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Deconstructed Tamales: Trisha's Cheese Grit Cake with Tamale-Style Pulled Pork

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 5 hr 45 min (includes cooling and chilling times)
  • Active: 1 hr 25 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound Trisha's Pulled Pork, recipe follows, plus about 1 cup cooking liquid

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder 

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder 

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

2 teaspoons ground black pepper 

Grit Cakes, recipe follows

Corn Salsa, recipe follows

Sour cream, for serving 

Chopped green onions, for serving 

Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving 

Trisha's Pulled Pork:

3 pounds boneless country-style pork spareribs

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

8 cloves garlic, crushed 

3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks 

1 large yellow onion, quartered 

One 6-ounce can tomato paste 

Grit Cakes:

Nonstick cooking spray, for spraying the parchment

4 cups vegetable broth 

1 cup grits 

1 teaspoon salt 

1 cup crumbled queso fresco

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

Corn Salsa:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup thawed frozen white corn

1 jar medium salsa (or hot, if desired) 

About 1 cup vegetable broth


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and heat to a shimmer. Add Trisha's Pulled Pork, the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, cumin and black pepper; stir to combine. Add enough reserved cooking liquid to coat the meat but not saturate it. Cook until the meat starts to brown and the spices become fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and hold.
  2. Place a Grit Cake on each serving plate and top with some pork, Corn Salsa, sour cream, chopped green onions and cilantro.

Trisha's Pulled Pork:

Yield: about 2 pounds
  1. Season the ribs well on all sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large Dutch oven over high heat, heat the oil to a shimmer. Add the ribs and sear until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the ribs and transfer to a plate. Add the garlic, carrots and onion and cook until golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 2 more cups of water and stir to combine.
  3. Return the ribs to the Dutch oven, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until fork-tender, about 3 hours.
  4. Remove the ribs from the liquid and transfer to a baking sheet to cool. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve. When cool enough to handle, use 2 forks to shred the pork.

Grit Cakes:

  1. Line an 8-by-10-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving any excess hanging off the sides, and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vegetable broth, grits and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the grits are thickened and soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in the cheese. Pour the grits into the prepared pan and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Using a round cutter or a knife, cut the grits into 2 1/2-inch cakes.
  4. In a large skillet, heat the oil to a shimmer and add the cakes. Fry until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and continue cooking until golden brown on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

Corn Salsa:

  1. In a medium skillet over high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the corn and cook until beginning to caramelize, about 4 minutes. Add the salsa and enough broth, starting with a 1/4 cup, to make it thick yet pourable. Serve warm.