Sarah McClellan-Brandt: Staying cool by the pool? You still have to eat!

Pulled pork sandwich

It’s summer in Fort Worth, which means it’s about a thousand degrees and we can all think of better things to do than stand by the stove to cook a meal. Some of those better things are water-based activities – pools, sprinklers, kiddie pools or lake days – and that might cool you down but still cause you to work up an appetite. In other words, despite not wanting to cook while the world feels like an oven, you have to eat.

We installed a stock tank pool in our tiny backyard recently, and the entire family has basically lived outside ever since. Some of the poolside sustenance staples are obvious – popsicles, veggies, dip, and cold drinks. More hearty meals are a little more difficult to rustle up when everyone is wearing swimsuits and no one wants to take time away from the fun. This is when the pre-cooked dinners come in handy. A good pool meal is easy for the preparer, can be heated on the grill or outdoor griddle, and is simultaneously indulgent and not too heavy. That’s not easy to pull off, but these pulled pork sandwiches fit that bill and the meat can be made in advance and stored. This recipe will serve a crowd, or feed a family of four several meals over the course of a week. Here’s how to make them:

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs pork half loin
  • 1/2 cup steak seasoning
  • 3 tbsp smoked sweet pimento (paprika) must be smoked!
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sriracha powder (1/2 the amount cayenne if you don’t have sriracha powder)
  • 2 tbsp parsley flakes
  • 1 bottle Stubbs BBQ sauce (or sauce of your choice!)

Instructions

  • Mix all spices in a bowl. Place the meat on a large piece of foil on a cooking sheet or pan with a lip. Rub the spice mix all over the meat on all sides. Wrap the foil around the pork, covering it tightly. Place in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-9 hours. Take out of the oven, open the foil, and add about a cup and a half of barbecue sauce of your choice. (I use Stubbs.) Spread all over and poke some holes in the meat to get the sauce worked in. Keep in the oven for 2-4 more hours at 185 Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 20 minutes before opening. Use a fork to pull the pork apart, and add about another cup of the sauce. Work it into the meat, and serve. Freeze what you won’t use within a week!
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To make the sandwich: just toss as much of the pork as you need (assuming you’ve saved it in the fridge overnight) onto your griddle, or into a pan, heat it up and place it on a bun piled high with pickles, jalapeños, or whatever sandwich topping you love. Goat cheese and spinach amp it up a bit, as does a smidge more barbecue sauce or some salsa or horseradish mustard. 

Of course if you’re talking pool parties, salads are on the menu. Not your run-of-the-mill Caesar, but salads made with fruit, cheese, and carbs. A watermelon salad made with fresh herbs and feta cheese on my blog at ModernHippieKitchen.com is a no-brainer, but a savory salad is also in order. Just this week I whipped up a corn salad of corn kernels cut from six mini-cobbs I boiled for ten minutes and smothered in butter and salt, a can of drained and rinsed black beans, 1 diced jalapeño, 1/2 diced red onion, about 1/2 cup homemade ranch (sub with regular ranch or sour cream if needed), 1 tablespoon lime juice and one teaspoon of Tajin. Add some grilled chicken and you have a meal.

If you must have takeout – and sometimes you must – the absolute best salad for warm weather, don’t-want-to-cook, hang-out-by-the-pool eating is the Brussels sprouts salad at Pacific Table. It has roasted chicken, shredded Brussels sprouts, Manchego, golden raisins, chopped boiled egg and a house vinaigrette that can only be described as perfectly acidic and sweet while not overpowering. It’s also huge, and could easily be split for a light dinner. I have a particular sweet spot for Brussels sprouts, so discovering this salad was life-changing. It goes especially well with a cold Sauvignon Blanc, which brings me to my last suggestion for your pool-time sustenance – a cocktail, of course.

I have been known to crack a Seagram’s strawberry daiquiri poolside, but that’s amateur hour and everyone knows it. You may not feel like cooking, but everyone has the time to make an extra fancy drink. This one is a twist on a margarita and is reminiscent of both a cherry limeade and a Negroni.

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Here’s the recipe (for one):

2 oz tequila

1/2 oz Campari

1 oz lime juice

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Four fresh cherries

1 tsp sugar (or 1 oz elderflower liqueur)

Soda water to top

Salted for the rim

Muddle the cherries in a shaker and add the tequila, Campari, lime juice and sugar or elderflower. Dry shake, then add a handful of ice and shake vigorously until the shaker is ice cold. Strain into an ice-filled glass with a salted rim. Top with seltzer water. Garnish with a lime wedge. Enjoy!

Partying poolside soon? Be sure to tag us on Instagram (@ModernHippieKitchen and @FWBusinessPress or Twitter @KitchenHippie and @FWBusinessPress with photos of what you decide to eat!

About the cook

Once upon a time, shortly after graduating from TCU, Sarah McClellan-Brandt paid the rent by working as a reporter for the Fort Worth Business Press. Today she’s a social media specialist for a North Texas hospital system and in her spare time shares recipes and cooking tips with devoted followers of her Modern Hippie Kitchen blog,