Kalua pork sandwiches for the Super Bowl crowd
Plus five other ideas on what to serve
By Scott Banks
For some reason sandwiches came to mind when I was planning the eats for Super Bowl Sunday. So I decided on kalua pork sandwiches. You can’t go anywhere in the Hawaiian islands and not find kalua pork – salty, savory, smoky and always served with a scoop of rice or macaroni salad – and you can order it on a sandwich.
Kalua pork works in a busy cooks favor because it requires only three ingredients: pork butt or shoulder (also called Boston butt), liquid smoke and Hawaiian sea salt. The pork is an inexpensive cut of meat so you can feed a large crowd. A bottle of Wright’s liquid smoke will cost less than $7 and you can find it in the spice section at the grocery store. A bottle of it will last you a couple of years. Finally, you can find Hawaiian sea salt at the grocery story, usually on one of the bottom shelves next to the other salt. It comes in a plastic bag, it’s red or black and you can use either one. Kosher salt, or even regular salt will also work.
If you have any doubt about liking kalua pork (and you live in Anchorage) visit Hula Hands restaurant on the east end of Mountain View Drive, near Pine Street, or on Fireweed Lane between Arctic Boulevard and C Street. When it comes to Hawaiian food, it’s the real deal. Order the kalua pork sandwich with a scoop of macaroni salad. Everyone is friendly, the food is delicious and inexpensive and the service is fast.
Kalua pork is perfect for a slow cooker. Start the pork the night before and let it cook slowly overnight. Eight hours is not too long for a four- to six-pound shoulder. You want the meat to fall apart on that bad boy. When you uncover it the next morning don’t let the flood of grease scare you off. It renders quite a bit, so skim it off
I usually cook my pork shoulder in a roasting pan. Coat the pork with two or three tablespoons of the salt and dribble over two tablespoons of liquid smoke. Then I cover that flavor bomb tightly with aluminum foil and slide in an oven set for 275 or 300 degrees. Three or four hours ought to be enough time. Keep watch and poke at it with a fork to see if the meat falls apart. That’s when the kalua pork is ready for your sandwich. Don’t take it out unless it’s done, you’ll be massively disappointed. If it doesn’t taste smoky enough, stir in another tablespoon of liquid smoke after you shred it.
Some of your guests might not like straight kalua pork. Rummage in your pantry for a bottle of barbecue sauce. I like Stubbs because of its spicy kick, but KC Masterpiece Barbecue sauce has a legion of fans. Dare I say, make your own? I like the Kansas City style of this recipe. Combine the pork with the barbecue sauce and you’ve got a barbecue pork sandwich. In fact maybe you should do that with your leftovers for the next day or two. I’ve tried freezing kalua pork but I didn’t like the result. Once it’s thawed it comes out greasy. It’s best, at least for me, to eat it all.
There is nothing better than stacking a pile of the pork on slices of King’s Hawaiian bread. It’s sweet and doughy, a nice contrast to the salty meat. You’ll find it at any grocery story in a clear and red wrapper. Ciabatta would be a good savory bread for this pork. Run out to either location of Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop and pick up a few. They bake them fresh every day. Potato buns or onion-topped buns are both satisfying alternatives.
In Hawaii, you’d find kulua pork served with two scoops of white rice or at least macaroni salad. If carbs are not your friend, you could go southern style and top the meat with a little coleslaw for some crunch. Make your life easy and buy it premade at the grocery store.
With some chips and dip, these sandwiches should keep your belly full so you can concentrate on the game. If you want more variety, here are five more ideas for Super Bowl Sunday:
- Jalapeno Poppers: the peppers are inexpensive. Cut them in half, clean out the seeds, fill with cream cheese and wrap in bacon. Put them on your grill or under your broiler. If you don’t love bacon, top it with a tablespoon of smoked salmon instead.
- Hot wings never disappoint. I wrote about wings a few years back. Go here for a good recipe. The only change I’d make to the recipe is shaking Emeril’s Essence on the wings before grilling them.
- If you’re running out of ideas for your jars of smoked salmon, try the Pillsbury recipe for creamy smoked salmon cups. The recipe calls for packaged ingredients but it is worth it. People will think you worked all day and will beg you for the recipe.
- A po’ boy would be another good sandwich for Super Bowl Sunday. Use this recipe for spicy shrimp then stack a dozen of them on a hotdog bun or French roll. This recipe has been my all-time most requested recipe.
- You need something sweet to finish out the game. The banana, coconut chocolate chip snack cake will work nicely. The recipe calls for few ingredients and it will help you get rid of those bruised bananas no one will eat.