The Modern Man Cooks with Beer: Pilsner Pulled Pork

Let me tell you something really important: cooking with beer doesn’t begin and end with beer can chicken. Sure, it’s delicious, but guess what? Beer is one of the most versatile ingredients out there, and it can handle everything from breakfast to desert.

I was at the kitchen of The Harbord Room a few weeks ago hanging out with the chef, Cory Vitiello. As he seared lamb shanks and chopped root vegetables, he explained how use beer in cooking with some finesse.

“It’s an extremely forgiving ingredient. Basically, you can use it anywhere you’d normally use wine, and you can experiment with substituting it for other times you cook with a liquid.”

Underscoring his point, he loaded his lamb shanks and vegetables into a huge sauté pan and filled two-thirds of it with pilsner.

In case the idea of experimenting in the kitchen is a shade intimidating, here’s a recipe to try at home:

Pilsner Pulled Pork Sandwich

Preparation and cooking time 30 minutes + 6 ¼ hours. Serves 8 to 10.

3 kg (6 1/2  pounds) pork butt
15 mL (1 Tbsp) vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 330 mL (2 11 oz) bottles full-bodied pilsner such as Pilsner Urquell
250 mL (1 cup) tamarind water (can substitute with lime juice)
coleslaw, for garnish
garam marsala, to taste
salt, to taste
fresh cracked pepper, to taste
8-10 soft buns

The day before cooking, rub pork butt on all sides with a generous amount of garam marsala. Wrap and place in refrigerator, preferably overnight, but for at least 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 275F. Place a heavy-bottomed roasting pan on the stovetop over a medium temperature. Add oil, onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are fragrant and beginning to soften. Remove pork from refrigerator and season with salt and pepper. Place on top of softened vegetables. Add pilsner and tamarid water to pan and bring to a simmer.

Cover pan and bake in oven for 6 hours or until pork reaches internal temperature of 71 C (160 F) and starts to flake when scraped with a fork.

Remove from oven and transfer pork to a tray. Let cool until cool enough to handle. Pull meat apart in long shreds using a fork. Reserve all cooking liquids and vegetables. Place vegetables and liquid in a blender and puree. Add back to pork to moisten.

Taste and add garam marsala, salt, and pepper as needed. Choose any soft buns like brioche or challah. Slice and fill with pork. Place on plates and add your favourite coleslaw.

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