Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Winter Cooking Project #5: Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder

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Slow-cooking a pork shoulder fits all of the requirements for winter project cooking: Very little preparation, several hours of leave-alone simmering on the stove or roasting in the oven, hard to screw up, amazing results, great for crowd (say a casual dinner party on a cold night or perhaps an occasion when people will be watching an important sporting event taking place in an outdoor stadium in New Jersey in February) or for stretching it out to several meals like in quesadillas or a ragu.

In the past I’ve prepared pork shoulder by marinating the meat overnight and then slow-roasting it in the oven (HERE is a link to an earlier post with a recipe), but last week, I did the simmer on the stove method. I had a large shoulder in the freezer that came from a pig at my CSA—Ralston Farm— a pig who I had gotten to know personally so I wanted pay my respects by turning him into something really tasty. Normally for a dish like carnitas, you take the meat off of the bone, cube it, braise it, and then fry the pork in some kind of fat until crisp. I decided to keep the pork on the bone, although it increases the cooking time, because it provides so much flavor. The entire shoulder goes in a large Dutch oven, water is added to almost covered and then you put in the seasonings. You can play with this but I typically add bay leaves, peppercorns, a chopped onion, garlic cloves, and half an orange (some people swear by adding Coca-Cola!). This recipe HERE for bone-in pork shoulder from Chow.com is a good one to follow.
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Before the pork was even done cooking, I had decided that we were going to use it for tacos. I wish I had taken a better photo of the resulting dish above—a corn tortilla stuffed with shredded slow-cooked pork, guacamole, pickled onions, and salsa verde  (from my summer-canning stash!)— but they were literally consumed so quickly, in one gluttonous dinner session, that it was hard just to get this shot. But that’s what you get with slow-cooked pork shoulder, something so incredibly, primaly (yes, I just made up this word) good, that you lose any sense of self control when it’s made.

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