New recipes rock my world. I love experimenting with new dishes, often adding and subtracting ingredients to make the recipe more satisfying. Naturally, in the last few decades, I’ve prepared pork shoulder in a crock pot, braised, or cooked it simply in the oven. But this method was eye-opening, different. Before I began cooking I did some research on roasting a pork shoulder. I read about “bark”, a method to produce a crispy top coating, or crust for the fat. “Bark” adds crunch to the meat creating a new and complex layer of flavor.
I’ll share a bit of my early history with pork. I did not eat pork until after I married, in my early 20s, because my parents were conservative Jews and followed some dietary Jewish rules, like not eating pork. However, once my father died when I was 10 years old, many rules we followed, vanished, like changing dishes for holidays,using separate dishes for meat and other ones for dairy. We stopped going to Synagogue regularly. But, we still never consumed any pork products. Why eating pork is not permitted for some Jewish people is a highly complex matter. In part, in the Torah, in Leviticus, it states that the pig, because it has a cloven hoof, that is completely split, is considered unclean, and therefore it must not be consumed. This is just a small part of the reason why Jewish people don’t eat pork. Some do eat pork, and some don’t. I think family tradition plays a big role.
I think some of the reason Jewish people don’t eat pork connects to rules and tradition which began centuries ago and which they still take seriously.
Back to my life with pork… Initially when I first cooked pork I made simple pork chops in a frying pan, simply browning them or I broiled them. However, they usually tasted tough and dry, far from moist and tender. And too, they always curled up, I never figured out how to get them to go flat in the pan! A solution came a few years ago, while I was reading a cooking magazine. It was to put a small slit near the round open part of the chop. Do this idea early on while cooking the chop and it will automatically flatten on its own, by just pressing down a little. But still, I mostly rejected pork early on. I think I must have tried many times, and finally eliminated pork because of the toughness of the meat, not because of any religious reasons.
but, in recent decades I have returned to eating pork in many different recipes. I often ate spare ribs in Chinese restaurants and loved their reddish color, tender meat and crispy skin. but now I love cooking any kind of pork at home in extensive different ways. I will finish this recipe now, and with a lovely picture of the dish I recently cooked.
1 7-8 lb. pork shoulder, dried well
1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp smoked or regular paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin, ground
2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp dried herbs — thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary and/or any others you prefer
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
5 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
5 scallions, chopped find
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 In a small bowl mix all the ingredients together, using only 4 tablespoons of the olive oil.
2 Rub these ingredients thoroughly all over the roast. Cover the roast with plastic, letting the fatty cap be the top. Put the roast in a large pan, spreading out one and a half tablespoon of the remaining olive oil in the bottom of the large pan. Put this in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight. In the morning take the roast out and return it to room temperature for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Remove the plastic, put the roast, uncovered in the oven and cook it for 25 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 275 degrees and cook it for approximately 6-7 hours. While it’s cooking, gradually the roast develops a “bark” or dark, crispy and crunchy topping. There will be reddish, brown and black coloring, all additional, savory flavoring for the roast.
3 Check the temperature of the roast. It is finished cooking when a thermometer registers 180-190 degrees. You can remove the roast from the oven around 178 degrees, since it will continue to cook for a short time afterwards, while it is out of the oven. Let the roast rest for 20-30 minutes before carving it, so that its luscious juices remain within the roast.
4 Slice the meat thin or thick, whatever you preference. Scrap up some of the bits and pieces of meat which adhere to the pan’s bottom. Spoon some of them, along with the juices and fatty residue over the roast. Serve with pipping hot mashed potatoes and a green vegetable of your choice.