Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pork Shoulder

Nothing is more delicious than slow-roasted pork in mole sauce. Throw in some homemade tortillas and a fresh tomatillo sauce, and you're in for a meal that is bound to rival that  of even the best taco truck. Lucky for me, I bought a 3-pound piece of bone-in pork shoulder from Sea Breeze Farms today. To say the least, I could not get home fast enough to begin slow-roasting the living daylights out of it. After having reoccurring visions of mole this week, I jumped at the opportunity to throw together a simmering sauce of melted onions, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves and a whole orange.

I usually slow-roast my meat at 230 degrees for five hours before pulling it apart and boiling down the juices. This leaves one with ample time to not only prep the tortillas and tomatillo sauce, but also down about a half a bottle of wine.

If you have some pork shoulder, wine and spare time at your disposal, I highly recommend this simple meal (it is guaranteed to make your knees wobble with joy). You and your diners will thank me later. I promise.

6 servings

1 large onion, diced
3 pounds of pork shoulder, bone-in
2 small heads garlic, diced
2 black peppercorns
1 orange, cut in half
2 tablespoons salt
2 dried chiles, blended into powder (optional)
5 whole cloves, poked into the rind of the orange
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/8 cup cocoa powder (not Dutch)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 cups water (more or less, water should come about 2 1/2 inches up the pot)
Salt to taste (season at the end of cooking)

If possible, rub the pork shoulder with a mixture of cocoa powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt the night before you plan on cooking it.Tie the pork shoulder and hang it in your fridge (or, more likely, place it on a cooling rack that sits atop a square baking pan).

An hour and a half before you plan on cooking, take the pork shoulder out of the fridge and set aside so it can come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees (I suggest getting an oven thermometer to make sure your oven temperature is correct). Put the onions in a heavy oven proof dish with a lid (I suggest a large dutch oven) and set on a burner over medium-low heat.

Sprinkle with 2 generous pinches of salt, and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes, until the onions have released much of their liquid.

Remove from heat. Mix in the cinnamon, cocoa, a pinch of salt, peppercorns and the garlic cloves into the pot.

If using the chile, add the powder now, as well. Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated into the onion mixture. Add the orange (squeeze some of the juice into the pot before throwing the whole orange in), then place the pork shoulder into your oven proof dish. Add a cup of water. Cover with aluminum foil and place lid on top. Let the pork cook for 4-5 hours. Check the liquid level every so often. Add water if liquid is evaporating too quickly.

When the pork is done cooking, take the meat from the liquid and put it on a plate (remove tie). Discard orange and peppercorns from the liquid. Bring the liquid to a soft boil. Cook it down by half. While liquid simmers, pull the pork meat off the bone (should look like very thin strips). Add the meat to the liquid and cook down until it is quite thick.  Add brown sugar. Squeeze in some fresh lime juice. Salt to taste (don't be too cautious with the salt but don't go too nuts either!). Serve with homemade tortillas and tomatillo sauce.

Use the extended cook time to prep the tortillas. Recipe adapted from Everyday Mexican by Rick Bayless.

Makes 15 tortillas

1 3/4 cups powdered masa harina for tortillas (Maseca brand is widely available)
1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds (hand ground) and 3 tablespoons honey

If using powdered masa harina, measure into bowl and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Add cumin and honey. Mix with hand, kneading until thoroughly combined. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. If using fresh masa, scoop into bowl. Break up and knead a few times until smooth.

Set large griddle (one that stretches of 2 burners) or 2 skillets on stovetop. Set heat under one end of griddle (or one skillet) at medium. Set heat under other end (or other skillet) at medium-high.

Gently squeeze dough. If it is stiff (it probably will be), knead in water 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time until the dough feels like soft cookie dough—not stiff, but not sticky. Divide evenly into 15 pieces and roll each into a ball.

Gather 2 pieces of wax paper larger than tortilla press. Open press. Lay in one piece of wax paper. Lay dough ball in center. Gently mash. Top with second piece of wax paper. Close press. Press gently—enough to mash dough into 1/8-inch disc. Pull off top piece of wax paper. Set aside.

Place uncooked tortillas on the heated griddle. Cook 30 seconds on each side. Place cooked tortillas in a ceramic tortilla warmer.


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