Not to go all Apocalypse Now on you, but I love it when people get all shot up, blood splatters all over the landscape, and general emotional and physical mayhem ensues.........oh, wait, what I meant to say is "I loooove the smell of pork in the evening". Especially a huge honking chunk of pork product slowly roasting in the oven . In this case the star of my little production was an 8-1/2 pound piece of bone-in pork shoulder, and it turned out to be everything Mark Bittman promised in a recent NYT article. Thank god Marlon Brando wasn't around to shove it all in his gaping maw.
The pernil after (top left) and before cooking (left), all rubbed up and ready to go.
The occasion for this big bit of hog heaven (and tiresome cinematic references) was my sis's birthday dinner, which she kindly consented to let me cook for her. I already had my main course agenda planted in my mind ever since reading Bittman's story about a dish called Pernil, which is Puerto Rican spice rubbed, slow roasted pork shoulder. As soon as I read about it (and watched this video), I knew I had to make it....and soon! I really do love large hunks of animal, and luckily I have a large number of enablers who are always more than willing to help me explore this passion. With side dishes consisting of Puerto Rican rice and a bacalao and onion salad (which were both perfectly stunning accompaniments) provided by our friends J&K, this was can't miss. Although I had never cooked this particular meatiness before, I had to believe Bittman's comment that "the process is beyond easy and incredibly impressive, it feeds as many people as a medium-size ham, and the flavor is unbelievable." And it was. Crazy tender, succulent, beautifully flavored from the spice schmear and the fat that had been rendering into the meat for the six hours it spent in the oven. I don't care if I ever see another lean, bland pork loin, because it doesn't even come close to the flavor of the shoulder. Plus, our 8.5 pound piece of piggy cost a mere $17.00!! The bang for the food buck is off the charts. For those of you who have a hard time accepting compliments, this might not be your dish. But for those who love the lotion like me, try this at home next time you have a table of six or eight waiting to be wowed, and let the food love wash all over your deserving ego.
J's fab Puerto Rican rice with sneaky bits of pork loin!
Oh, and did I mention the wine we had with dinner? No? Well, wait until tomorrow.......
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from Mark Bittman/NYT
Time: At least 4 hours
1 pork shoulder, 4 to 8+ pounds (or use fresh ham)
4 or more cloves garlic, peeled
1 large onion, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho or other mild chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil as needed
1 tablespoon wine or cider vinegar
Lime wedges for serving.
1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Score meat’s skin with a sharp knife, making a cross-hatch pattern. Pulse garlic, onion, oregano, cumin, chili, salt and pepper together in a food processor, adding oil in a drizzle and scraping down sides as necessary, until mixture is pasty. (Alternatively, mash ingredients in a mortar and pestle.) Blend in the vinegar.
2. Rub this mixture well into pork, getting it into every nook and cranny. Put pork in a roasting pan and film bottom with water. Roast pork for several hours (a 4-pound shoulder may be done in 3 hours), turning every hour or so and adding more water as necessary, until meat is very tender. Finish roasting with the skin side up until crisp, raising heat at end of cooking if necessary.
3. Let meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting it up; meat should be so tender that cutting it into uniform slices is almost impossible; rather, whack it up into chunks. Serve with lime.
Yield: At least 6 servings.