Cooking from the larder
Two months till the farmers’ market opens for the season, and I’m in “OK, time to start polishing off the things I put in the freezer last fall” mode. Including, this week, a 4-pound boneless pork shoulder from Wood Family Farms.
Four pounds is a lot of pork roast for one person. But pork shoulder is a lovely cut. More fatty than the overrated tenderloin, but slow-roasting melts most of the fat away, basting the meat as it goes and leaving a tender, flavorful meat that’s not only lovely on its own – with a side of potatoes, perhaps, and some of the remarkably cheap California asparagus that’s been showing up in Safeway – but also useful in wonderful second- and third-day meals that turn the word “leftovers” into something magical. Cuban pork sandwiches, for instance, or a hearty, spicy New World stew.
Slow-roasted Pork Shoulder
- 3 to 4 pound boneless pork shoulder.
- 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
- 2Tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 4 Tbsp brown sugar
Make the rub by grinding together the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns and salt. I keep an old electric coffee grinder for grinding spices; a food processor or mortar and pestle will do, too. Mix in the brown sugar.
Rinse the pork roast and pat dry. Turn the fatty side up and use a sharp knife to score it in a diamond pattern, making sure the cuts go clear through the fat and into the meat.
Using your hands, pat the rub firmly all over the pork, bottom side first; turn it over and massage the rub deeply into the cuts in the fat (the salt content will help draw moisture away from the surface and create a nice crust.) Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate from 3 hours to overnight.
When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap and place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour a little water in the bottom of the pan to prevent smoking, and cover the pan with aluminum foil Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roast, covered, for two hours; then remove the foil and continue roasting for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest point of the roast reads 170F. Remove from oven; let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Cuban-Style Pork Sandwiches
It’s been years since I had a real Cuban sandwich, bought from a stand-up roadside joint in Florida. I have no idea if this is authentic, but it’s the result of a good deal of Googling and some experimentation that led to the flavors I remember. I’m told that in Cuba, the mojo would be made with the juice of sour oranges, which aren’t available here, but lime juice is terrific.
- Roast pork, sliced thinly.
- Onions, sliced thinly
- Hearty bread or Panini-style rolls, split. You want bread that’s substantial enough to stand up to the juiciness of the filling; I’d just made a loaf of the infamous New York Times no-knead bread, and it was perfect.
- Mojo sauce (see below)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- Juice of a lime
In a very small saucepan, combine olive oil and garlic. Heat till oil is bubbling, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook 10-15 minutes until garlic is golden and soft. Stir in cumin and lime juice. Remove from heat.
Making the sandwiches
Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Add onions and sautee until they begin to soften. Add thinly sliced pork and stir until the meat is hot.
Brush both halves of a roll or two slices of bread generously with Mojo sauce. Pile meat on one slice of bread or half a roll; top with sauteed onions and the second piece of bread/roll
Wipe skillet clean and return to burner. Add a small amount of butter and heat till melted. Grill the sandwiches, pressing down with a spatula and turning when one side is done, until golden brown. Serve with beer and lots of napkins.
New World Pork and Pumpkin Stew
I had a lone sugar pumpkin left from my last market trip in the fall; stored in the cool basement, it’s kept well but I noticed a spot of mold forming on the skin and decided it was use it or lose it. Google turned up a number of recipes combining pork and pumpkin, many of them Thai or Burmese, along with an interesting-sounding stew that contained ingredients I’m not crazy about (turnips) or didn’t have on hand (kale). Improv time! I went for flavors native to the Americas, and what resulted was easy, relatively quick (as compared to starting from raw pork) and extremely tasty. That’ll be lunch for most of the week.
- 2 lbs roast pork, cubed. If there are fatty bits, render them to substitute for:
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp crushed dried red pepper (I used some peppers I bought at the market last year and threaded on heavy thread to dry. Hot, but not too incendiary).
- 1 cup good vegetable or chicken stock (from the freezer)
- New potatoes, scrubbed but with the peel left on, cut into bite-sized pieces to make about 1 cup
- 1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut in 1–inch chunks
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained.
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put oil or rendered pork fat in the bottom of a heavy, lidded pot or dutch oven. Heat and add onions and garlic; cook until golden brown. Stir in the cumin and chiles. Add the cubed pork, and cook, stirring, till thoroughly heated (if you roasted the pork with a rub, the yummy browned crust will come off and incorporate into the onion/garlic/spice mixture. This is a feature, not a bug). Remove meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add potatoes and pumpkin to the pot. Stir to mix well with spices and onion. Add stock; bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or so, until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes and pork, stir well, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to combine the flavors.
Like most good stews, this one’s even better the second day. Serve with a green salad and hearty bread.