Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on Unsplash

By Jillian Fraioli

If you’ve read any of my past articles, you’ll know that my “secret ingredients” are fish sauce and miso paste. Those items add umami, which I believe is key to amping up all of your endeavors in the kitchen.

Everyone has a different idea of a “secret ingredient.” A good example is Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, where she demonstrates how those four elements, or “secret ingredients” if you will, are the key to consistently better cooking. Salt brings out deeper flavors. Fat helps us achieve texture.  Acid balances that flavor. And heat transforms our food. What you might not realize is that she is also teaching you techniques. (If you haven’t seen her show, I cannot recommend a viewing more. I’m thrilled I can easily find myself in the company of good chefs via Netflix these days!). I personally believe that the right technique for the item you’ve chosen to cook is the real “secret” to good food. 

The TV chefs I grew up with — Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and Martin Yan — were all about teaching us the techniques of good cooking, especially my darling Julia. She brought French cooking to millions of Americans, and through the magic of television, increased our knowledge and skills. And it’s what I love most about food writing — shared universal knowledge only makes us all better when it comes to the kitchen.

This month, I am sharing one of my absolute favorite techniques, especially if you’re entertaining: the “low and slow.” It’s my dinner party secret weapon. My friends joke that I roast everything. There’s probably truth to that! You can use this method for almost anything: vegetables, chicken, short ribs, brisket, to name only a few. With Valentine’s Day looming, my suggestion is take the easy path and use your oven. Bonus if you’re living somewhere cold — you get to have residual heat all day long!

The pork shoulder is typically one of the most inexpensive cuts of meat. It’s a tough cut, so you have to treat it right to render the fat and not have it be chewy. I’ve braised it, I’ve pressure cooked it, I’ve smoked it, but I find it’s best when rubbed or salt-cured and cooked at a low temperature over several hours. It’s incredibly impressive to pull a roast out of the oven after six hours; it becomes slightly crispy on the outside, but it’s falling apart on the inside.

I find myself making David Chang’s version of Bo Saam from Momofuku more and more these days. It’s also easy, like my recipe below, and yields consistent results. I encourage you to try it as well. You take sugar and salt, rub it on a six-pound roast, and leave it in the oven. It is nothing short of miraculous. You can access the full recipe at the “Cooking with the New York Times” website.

I’ve been making this month’s recipe for years — and it’s what we’ll be cooking this Valentine’s Day. On the side, we serve a big batch of baked polenta and roasted radicchio, or some other sort of bitter green. You can even do a huge salad of the more bitter lettuces like arugula, endive, and baby kale. The creaminess of the polenta and the bitterness of the greens balance the flavors and fattiness of the pork. It’s truly a spectacular meal for your crew.

Low and Slow Pork Roast

Serves 8

Pre-prep time: Overnight

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5-6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder, 5-6 pounds

(aka Boston butt; you can use boneless, but we prefer the bone-in, and then use that for stock)

  • 1/3 cup Kosher salt
  • 4 TBSP coarse ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped fine herbs: thyme, flat-leaf parsley, chives, and tarragon

(if you cannot find fresh, you can use 1/4 cup dried fine herbs, or some sort of herb mix you like, like herbs de Provence, or my current favorite this winter, Penzy’s Spices “Sunny Paris”)

The night before, stud your pork shoulder with garlic and rub it with salt and pepper. It might seem like a lot of salt, but don’t worry, you’re “dry curing” the meat here, and a lot of that will run off in juices.

To stud the pork, stick a paring knife in random places all around the shoulder, keeping the tip in, and sliding the garlic into the meat. Once you pop it in, the meat will close around the garlic, keeping it encased.

Place the pork in a rimmed baking tray or deep casserole dish. It will put off some water overnight, so don’t put it on a plate! Rub the salt and pepper all over the surface, cover with plastic, and let it hang out in the fridge.

In the morning, pull the pork out and let it rest at room temperature for 45-60 minutes while the oven preheats to 300 degrees.

Meanwhile, mix the mustard and herbs in a small bowl. If you have a roasting pan with a rack, you can place the pork on the rack, and then really work the herb and mustard mix into the pork before putting it in the oven. If you do not have a rack, I find that there’s no issue cooking the shoulder right in a cast iron enamel pan or casserole dish.

Then you walk away. It’s really that easy.

Baste the pork every hour or so, and peek at it. If it browns too quickly, you can tent the pork shoulder with foil.

The pork will be well-browned, and very, very tender. This takes about 5-6 hours. 

The beauty is that you can entertain and do all the other things you need to have done for dinner while the magic happens in the oven.

Let the pork rest outside of the oven at least 10 minutes before serving. This is not a “cut and serve” situation, as the pork will now pull apart easily. We tend to serve it all family style, but if you want to plate it, pull the meat apart in strips and serve it atop the creamy polenta with the greens on the side.

Note: leftovers freeze beautifully and do well in soups, breakfast egg dishes, sandwiches, and even tacos or burritos!

BIO: 

Jillian moonlights in her own kitchen as Executive Chef. She comes from a long line of at-home chefs, making Sunday sauce and homemade pasta as soon as she was knee-high with Grandma Fraioli. Jillian used to work at such illustrious restaurants such as Emeril’s Fish House in Las Vegas (where she was a Pastry Chef), and both in the front and back of the house of Serafina and Tango in Seattle. She ended her career in restaurants many lives ago, and now supports women-owned businesses. You can follow along with her cats and knitting (and sometimes food), if that’s your jam, on Instagram @yarnologie