Thursday, September 17, 2009

Recipe: Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder

Now doesn't that look good?

Pork shoulder is what BBQ joints commonly cook over a pit to make pulled pork sandwiches. (The shoulder meat is fattier than most other cuts of pork, but it's quite flavorful and much of the fat can be trimmed off.) Yet pork shoulder can also be slow-roasted in an oven. That's what I did yesterday, and I was very pleased with the results.

The recipe below is pretty easy and as fool-proof as they come.

Before scrolling down, please be aware of two things. First, I cooked this for 3 people. If you're cooking for more than 3, you will need a larger pork shoulder, and the ingredients should be increased proportionately. Second, be sure to buy a pork shoulder that still has the bone. Some people avoid doing so because they feel cheated to pay a per-pound price that includes the bone (which, obviously, isn't edible). I understand this instinct, but the bone plays a key role in helping to keep the pork from drying out -- and, trust me, pork is susceptible to drying out if you're not careful.

Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder (serves 3)

  • A 3 lb. pork shoulder (bone-in)
  • 2 Tbsp. of kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. of freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Add the salt and pepper to a small bowl and stir until they are thoroughly combined. Rub the salt-pepper mixture onto the surface of the pork. Wrap the pork in aluminum foil and refrigerate the night before. Pull the pork out the refrigerator and let it sit (still covered) for one hour at room temperature. From this point, you are 4 hours away from sitting down to eat.

  • 1/3 cup of molasses
  • 3 Tbsp. of olive oil or canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp. of ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup of red wine
  • 1/3 cup of low-fat, low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 large carrots, chopped into small sticks
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme

1. While the pork is resting at room temperature, whisk the first eight ingredients above into a runny paste. Once the pork shoulder has rested for a full hour, remove the foil and place the pork (fat side up) on a roasting pan.

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Drizzle this paste over the pork and use a pastry brush to spread the paste as evenly as possible over the surface of the meat. Pour the red wine and broth into the roasting pan. Then add the carrots and onions to roasting pan.

3. Place the roasting pan in the oven. Roast at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and roast for an additional 2-1/2 hours. Periodically pour more broth, wine or water into the pan to prevent the existing liquid from drying or burning onto the pan.

4. After 3 total hours of slow-roasting, the pork shoulder should be ready. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the pork -- it should be 150 degrees. Insert the thermometer so that it doesn't touch the bone (as this would give you an inaccurate reading).

5. Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the pan and let it rest at room temperature for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Make a roux on the stovetop, by combining flour and butter in a saucepan. Then pour the pan drippings into this saucepan and continue cooking over medium-high heat. (Move the carrots and caramelized onions to a separate dish and keep them warm.) Stir constantly. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme to the saucepan. This will make a rich, wonderful gravy, but keep stirring as it thickens. (Add additional wine or broth if the gravy thickens too much.) Season the gravy with salt and pepper as needed.

6. Pour the gravy into a bowl or gravy boat. Serve the pork, veggies and gravy with either mashed potatoes or green beans. Either a full-bodied white wine or a medium-bodied red will drink nicely with this meal.

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