For many years Mark Bittman has had a regular column in the New York Time called the Minimalist that ended last week. His last Minimalist column listed his 25 favorite recipes from the column. One of them was Pernil, a Puerto Rican recipe for pork shoulder slow roasted for hours.
I thought, “pork shoulder, perfect, you can’t go wrong with pork!” But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be…
First lesson – There is more than one cut called “shoulder.” Apparently there are two kinds of pork shoulders, picnic shoulder, which is the lower part of the shoulder and the top of the leg, and the “Boston Butt,” which is the top of the shoulder and back. And each of these areas can be cut several different ways – steaks, roasts, bone in, bone out…it was all very confusing. I stood at the meat counter for several minutes looking at all the things labeled pork shoulder (they all looked radically different from each other) and had no idea which one to buy. I finally ask one of the butchers for help, but he didn’t speak English very well. By then I had it narrowed down to two and he keep pointing at them and saying “This ones the butt shoulder and this one is the front shoulder.” Ummm…the butt shoulder??
I ended up purchasing the one that look the most like the picture, which the butcher call the “butt shoulder.” Now I know it was probably a Boston Butt roast (which is not from the butt at all), and a picnic shoulder roast might have been better for this recipe.
Second lesson – If your going to do a slow roasted pork shoulder, make sure you start it early enough in the day to roast it sufficiently. I started the roast at 3:00 and it wasn’t ready until almost 9:00, and I think it would have been tastier if I could have left it in another 45 minutes or so.
Third lesson – Pork shoulder has a lot of fat on it! It’s very tasty, but it’s very rich. When making pork shoulder, plan light side dishes.
All and all, it came out pretty well. The Pernil rub was delicious. I think I would make it again. Here is Mark Bittman’s column about it including a link to the recipe and video: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/dining/02mini.html