(Sorry, but anyone who’s cooked a pork butt or shoulder makes that joke. It’s the law.)
Years ago, some friends and I went to Plano, TX to visit Madness Games & Comics. It was a Mecca for Nerds around. Had a lot of fun shopping. I highly recommend visiting there at least once if you live in Dallas, Denton or Tarrant County.
Then after shopping, head straight to El Norte Mexican Grill and order the Pork Montana. Seriously, order it. You’ll have no regrets. A Pork Shank slow roasted in a honey chipotle glaze that when it came out, it was fall of the bone tender. We dubbed this ‘meat candy’ it was so good. I can’t stop thinking about this dish.
Now, over the years I’ve been wanting to replicate this dish, except for one problem: I can’t find a source of pork shanks. After some research I discover in the Americas, pork processing plants usually reserve these to make hams so it’s difficult to find. So, I had to find an alternative cut of meat.
I tried pork loin once, but I forgot this cut isn’t for a high internal temp for cooking because it’s so lean it’ll dry out. It was good, but not meat candy good.
So now I’m trying bone-in pork shoulder, or pork butt. This is the cut you use for barbecuing and making pulled pork. Fork tender pulled pork, exactly what I’m looking for. So I start my journey.
So, first thing is I needed a rub to apply to my butt (Fair warning, immature innuendos from here on out)
I wanted a rub with a bit of heat, some sweetness to help the glaze later, and some Mexican spices like cumin and such. Also, I’ve had steaks with a coffee rub and thought that would be a good flavor profile for the pork rub as well. I came up with this concoction:
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons instant coffee
- 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon crushed coriander
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
Mix and put in a shaker (I used a recycled sea salt container) and apply liberally. Everywhere. All sides. Rub your butt. Rub your butt well. Once all rubbed, place on a wire rack so the bottom isn’t touching the pan and put in the fridge overnight.
Next morning, I pulled my butt while I fired up the smoker to 225.
So while it cooked, I needed to prepare my honey chipotle sauce. Now, normally I would use a can of chipotles in adobo sauce. However, I have family that isn’t too heat tolerant so I have to tone it some and use a chipotle sauce that’s a bit milder. I also had some left-over hot honey (spoiler, it’s not) when I fixed some Nashville hot chicken and waffles for the family. So I used that. Mix, add some cumin, garlic, Mexican oregano and onion powder and I got something that at least makes me flashback to El Norte’s.
So, one thing about long smoke times…sometimes it doesn’t workout to when you want to eat. I started this at 8am and it didn’t finish until 9pm. 13 hours. It was supposed to be finished about 5pm so it could rest an our. Needless to say, dinner that night was leftovers.
So, about a few hours away from finishing, I started basting the glaze on my butt. Just enough to brush some and get my butt all sticky. Let it cook another 30 minutes and repeat until cooked.
Once done (and I was depressed it didn’t finish on time) I covered and let it rest for a few hours to get to a cool enough temperature to wrap in foil and put in the fridge until tomorrow. (I did sneak a piece for ‘quality control’ and it was goooooood. I’m excited.
Next day, I set the oven to 350, unwrapped my butt, added some more of the glaze, this time diluting it some with red wine to start giving it a sauce and reheated it for an hour, while adding the remaining glaze to it 30 minutes in.
Sadly, as always, I forgot the money-shot of my butt. (Plated with sides) I really need to get better at this.
Results: It was good. Really good. The glaze caramelized some to give you the ‘meat candy’ flavor I’ve been wanting, but also a little dry. Possibly from reheating. It could’ve used more of the honey glaze mixed in with the pulled pork to have the flavor continue throughout the meat, so for leftovers I got another can of Chipotle sauce and honey and made another batch of the glaze and mixed within the meat to give back some moisture and flavor throughout.
One of the advantage of a smaller cut of meat like the pork shank, every bite has a fair amount of the Chipotle/Honey.
I fixed leftovers for lunch today and took a picture. Mixing the 2nd batch of chipotle-honey helped moisten it, but without the heat caramelizing it like it did the bark, just not quite the same.