I have already documented my love of nachos here and here, so it should come as no surprise that I got the itch to create another dish recently. I had a craving for pulled pork – vinegar based, to be exact – and decided to pile it high on nachos with a creamy beer cheese queso. The shredded pork combined with a bit of homemade barbeque sauce, all topped with a creamy, stringy, cheese sauce over crunchy tortilla chips fit the bill.
Normally, when I make pulled pork, I often just put a brown sugar rub on it, toss on some spices and cover in beer and let simmer for the day, but this time I wanted to do something more southern, so I tried out a couple of recipes for a vinegar-based pork shoulder, and this one came out the winner. It tastes pretty closed to North Carolina barbeque, without being on a smoker for hours and hours. Instead, this was cooked right in my kitchen for about 5 hours, that sweet vinegar and smoky flavor permeating the entire house. If you’re not used to vinegar-based barbeque, it may seem odd to cook a pork shoulder in nothing but vinegar and water, but trust me when I say it comes out so flavorful, with a little bit of tang – all in the best way possible.
I made my own quick barbeque sauce for this but you can definitely use your favorite store bought sauce – be it tomato or vinegar based. In Eastern North Carolina, a tomato based sauce would just never do, but since I’m in Western NC, I thought I’d bend the rules a bit. If you want to make your own barbeque sauce, just take 1/2 cup of the liquid you used to cook the pork in (after the pork has been fully cooked, of course), and pour it into a medium sauce pan. Then, take 1/2 cup ketchup, and heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly for about 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened. You may choose to add more liquid or more ketchup depending upon how you want the consistency (on the same token, you can make more if you plan to use the barbeque sauce for the rest of the meat, just not the nachos). Season it with salt and pepper (and a little cayenne if you want it on the spicy side) and that’s it. The easiest barbeque sauce that you can customize in a million different ways. There are also many barbeque sauce recipes all over, so you can experiment until you find one that you really like.
Carolina Pulled Pork Nachos with Beer Cheese Queso
For the pulled pork:
1 3.5 lb bone in pork shoulder
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1-2 Tbsp hot sauce such as Frank’s or Tabasco
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
1/2-1 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce (or use my recipe above for how I made my own)
For the beer cheese queso:
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup lager (any dark beer will work well)
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup pickled jalapenos
Place the pork shoulder in a crockpot, fat side up. Salt and pepper liberally. In a bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, liquid smoke, sugar and water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the crockpot. Set on high and cook for 5-6 hours.
Take the meat out of the crockpot and let sit for about 10 minutes. Remove the bone and discard. Shred the meat into long strips with two forks or your fingers – it will easily shred. Pour about 1/2 – 1 cup of the liquid that was used to cook the pork into the shredded pork and stir until it’s absorbed. Set about 3-4 cups aside for the nachos. You will have leftovers of the pork that you can use in quesadillas, sandwiches, or just on bbq plates with some sides for later (you can even freeze the meat to make nachos another time!).
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Meanwhile, make the beer cheese queso. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter of medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until the flour taste has been cooked out, about 1-2 minutes. Add the beer and milk, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Whisk constantly for about 2-3 minutes. Add the cheese in handfuls, whisking to melt and combine. Season with salt and pepper.
On a sheet pan or baking dish, place a layer of tortilla chips down. Top with 1/3 of the cheese, about 1 cup of the pulled pork, and a few tablespoons of the barbeque sauce (to your taste). Repeat with two more layers. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until everything has been warmed through. Serve immediately.