August 26, 2010

Michael Chiarello's Slow Cooked Pork

Serving real homemade family meals every night this week:  Four days down. One to go.

Monday:  Pork Tacos with Tomato-Peach Salsa
Tuesday:  B.L.T Salad
Wednesday:  Grilled Chicken with Chimicurri Sauce over ciabatta bread
Thursday:  Ham Pea Pasta with Roasted Patty Pan Squash

Loyal readers know that last week I was on a bit of a sweet stuff kick and I got out of the habit of making dinner.  Apparently this week, I am on a pork kick.

Making dinner every night gets a bit tiresome, doesn't it?  One thing that really helps me is making things ahead of time or making double batches so that we can eat some and freeze the rest, thereby putting dinner on the table with minimal effort a week or two later.  Planning a menu for the week helps tremendously as well, because when I get home in the evening I can be on auto-pilot, instead of trying to figure things out when I am tired and hungry.  I can also look ahead and get things started a day or two (or more) ahead of time.

This Monday for instance, to make tacos, I thawed some shredded pork that I had prepared and frozen in small batches a couple months ago.  That might seem like a long time, but if frozen properly (cooled quickly and wrapped well), most things will keep with no loss of quality for one to three months.  I served the warmed pork in warm tortillas topped with Tomato-Peach salsa, but any good pico de gallo type sauce would work.

Like a lot of dishes, this Slow Cooked Pork takes a good deal of work upfront, but once it is done, you can store reasonable portions in appropriately-sized freezer bags and have the beginnings of a delicious meal accessible in the freezer. Just transfer the freezer bag to the fridge the night before you plan to use the meat.  This recipe is easily double-able, just be sure to use a large enough pan to catch the juices.  This pork cooks overnight (or all day) and fills the house with that wonderful pork smell. Be forewarned, it might not taste as perfect as it smells, but it is a great thing to have on hand as the protein element of quick weeknight meal.  The garlicky rub on the outside crisps to a sweet, mildly spiced crust. The pork within is tender and shred-able. Use it for pork tacos, to fill stuffed peppers, or smothered in a BBQ sauce and served on a bun with coleslaw.   The original recipe calls for a 6-lb boneless pork shoulder, but feel free to use a larger roast.  If the roast you have is much larger than this, you may want to increase the amount of rub accordingly.  The cook time however, should be about the same.

Michael Chiarello's Slow Cooked Pork
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
Speaking of planning ahead, if you think of it, roast the garlic the night before you plan to make this. That way the garlic will have cooled, and you will avoid burning yourself when squeezing it out of the papery skin and chopping it.   Alternatively, many markets have roasted garlic available in the packaged produce section.
Yields about 10-12 cups shredded pork

Roasted Garlic Rub:

2 cups roasted garlic, minced (about a dozen heads)
5 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup coriander seeds, toasted and ground in spice grinder (I didn't bother to toast mine.)
2 tablespoons mustard powder
4 tablespoons dried chipotle pepper, ground
2 tablespoons dried thyme
5 tablespoons dried rosemary, finely chopped
5 tablespoons lemon zest (That's a lot of lemons, so squeeze the juice and make a couple glasses of lemonade, by adding simple syrup, water and ice.)
2 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

Combine all ingredients.  The original recipe recommends using a food processor, but a fork and mixing bowl works fine for me (and saves the effort of washing all the food processor parts).  Just be sure that the roasted garlic paste absorbs all the seasonings.

1 6 lb (or larger) pork shoulder roast, not tied

Preheat oven to 275F. If necessary, trim fat from top of pork, leaving a 1/8-inch thick layer of fat. Spread Roasted Garlic Rub all over pork and inside any cavities.   Put pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan and roast in middle of oven 6 to 8 hours. 

Transfer roast to cutting board and let stand 15-30 minutes. Pull shreds apart with tongs or forks, being careful to remove any unappetizing chunks of fat.  You may be a more efficient meat-shredder than me, but it took me about half an hour to shred a double batch.  Let shredded pork cool completely, before transferring to appropriately sized freezer bags.   Squeeze out all the air and close tightly.  Flatten for easier storage and store in the coldest part of your freezer for up to 3 months.

Note on Warming tortillas:
Skip the microwave.  If you have a large stack of tortillas wrap in foil and place is a 325º oven until heated through, about 10-15 minutes.  For a smaller number of tortillas, warm flour tortillas individually in a dry skillet or warm corn tortillas in a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat less than 30 seconds per side.  Keep tortillas warm and pliable by wrapping in a clean kitchen towel.

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