Today's recipe, pernil, or roast pork shoulder, is one of those ideal recipes that 1) seems a lot harder to make than it really is, and 2) will seriously impress your guests.
And it's a particularly fitting recipe for this time of year, as many Latin American families serve pernil for Christmas dinner. There is nothing like the aroma of a delicious roast like this filling your home on a cold December day.
This recipe also illustrates one of the key central themes I hope to convey to my readers here at Casual Kitchen: it is both easier than you think and less expensive than you think to make surprisingly fancy dishes in your own kitchen.
Even if you don't have much experience or confidence in the kitchen, you can cook fascinating, delicious and amazing recipes at home. You already have the skills inside of you--they just need a little nurturing. All you need is a little push and a little bit of encouragement (perhaps from a food blog like this one!), and you'll amaze yourself with what you can do.
And at the risk of being a little too didactic, let me share one more lesson that I learned from making this recipe: always keep your eyes open for cooking opportunities. The initial catalyst for this dish was finding a huge sale on pork shoulder in my grocery store at the preposterous price of $0.49 a pound. Thus a 4.5 pound pork shoulder, which pretty much fed the two of us for an entire week, cost only $2.27.
I thought that was a great deal, but it was nothing compared to the rush of amazement and gratitude I had when I pulled this roast out of the oven.
If you're in the grocery store, your local farmer's market, thumbing through an old cookbook, or even surfing some new food site in cyberspace, you never know when some amazing example of good fortune (or luck, or synchronicity, or whatever term you'd like to use here) might happen. If you can try to be in a frame of mind to notice and receive gifts like this, you'll be shocked at how cooking ideas and opportunities seem to rear up right in front of you.
And they are out there, like lucky pennies lying there on the ground, just waiting for you to pick them up.
Puerto Rican Style Roast Pork Shoulder
(adapted from Daisy Cooks)
A 4lb to 4.5lb pork shoulder, with skin on
Wet Spice Rub
Wet spice rub recipe:
12 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar
Up to three days ahead of the date you serve the roast, do steps 1 and 2. On the day you cook the roast you'll do steps 3 through 5.
1) To make the wet spice rub, grind the garlic and salt into a paste using a mortar and pestle (you can save yourself buying the extra kitchen items; we used the back of a heavy spoon in a smallish Tupperware bowl and it worked just fine). Add pepper and oregano, grinding and mashing to incorporate the spices into the paste. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar, mix well.
2) Once you've made the rub, use a very sharp paring knife to cut several slits in the pork shoulder, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Make the cuts as deep as you can, through the skin and well into the shoulder meat. Wiggle a finger into the slits to widen them, and then fill each cut with wet rub, using a small spoon. Do this on all sides of the pork shoulder. If you have any leftover wet rub, just smear it all over the outside of the roast. Refrigerate the roast, covered, for at least one full day (but preferably two to three days) before cooking.
To cook the roast:
3) Preheat the oven to 450F.
4) Set the roast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour, turn the heat down to 400F, and then cook the roast for another one and a half hours, or until a meat thermometer reads the meat in the center of the roast at 160F.
5) Let the roast "rest" for 15-20 minutes after you've taken it out of the oven. Then, pull off the skin (it should come off fairly easily in big pieces) and then carve the meat parallel to the bone with a large and very sharp knife. Pile the meat on a platter and enjoy!
A few recipe notes:
1) Be sure to prepare the spice rub and do steps 1 through 3 a minimum of 24 hours ahead of time. However, if you can do these steps two to three days ahead and give the spices extra time to do their magic inside the meat, your roast will taste even more amazing.
2) The rule of thumb for cooking time for a pork roast (this applies for shoulders as well as other cuts like pork butt) is 30 minutes for every pound. Note that in this recipe the first hour is at a higher temperature.
3) There's a bit of an art to cutting the meat off of a pork shoulder, and I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a knack for doing it artfully. But it doesn't really matter--this meal is still going to taste absolutely amazing no matter the aesthetics. Just do your best, try not to waste any of the meat, and don't sweat it if it doesn't come out looking perfect.
4) You can consider using the leftover meat in sandwiches or in homemade fajitas or wraps for later in the week.
This post is part of Regional Recipes, Joanne Bruno's brilliant group blogging idea of traveling the world from our very own home kitchens! If you'd like to learn more, visit Joanne's blog Eats Well With Others.
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