Sunday, March 09, 2008

Pure Pork

Speaking of Mr. Bittman, we have him to thank, at least partially, for the fantastic dinner we had last night. We'd invited four friends over for dinner to celebrate the start of one couple's new venture and, because of a proclivity for the pig shown by most of them, decided to make the Puerto Rican dish called pernil.

When I first read the recipe in Bittman's column and subsequently watched the podcast, I knew it would be appearing at dinner, and soon. But my brother, who was equally intrigued (and is equally pork-centric), decided to make it for the dinner he'd offered to cook for my birthday. Being the self-sacrificing person I am (and, incidentally, never ever looking a gift meal in the mouth, especially one made by him), I didn't whine that I'd wanted to make it first. So I watched and took notes instead.

As the video makes perfectly clear, this is one of the simplest dishes to prepare and perhaps one of the cheapest. It calls for processing onions and spices to a paste, then smearing it all over the meat. Stick it in the oven with a little water for six hours and it's fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious. The cost for an 8 1/2-pound bone-in pork shoulder was just under $17 and made enough for seven with lots of leftovers. Incredible!

And a note on the wine that R generously contributed. Its label had badly deteriorated in a humidity-related incident, but you could still make out that it was a bottle of 2004 Saint Joseph Offerus, a Rhone valley syrah from producer J.L. Chave. Drinking perfectly, this came off more like a Burgundy with loads of fruit and finesse, subtly developing the spicy, peppery notes that Rhones are known for as it opened up over the course of the dinner. Terrific stuff, and fit the flavors in the meat like a glove.

Oh, and the sides were very simple, just fingerling potatoes roasted with garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil, and a simple green salad with balsamic-and-mustard vinaigrette. I can tell you we're going to be looking up lots more recipes for this cut of meat, and it'll be starring in many dishes this summer, especially considering the new toy that Dave picked up.


1 pork shoulder, 4-7 lbs.
4 or more cloves garlic, peeled
1 large onion, quartered
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves or 1 Tbsp. dried
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ancho or other mild chili powder
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil as needed
1 Tbsp. wine or cider vinegar
Lime wedges for serving.

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.

Rub this mixture 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-lb. shoulder may be done in 3 hours) [as mentioned above, my 8 1/2 lb. shoulder took 6 hrs. - KAB], 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.

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.


bb said...

Slow cooked porky deliciousness....what could be better? Sorry we had to miss payback time, alas! But it looked amazing....I'm salivating!

Kathleen Bauer said...

I missed you both, too, though it was a great evening. Made carnitas from the leftovers last night...incredible!