Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

“Less cake, more meat!”

This was the single comment left on my last post.  The post about cake.  I know I post a lot about desserts.  I know this.

As I was writing, this song happened to pop up.  It seems fitting, no?  The great Dizzy Gillespie had it right:  Hey Pete! Let’s Eat More Meat!

So, this post is about meat.  Pork, more specifically.  A few months ago, I drove with my friend Sarah, to a heritage breed hog farm about 75 miles straight south of Omaha.  It’s called TD Niche Pork, and it’s run by a lifelong hog farmer named Travis Dunekacke.  After our visit, Sarah and I decided we’d go in on a hog together.  We each ended up with a quarter of Berkshire Hog #50.

Let me tell you.  There was something strange and equally delicious about having 45 pounds of pork in our deep freezer.  Chops, roasts, bacon, ham steaks, hocks, and even the heart, were tucked neatly in a box and placed with love in our freezer.  That was July, and our stash is dwindling.  Without a doubt, sustainably-raised (and local) pork has a much richer flavor than anything you can get at the grocery store.  I’m on a mission to convert those that have yet to taste the true pork flavor of a happy hog.

Just look at it.  How lovely is that, right?

With this gorgeous 3-pound pork shoulder, I wanted to make sure it had tons of flavor, and I wanted to do something relatively simple with it.  I chose to slather it in garlic, adobo seasoning, and oregano and roast it in the oven for a couple of hours.

The dish is traditionally called Pernil, and it comes from Puerto Rico.  And it was absolutely delicious.  Seriously delicious.  And it made our house smell amazing.

This was the result of two hours in the oven (I apologize for the poor quality of the photo).  It was perfectly cooked and was so tender and juicy.  I chose to chop it up and make small tacos with a red cabbage slaw on top.  I served them with a side of spicy black beans.  Yum.  I plan to use the leftover pork in a chili.  Oh my, I can only imagine how tasty that will be!

Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)

Ingredients:

One 3-pound, bone-in pork shoulder
4-5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Method:

Using a small knife, pierce the pork shoulder in several places, making sure not to go too deep with the knife, maybe 1 or 1 1/2 inches in depth.  Place on plate or synthetic cutting board.

Smash garlic cloves and mince finely.  Sprinkle salt, oregano, and black pepper over the garlic.  Using the flat side of your knife, mash the ingredients into a paste.  If you’re uncomfortable with this method, you can use a food processor or mortar and pestle instead.

In a small bowl, combine the adobo seasoning, olive oil, and white wine vinegar.  Add the garlic/oregano mixture, and stir to combine.

Making sure to get mixture into the slits in the pork, slather the garlic mixture all over.  Wrap the pork shoulder in plastic cling film and place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Allow meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Unwrap pork and place, fat side up, in roasting pan fitted with a rack insert.

Roast for at least 2 hours, uncovered.  At that point, using an instant-read thermometer, check the pork.  A thermometer inserted into the center of the pork should read 180ºF.  If not, leave in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.

If your pork is at the correct temperature, remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Slice and serve with your favorite side dish, or chop up, squeeze a little lime over it and serve in corn tortillas with slaw and black beans.

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Sweet Carolina

Whew!  I apologize, folks, for the delay in posting.  As it happens, life gets in the way.  Life, in this sense, was the ever-ambiguous, always opaque, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.  Well, it wasn’t so much the novella, but the writing assignment attached to the novella, which threw a wrench in my daily life.  For whatever reason, my heart/mind just wasn’t into the assignment, so, it got its revenge by putting me through total agony over the weekend.

All I wanted to do was finish the paper so I could have a weekend filled with deck drinks, yard work, and power-cuddling with the dogs.  But no, not this weekend.  Not at all.  Instead, I sat staring a blinking cursor on a blank Word document; judging me, mocking me, if you will.  Needless to say, cooking and blogging were nowhere to be found.

Luckily, I took a couple of days at the end of last week to do some cooking, so I will happily share with you what went down:  Carolina-style pulled pork.  Yes.  And it was delicious.

I knew I wanted to slow-roast a pork shoulder, but I also knew that I wanted to share my creation with some friends of ours.  What’s the use in cooking a 4-pound piece of delicious pork if we can’t share it?  Our lovely friends were able to join us on the deck for dinner last Thursday night.

I love vinegar.  Love it.  All kinds, all the time.  I could eat a bag of salt and vinegar chips in one sitting if nobody were looking.  I could polish off a jar of Kosher dill pickles and drink the juice with abandon.  So, naturally, I would gravitate to Carolina-style barbecue sauce.  If you’re a vinegar addict such as myself, you will absolutely love this recipe.

If I could give any tips, start this process early.  All of the flavors benefit from an overnight stay in the refrigerator, so plan ahead.  Trust in me.  It’s so worth it.  Channel your inner Southerner and enjoy the product of your patience.

North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork
adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:

Dry Rub:

2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 (5 to 7 pound) bone-in pork roast, shoulder or Boston butt
***I used a 4 pound roast, but still made the entire rub, it’s up to you.

Cider Vinegar Barbeque Sauce

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used light)
2 garlic cloves, grated on microplane
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
***I followed this exactly, why mess with perfection?  And again, I made the full amount and put the rest in the fridge for later.

Method:

The day before:
Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a bowl.  Rub the mixture all over the pork shoulder, making sure to get in all the cracks and crevices.  Place on platter or in shallow baking dish and cover with cling film.  Let it marinate in the fridge overnight.

The sauce:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Allow it to simmer and thicken 10-15 minutes, stirring gently until the sugar dissolves.  Allow to cool and pour into a glass jar or container, cover and place in fridge overnight.

The day of:
Preheat oven to 300ºF (some say 250ºF, you make the call.  Go with your gut.)

Put the pork in a roasting pan and let it go for 5-6 hours.  Roast that baby until the meat starts pulling away from the bone and an instant-read thermometer reads anywhere from 170ºF – 190ºF.  Try to not let it get above 190ºF, as you might run the risk of drying the meat out.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes.

While the pork is resting, warm up your barbeque sauce in a pan on medium-low.

While warm, take two forks and begin pulling the meat into shreds.  Put the shredded pork into a bowl and pour half of the barbeque sauce over the meat and mix well to coat.

Serve this on a hearty bun and top with your favorite vinegar-based spicy slaw.  Share and enjoy with friends.