I have a nostalgic love for roadside diners! There was just something about those shiny metal buildings with neon signs, checkerboard floors, big long coffee counters and jukeboxes that always made my heart skip a beat! I was just a little girl in the 60’s, but I really think I fully got what they were all about and knew that they were something special to be appreciated.
Sadly, I was right. It wouldn’t be too long before those diners would quickly begin to disappear and fast-food restaurants would start popping up on every corner. The beginning of the downfall of family-style dining out.
Back when the food was made homemade. From scratch. Inexpensive meals like what you would expect to have on any given Sunday such as meatloaf and fried chicken dinners with homemade mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak, homemade mac ‘n cheese casseroles, chilies, homemade pies, and of course an array of sandwiches, burgers, and breakfast offered 24 hours a day!
How anyone could choose a dried up, flavorless, mass-produced, ground “pieces parts” burger over a home cooked meal is beyond me.
I happen to live in a state now, though, that has the most diners left in existence than any other state! Over 600 of them are still in operation in New Jersey, including one right in the town we are living in called “Lacy Diner”! 😀
There were hundreds of diners located all along the now historic road , Route 66, too, that went cross-country from Chicago to Los Angeles, until a new highway was built and parts of the road were completely closed. Businesses of course dried up like tumbleweeds and an era was lost. Luckily, there were many others out there that appreciated that era and the “Mother Road of America” was reopened in parts and turned into a historical landmark! A few of the original diners, cafes, motels, gas stations and side attractions are still there today, including a Route 66 Museum.
But I think additional credit should also go to Guy Fieri, who brought back the popularity and uniqueness of the old-fashioned family diner by storm when he started his award-winning show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” featuring diners from all over the country!
Though diner food varies greatly now, the one thing they all still have in common is that they all make good food, homemade, and it doesn’t cost you a second mortgage to take the family out to dinner. 😉
My favorite was, and always will be, the classic “Blue Plate Special”, the “Manhattan”! It consists of roasted or pulled meat with your choice of chicken, beef or pork piled high over thick bread points with homemade mashed potatoes and smothered with gravy! A true stick-to-your-ribs meal that warms the heart as well as the tummy! I make many versions of this, and today I’m sharing my recipe for my pulled pork version with easy-peasy simple gravy that anyone can make! This was served over Texas Bread with real homemade mashed potatoes!
Homemade mashed potatoes are simple to make, especially if you have a hand-held potato ricer! It just takes a few minutes to run them through, and just a quick stir and you’re done! This handy little gadget is a must have and makes for THE CREAMIEST mashed potatoes you’ll ever taste!
And the easy gravy? You’ll thank me for never having to buy those awful little powdered packets again. Or worse. The jarred stuff. (I just can’t tolerate that stuff for some reason…) But this is just a simple way to make gravy from pantry items that even a beginner gravy maker can handle no problem! 😀 It’s buttery, flavorful and so rich and creamy! GREAT to have in a pinch, too, when you don’t have any real drippings to work with!
But the star of the show – is of course – the pulled pork!! I go ahead and cook a large one since it slow-roasts in the oven for 6 hours. That way, I have plenty to satisfy us for two to three days making the Manhattans, plus, I then divide up the rest, (*usually about 5-6 lbs. after removing the bone, fat and allowing for shrinkage during roasting), into ziploc freezer bags for easy dinners later! Why waste the time and utilities only cooking a small one? It’s no more work and the same amount of time. So go ahead and get a nice large one and go for it! I’ll be sharing a few ways to use the rest, and you can always turn the leftover pulled pork into your own creations as well!
But this roast comes out melt-in-your-mouth tender! My hubby is always amazed at how tender it turns out, as well as the wonderful flavor from my very own rub! VERY well-worth making!! So you’ll want to keep this recipe in mind to make soon, I promise you! 😉
Just pull the amount of meat that you want to use for this, then cut the rest into large chunks to freeze! I use a scale to weigh it out so that it’s measured correctly for future recipes. Once that is done, just cut some thick-cut bread corner-to-corner, place onto plates over lapping pieces with corners pointing outwards, fill middle with homemade mashed potatoes, top bread with pulled pork and ladle oodles of gravy over the whole plate!
So, I hope you all have enjoyed this stroll down memory lane, and if you don’t happen to have a diner nearby to visit, you can still bring that nostalgia right back into your own home by fixing this recipe! It’s easy to make and you’ll have plenty of meat to feed an entire family twice, or just simply bag up any extra meat into 1-2 lb. bags for the freezer for easy meals later. 😉 I’ll have a few more recipes and ideas for you to try from this pulled pork recipe coming soon! 😉
This is a true comfort food meal that’s perfect for chilly fall days and icy cold winter evenings that the whole family will surely enjoy! Bundle up, take care, stay warm, and I’ll see you all soon! ~Kelly
Be sure to enjoy the song, “Route 66”, sung by the late great Nat King Cole!
*Easiest Rich & Creamy Chicken Gravy recipe here!
**Diner photos from Bing Images. Music from YouTube.
- Dry Rub:
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. seasoning salt, I use Johnny's
- 1 tsp. hickory salt, (I get mine from Spice Barn online)
- 1 Tbl. sweet smoked paprika
- 1 Tbl. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. cayenne
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. chili powder
- Easy Gravy:
- 4 Tbl. butter
- 4 Tbl. flour
- 1 (32. oz.) box chicken broth
- 1 Tbl. Superior Touch Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
- ½ tsp. poultry seasoning
- ¼ tsp. white pepper
- ⅛ tsp. minced garlic
- 1½ Tbl. cornstarch mixed with 11/2 Tbl. COLD water
- Rest of Ingredients:
- 1 ( 9½ - 10 lb.) pork shoulder roast, bone in
- 1 (24 oz.) bottle Coca-Cola
- 2 cups beef broth
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- In medium bowl, mix well the dry rub ingredients.
- Into large roaster with tight-fitting lid, add Coca-Cola and beef broth.
- Rub half of dry rub mixture onto meaty sides of roast. Place coated side-down into roaster. Score fat layer on top into 1" squares or diamonds. Rub and pat on rest of rub onto top fatty side. Cover with lid and place into preheated oven for 6 hours. (I baste a few times ladling the broth over the roast during the last 2 hours several times.)
- Remove from oven, keep covered and let cool down for at least 20-30 minutes. Remove to a platter and pull meat with 2 forks into nice chunks and place into a bowl with a lid. (*Discard fat and bone.) Cover and set aside.
- While roast is cooking make mashed potatoes and gravy. (*See my recipe for Homemade Mashed Potatoes.)
- For Easy Gravy:
- In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat. Whisk in flour and bring heat up to medium if needed, stirring constantly. Low boil flour mixture, adjusting heat so that it doesn't brown, stirring and whisking constantly for 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken broth keeping the mixture smooth and lump-free. Bring back to medium/medium high to get it going, stirring, until it comes to a boil. Lower heat a little and keep stirring for 5 more minutes. Turn down heat to low.
- Whisk in cornstarch and water slurry, and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Gravy will be thickened and will thicken a bit more when cooled down a little. Set aside and cover with lid tilted. Stir now and then to prevent a skin from forming. *Makes 4 cups gravy.
- To serve: Cut 2 pieces of thick-cut bread corner-to-corner and place onto plate overlapping with corners pointing outward on each side of plate and leaving a space in the center of the plate. Pile mashed potatoes in the middle, pile meat over bread, and ladle whole plate with gravy. Serve with pepper if desired.
- *You will need about 4 pounds of the pulled pork for 6 servings.