.
Here’s what you need: (1) something that will work as a basketball hoop (I used a high chair); and (2) a couple of small, soft balls. Hand one ball to your child, toss the other in the “basket,” and invite your child to play along.
By the time Jack was done playing with the basketball hoop, it was, oh, maybe 9:00 a.m. or so. How time files.
In need of another activity for both of us, I decided to focus on dinner. I wanted something that I could pop in the oven at a low temperature in the morning and basically forget about until late afternoon. First thing that came to mind? Pulled pork.
Two of John’s friends, Ryan and Tyler, make the BEST pulled pork. It’s tender and flavorful, and literally falling of the bone. I emailed both of them to see if I could take a look at their recipes. Ryan said he uses the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, but was already at work so he couldn’t send it to me right then. Tyler has his own recipe and was kind enough to send it my way. (That’s Tyler in the pic below. Far left, playing bass in a band with John.)
The key to Tyler’s recipe is the spice rub (which includes things like whole fennel seed and coriander — yeah, Tyler is the real deal . . . he holds the record for the best filet mignon, Beef Wellington, and Korean short ribs I have ever had). I took his list of ingredients to the grocery with the intention of buying them . . . but then at the spice aisle, as Jack was attempting to climb out of the cart, I got lazy (or lost patience, however you want to look at it). So, I scratched the homemade rub idea and bought a ready-made rub instead.
It’s a Texas Style Bar-B-Que Sweet Rub by Zach’s Spice Company in Deer Park, Texas. I chose this one in particular for a couple of reasons: (1) It is a “sweet” rub, which I think is good for pulled pork; and (2) It does not contain MSG. To boot, it is also DELICIOUS!
Once you have the rub, making pulled pork is pretty easy. Just remember, as Tyler told me: “LOW and SLOW!” Meaning: Cook the pork on low heat for a long time. Tyler cooks his in a crock pot on low for eight hours. As you’ll see in the recipe below, I cook mine in the oven at 250 degrees for four hours. Either way, the great news is that you don’t have to worry about it while you’re trying to maintain your sanity, or playing basketball or whatever.
Pulled Pork for Lazy People
Serves 6 to 8
1 bone-in pork butt or shoulder roast, 4-6 lbs.
Texas Style Bar-B-Que Sweet Rub (enough to cover the entire roast)
1 large onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cup pulp-free orange juice
1 cup water
1/2 cup good-tasting vinegar (such as white balsamic or apple cider)
For serving: Pickled onions, coleslaw, bread or buns
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the pork in a large Dutch Oven.
Sprinkle a generous layer of the seasoning rub all over the pork (including sides and bottom). Although you can’t see this in the picture below because the pork is covered in rub, the fatty side of the roast is on top. Positioning the pork this way allows the pork to self-baste as it cooks.
Add the sliced onion, bay leaves, orange juice, water, and vinegar.
Cover the pot with a lid and place it in the oven. Bake, covered, for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until the pork falls apart easily when you pick at it with a fork. (If it is tough, put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.) Remove pot from oven. Uncover and let pork rest for at least 1 hour.
Remove the pork from the pot and place on a platter. Remove the onions and bay leaves from the pot and discard. Set the pot with the remaining liquid on the stove; you’ll use this to make a sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Then reduce heat to medium so that the liquid bubbles gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by 3/4. (This doesn’t need to be exact. The point is just to reduce it down so the flavors intensify and consistency thickens.) Turn off the heat but leave sauce in the pot.
While your sauce is reducing, shred the pork. Use your fingers or two forks to pull the pork into fine strands, discarding any bone and excess fat as you go.
Dump the shredded pork back into the pot with the sauce. Toss the pork in the sauce; then let the pork sit in the sauce for 10 minutes or so, tossing occasionally, to allow the pork to really absorb the flavor.
Transfer pork to a serving dish. Serve with bread or buns, coleslaw, and pickled onions (recipes for those to be posted later!). Enjoy!! And thank you Tyler for the inspiration!