Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Growing up on the east coast I was introduced to pork BBQ at an early age and grew up with that being the norm anywhere you went to eat. You walk into a restaurant and the menu showed items like pulled pork, sliced pork, pork ribs etc. Now you can imagine my surprise when I moved to Texas and walked in to my first Texas BBQ restaurant only to look at the menu and not see pork listed anywhere. Everything is beef, Brisket, ribs, chopped BBQ and on and on, its all beef. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good smoked brisket and have even come up with my own rub and method of doing it myself but its just not the same as the BBQ pork I grew up with. Another odd thing about Texas BBQ joints is the cole slaw. Every where you go they have cole slaw on the menu but what you get is a scoop of shredded cabbage soaked in vinegar. This is not cole slaw people. Cole slaw needs to be thick and creamy with hints of vinegar and sweetness. Oh and did I mention the creaminess? for this you need mayo and not just any mayo, you need Helmann’s mayo. It is the perfect consistency and flavor for making a good southern cole slaw. So I took matters into my own hands and came up with my own pulled pork recipe. Now the one I am posting differs slightly than the one I usually make because it is Hatch Chili pepper season, so just about everything I make is getting Hatch peppers added to it.

Lets start off with the ingredients you will need.

Pulled Pork

1 pork loin (about 3 to 4 pounds)

Chili powder

Garlic powder

olive oil

hatch chili peppers, about a pound (optional)

BBQ sauce (regular Kraft works great)

Cole Slaw

1 large bag shredded cabbage

sugar

apple cider vinegar

garlic powder

chili powder

Mayo (Helmanns)

Black Pepper

Salt

And for the sandwich you will need Garlic Toast (or Texas Toast). This is not optional. You have to have it for it to taste like it came from the east coast.

Lets get started on the pork first since it takes a while to cook in a crock pot.

First you will want to heat up a large frying pan with a couple table spoons of olive oil in the bottom. Once the pan is heated you will put the pork loin in and sear it on all sides making sure to season it pretty heavily with chili powder and garlic powder. Now we are not cooking it all the way through here, just searing the outside. Once that is done you want to drop it in the crock pot. Add enough water to cover it only about a quarter of the way. Cover it and let it cook on high. We will be adding something else very soon.

Now lets move on to the Hatch peppers.

You will want to roast the hatch peppers on the grill or in an over close to the broiler. You want the outside of the peppers to turn black. once they are black you will immediately put them into a plastic storage bag so that they can sweat. This makes it much easier to remove the outer skin. Let them sweat for about 20 minutes then remove them from the bag and start peeling the skin off. Once all the skin is removed you will cut the top stem off and remove all of the seeds. Then chop the peppers into about half an inch pieces.  After all of the peppers are chopped you will add them to the crock pot with the pork.

And now it is time for the cole slaw. Yes you do need this even if you think you don’t like cole slaw. That is probably because you have never had it done right and I am now going to show you how to do it right. mmm…mmm…

In a large mixing bowl you want to dump in the cabbage and then pour in about half a cup of apple cider vinegar. no spoon in about 4 tablespoons of sugar and then sprinkle in about 2 tablespoons of garlic powder. 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Go ahead and give that a stir and then add about to cups of mayo and stir it all together. You will want to taste it to see if it needs a little more of anything. Some people like it more sweet and some like it less. Once you get the flavor where you like it put it in the fridge to cool while the pork is cooking.

about 4 to 5 hours later…

Check the pork to see if it is ready. You will want to use a spatula or long handled spoon and press down on the pork. If it starts to come apart pretty easy then you are ready to go. Turn the heat off and move the pork to a large mixing bowl to cool. Once it has cooled you can start pulling it apart into smaller chunks with your fingers. Now use a slotted spoon and scoop out the peppers (making sure to let the excess water drain) and add them to the pork. Add about two cups of BBQ sauce and stir it all together until everything has been coated in sauce.

Now its time to assemble the sandwich.

Heat up the garlic bread and place two pieces on a plate. Now on one piece add a big scoop of pork and spread it around to cover the whole thing. Add a nice coat of BBQ sauce and then a big scoop of cole slaw on top of it (trust me on this, you will love it). Now put the other piece of garlic bread on top. You may want to cut it in half because it is going to be messy, but that is part of the fun. All that is left to do is grab a hand full of napkins and sit down and enjoy.

Thanks for reading

JMW

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Clear Springs Restaurant

Great

Pretty Good ***

OK

No Thanks

I have not done a review in a bit so here we go.

I heard about this little seafood place called Clear Springs Restaurant from a friend on Facebook and immediately went online to check out the menu. Well on the home page was this picture of a giant stack of home-made onion rings, so that made me decide to go and try it all by itself. For those of you that read my blog you know I am a sucker for a good onion ring. I checked to see where they were located and was happy to see that there are several locations and one was not to far from me out 1604 near the Stone Oak area in a little place called Afton Oaks. There is also one in the New Braunfels area but this one was closer to me and I was feeling a little to lazy to do any extra driving (it was Sunday after all).

When you walk in the door you can tell that these people are all about their fish. The inside is a neat mix of fishing cabin and antique store. They have old antique toys, fishing polls, and mounted fish scattered around the rafters and old west movie and TV posters hanging on the walls. The floors, tables and chairs are all wood to give it that rustic feel and it is a relatively spacious place inside.

The menu of course has many seafood items from catfish to fried oysters but also has a few steak selections for the non fish eaters of the world. To start out I of course ordered the onion rings to sample. The waitress was nice enough to suggest a small order so I wouldn’t fill up on them, but to my surprise a small order was huge. I have had some great onion rings in my time and I would count these among them. I would have to rank them in the top five best onion rings I have ever tried. The breading was flaky and crunchy and the onions themselves were easy to bite through and melted in your mouth. They were perfectly seasoned and to be honest I probably could have made a meal off just them but I did come here for fish after all so I placed my order for the main course. I ordered a 3 combo platter where you can choose between several different entree’s. I chose catfish, fried oysters, and fried crawfish.  The platter also came with borracho beans, hush puppies, french fries and cole slaw which to my surprise actually tasted like cole slaw and not that typical bland cabbage with a little vinegar tossed on it that you usually find in Texas. This was creamy and actually pretty tasty. The fries were your standard french fries, nothing special but not bad overall. I guess after those onion rings I would have a hard time judging anyone’s fries. The beans were good and tasted like every other borracho bean you can get in San Antonio, so nothing special. I cant really comment on the hush puppies as my dining companion stole those from me but they looked good. When it came to the three entrees I tried the crawfish first. While I have had better these were pretty good. My only complaint was that they were a tad on the chewy side but it is pretty hard to avoid that. Next I moved on to the oysters and was pleasantly surprised. The breading was crunchy and the oysters were flavorful and melted in your mouth. Now on to the main event, the catfish. Being a southern boy from Florida I have to tell you that I am kind of a fried catfish snob. I have had it cooked many different ways and even cook it myself so it is hard to impress me with catfish. Well I will say that this catfish is pretty good. It has a nice flavor and is seasoned good. It also has a crunchy breading while leaving the fish nice a flaky on the inside. I would not say it is the best I have ever had but it was far from the worst too. I would rate it around a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 and would definitely go back again. Overall it was a pretty good meal but the onion rings are the clear winner this round. If nothing else I recommend going just to try them.


So if you are in the mood for good seafood in a down home type of settings this is the place to go.

Thanks for reading

JMW

BBQ Baked Beans

When it comes to food I am not as picky as most. I will be the first to try just about anything and have a wide array of likes but one of my favorites is good old fashioned BBQ. I am talking BBQ from the southeast where they know how to do it right and you can walk in to most restaurants and get a pulled pork sandwich served on garlic toast with a side of baked beans and creamy cole slaw. Don’t get me wrong. I like all kinds off BBQ from all over but there is just something about the BBQ from the southeast that hits the spot like no other. This brings me to one of my favorite and simplest recipes. Living in Texas now you can’t hardly find a BBQ joint that does good old fashioned BBQ beans, which is a shame because everyone I have made them for has gone nuts over them and always comment on how they have never had anything like them before. You here me TX BBQ joints??? You could make a killing!!!

So here is a very simple yet effective way to make a hearty side that everyone will love.

This recipe can be made with or without beef. I personally prefer it with the beef but I will leave it up to you to decide how you like it.

Ingredients

1 large can of Bushes home style baked beans

1 lb lean ground beef

1 18oz bottle BBQ sauce (I use Kraft classic)

½ cup brown sugar

Prep

In a large skillet or pot brown the ground beef adding just a little salt and black pepper while it browns to season (make sure to get the edges a little crispy) and then add the beans to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium, Now stir in the entire bottle of BBQ sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes to get heated back up. Once it has heated back up you will want to start adding the brown sugar, making sure to stir it in as you add it to make sure it is good and blended. Reduce the heat a little more so that it will simmer and meld the flavor but not bubble over and burn. Let them cook like that for about 15 to 20 minutes stirring every now and then to keep from sticking. If you want to add a little something extra, a few sprinkles of garlic powder can be added to give it just a little something extra.

Now all that is left to do is serve and enjoy. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading

JMW

The Salt lick BBQ

Great ***
Pretty Good
OK
No Thanks

Who’s ready for BBQ? Because for this weeks review SA Dining went on a road trip and came up with a winner. Right outside of Austin in Round Rock is a BBQ joint called The Salt Lick. They are known for their unique open pit smokers and delicious food all over Texas, so while I was in Austin I decided to head on over and give them a try.
As soon as I stepped out of my truck I could smell the smoke and it made my mouth start watering. I don’t know if this was just due to the anticipation of the meal to come or if it was because it just smelled so good. Either way I was ready to get inside and see what awaited me. When you walk in the door to The Salt Lick you see kitchen off to the right and everyone buzzing around chopping and cutting some of the best looking BBQ I have seen outside of my own smoker. At the corner of the counter they have a few of their homemade pies sitting on display and I knew I would have to try one, but more about that later. The seating is picnic style with long tables and benches for everyone to sit together and enjoy. I can imagine that when it is busy this can be a little bit annoying as I don’t really care for sharing my table with complete strangers but luckily I did not have to worry about it since they were not very busy when I got there.
After looking over the menu and having a very hard time deciding on just one thing I thought it would be a good idea to go with the all you can eat BBQ family style dinner. This means they bring you a little bit of everything including beef brisket, sausage and pork ribs for the meats and potato salad, Cole slaw, beans, bread and pickles and onions for sides.
I’m going to go ahead and get the sides out of the way before moving on to the meat. Most of these are just standard sides that you get at almost any BBQ place in Texas. The beans are just regular barracho beans which Texas is know for serving with everything BBQ related. While I am from the east coast originally and prefer BBQ baked beans these actually had a pretty nice flavor. The Cole slaw was a little bit better than most places but was still not the Cole slaw I grew up on. Most Texas restaurants make Cole slaw by shredding cabbage and dousing it in vinegar, where I am used to it having a little more creaminess to it with a little mayo and sugar added. Basically I like Cole slaw to have flavor and most of the restaurants out here do not make it that way. Now we move on to the potato salad which they take a different approach to making. This is a non mayo based potato salad that has more of a mustard flavoring to it. While it came off a little bland to me it was still pretty good, and when you added some of the signature BBQ sauce to it it was fantastic. Those are the big guns for the sides and while they were OK I am sure that they are not the reason that most people visit The Salt Lick.

The reason everyone visits The Salt Lick is because of the BBQ and I can say that I now know why. When they set the plate with all of the meat down in front of me I knew that I was in for a treat but I had no idea it would be as good as it was. The first thing I tried was the brisket and it was pretty good. It had a nice smokey flavor and those black crisp edges known as bark that everyone loves. The flavor is good enough that you don’t need sauce but it is even better with it added. My next taste came from the smoked sausage. I have eaten a lot of smoked sausage in my time and had many different flavors and variations but none of them were quite as good as this smoked sausage. I’m not sure if it was the flavor of the sausage or the the flavor that the smoke gave it but either way it was pretty incredible and when you added the BBQ sauce to it you have a flavor combo that cant be beat. I didn’t think that it could get any better than that and was perfectly happy with continuing on until there was no sausage left but I had these port ribs sitting there calling out to me to be tried. So I pushed past the sausage, picked up a rib and bit in to it. First let me tell you that there wasn’t much biting involved because it pretty much fell apart and started melting in your mouth it was so tender. Like the sausage the flavor was incredible and even better with a little sauce. The ribs were perfectly cooked and some of the best tasting I have ever had which says a lot because I grew up eating stuff like this. I’m not sure about you but when in comes to BBQ there are some things that need BBQ sauce and some that don’t, but there are also some that don’t but taste that much better if the sauce is good. The latter applies in the case of just about everything at The Salt Lick. The sauce is a unique blend that uses no tomatoes and has a slightly sweet but mustard flavor to it. It is not a very thick sauce but is thick enough to stick to your food and it is great on everything.
Now after that you would not think that I would have had room to try anything else but when I saw the list of deserts on the menu I had to give it a try anyway. You can choose between a slice of their homemade pecan pie or a bowl of their peach or blackberry cobbler and have a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream added on top of any of them. I opted for the pecan pie with a scoop of ice cream. The pie it self was pretty good but not the best I have ever had. I think the consistency was a little off for me. Instead of being gooey like a pecan pie should be it had more of a pumpkin pie consistency to it which I wasn’t really expecting. But the flavor was spot on and when you add the ice cream nothing else seemed to matter.
After all of that you can count it a sure thing that the next time I happen to be up in Austin I will be making time for a trip back to The Salt Lick and maybe a spot for a nice long nap afterward.

Thanks for reading,
JMW

Islamorada Fish Company

Great ***
Pretty Good
OK
No Thanks

I know a lot of people are not crazy about seafood or will only eat certain types of fish that don’t have that “fishy” taste to it, thankfully I am not one of those. I love all types of seafood and chances are if it has ever lived in or near the water I have eaten it. On my latest adventure I decided to give the Islamorada Fish Company a try. For those of you that have never heard of it, this is the restaurant attached to the Bass Pro Shops. I am not sure how this place has flown under my radar so long but I am glad that a friend of mine pointed me in their direction.
This location is set up sort of like a fishing lodge on the inside with dark wood everywhere and stuffed sea life hanging from the ceilings. They also have a giant fish tank on one of the walls and a huge fire pit in the middle of the dining area. The dining room is huge and the tables are spaced far enough apart so that you do not feel crowded. There is also a nice outside dining area with a large waterfall to give it that nice ambiance.
While you are waiting on your food they bring you a small loaf of bread with whipped butter. The bread was fresh and hot and it is baked with a sugar coating on top. I wasn’t sure I would care for it that way but one bite proved that wrong. It will melt in your mouth and make you look forward to the next bite. It is a wonderful way to start a meal.

Originally being from Florida I had to start out this adventure with an appetizer fit for a former resident of the panhandle state, so I went with the fried alligator (or gator as we call it in Fl). Now gator is one of those things that if done right can be an incredible treat but if done wrong can be a tough chewy nightmare. Luckily in this case it was cooked to perfection. The outside had a nice breading that was crisp and crunchy while the inside melted in your mouth. It was so good in fact that it influenced my main meal choice.

My main dish is called the Sportsman’s Platter and includes a hefty sample of Fried Shrimp, Fried Catfish and yes, you guessed it alligator. It also comes with a very tasty Cole slaw, and french fries or onion rings. If you have read any of my other reviews you have probably figured out that I chose the onion rings. You also get three sauces for dipping, a nice creamy tartar sauce, cocktail sauce and another sauce that I have yet to identify that is so good you will not need the other two. It is green for starters and I am pretty sure is sour cream based. It is a nice compliment to all of the different tastes on the plate. The shrimp were pretty typical of any seafood restaurant out there. Nice big breaded shrimp that were pretty tasty but nothing you can’t get anywhere else. The onion rings were no doubt frozen but were pretty high quality frozen onion rings that had a nice flavor but nothing spectacular. The Cole slaw however is much better than most restaurant Cole slaw especially the restaurants in San Antonio who think Cole slaw is nothing more than shredded cabbage doused in vinegar. This Cole slaw was very creamy the way it is supposed to be which is a very nice change. I don’t really need to go over the gator again because I covered that above but will move on to the catfish. I grew up eating fried catfish and think that I have a pretty good view of how it should taste and what is good and what is not so good. Well this my friends is some great catfish. It has a light breading and is fried crisp on the outside and is tender and flaky on the inside. They use a corn meal breading that compliments the fish perfectly and makes that nice crunchy coating. Overall this was one of the most satisfying meals I have had at any restaurant in a while. I would highly recommend giving it a try and if you have someone in your group that is not a fan of seafood you can take them anyway as Islamorada Fish Company has plenty of non seafood choices too.
You can guarantee that I will be back for more.

Thanks for reading,
JMW