Thursday, June 7, 2012

Understanding Spices: What Does Oregano Taste Like? Roasted Pork Shoulder Recipe

This is the easiest, most flavorful pork roast I know. It takes just a couple of minutes to prepare on day one, and after sitting all night, I just throw it in the oven when I get home from work the next day for an awesome, complicated-looking dinner. The inside is always moist, and the outside becomes almost bacon-like...mmm.

This post begins a series of recipes that I will be posting that each feature a certain spice, herb, or mix. An understanding of herbs and spices is one of the simplest foundations of any good cook. If you know what certain herbs and spices really taste like and what certain spice combinations taste like together, you understand an often overlooked magic key to food. It's easy to love cooking now that I love what I make on a regular basis, and I credit part of often liking what I make to understanding spices much better than I used to.

So, the first dish I am featuring in this series is Roasted Pork Shoulder. This dish makes me happy, and it taught me what oregano tastes like. I love oregano. It is quite possibly my favorite herb. In fact, I am on a mission for people to understand what oregano tastes like and for them to love its taste. If you need proof in my love for oregano, just check out the gigantic size of my oregano bottle in relation to the rest of my spice and herb bottles.

Rachael Ray has thrown out a tidbit about oregano several times; oregano means "joy of the mountain." For the longest time, I thought she was saying, "joy of the mouth," which I totally agreed with after tasting this wonderful roast pork.

This recipe is a slightly modified version of Tyler Florence's Pernil Al Horno. I'm not sure what that means, what country it comes from, or if it is just jibberish. I do know that it is basically an incredibly delicious roasted pork shoulder and that it is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. It is super easy. I make it the day before I plan to cook it, throw it into the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, and then throw it into the oven when I get home from work the next day. Instant "wow" entree. :)
I don't know why I feel compelled to show my recipe cards for recipes because I often do not follow something or another on them, but here it is just the same!

Step One: Chop up a couple of garlic cloves. I would say "mince," but my knives are circa 1985. I do not think they've ever met a sharpener, either. Somewhere Alton Brown cringes. The fact that I use paper plates as "cutting boards" probably doesn't help much, either.

Don't cringe too much, Alton, for someone who burns potholders on a regular basis, who drops dishes and assorted kitchenware at least once everytime she cooks, and who has other assorted kitchen "oops" moments throughout each cooking process - it's probably a good thing that she only has the dull knives :). Bless my heart. The food is still good. That's all that matters, right?
Step Two: Measure out the salt, pepper, and oregano. Pile all of those spices onto the garlic.


Step Three: Using the flat part of your knife, mash the garlic into the spices. I usually attempt to chop the garlic into finer pieces with my handy-dandy-circa-1985 knife while it is in the spices. The idea is to make a paste out of the garlic and spices. Mine never looks so much like a paste. Patience is a virtue, not a requirement.
Step Four: Pour (and scrape) all of it into a bowl. 
Step Five: Add the vinegar and oil, and stir with an itty bitty spoon with a long handle. Ok, you can stir with any spoon. I just really love my random itty bitty spoon with a long handle. There are so few occasions in which it is appropriate to use such a spoon.

This is the picture of my pork roast. I just get whatever is cheapest. I was SO excited to get this cut!

I was kind of bummed that there wasn't more fat on top. The fat helps make a moist roast, and with this salty rub/marinade we are going to put on it, the fat becomes almost bacon-like. The rest of this cut is fantastic, though. Minimum fat running through the middle. Good, good, good.

Step Six: Poke holes in the roast with your knife. This is one of the ways in which Mr. Tyler Florence and I differ. When I first made his recipe, I thought it said to poke holes in it. The second time I made it, I realized that it merely said to score the roast. I did score it the second time, and I didn't like it as much as I did when I had poked holes all in it!

Poke the holes all over on front and back. Tip: It is easier to poke the holes if your roast is slightly frozen.
Step Seven: Put about half of the rub mix on the roast...

...and rub it all in, taking care to get some of it in all of the holes you made.

Repeat with the other side. Rub the ends of the roast also. The roast should be coated in this stuff all over.

Step Eight: Wrap the pork tightly.

This is how I do it: (Sometimes, I do this with plastic wrap, but I rarely have any.) Fold one side up...

...and then fold the other side down over the top of it.

Then, fold the two flaps on top, too.

Flip it over so that it is seam-side down on top of another piece of foil (or plastic wrap).

Fold the two ends up and over first, ...

...and then tightly fold the top and bottom flaps.

Step Nine: Put it in the fridge for 3 hours - overnight. I usually leave it in there overnight, and then I pull it back out and complete the rest of the steps after I get home from work the next day (because there aren't really  many other steps...)

Step Ten: A few minutes before you are ready to cook your roast, take it out of its aluminum packaging, and let it come to room temperature (Or if you are long as you can stand to let it sit there. I'm usually not patient enough to let it come up to room temp - even though I know there's a difference in the final product.).

This is my roasting pan. I hate doing dishes, so I cover it in aluminum foil like this:

Cover the top part in foil, but only tuck in tightly on the ends. Loosely put foil in the bottom part, making sure that the ends point up.

Fit the top part into the pan as you normally would. I am not sure that you can tell, but the foil from the top part is folded under at the ends, but sticks out over the edges on the sides. This isn't incredibly necessary - it just involves less tucking...which is helpful if the top part of your roast pan is a really tight fit.
Carefully poke holes where the holes in the top part are. I usually gently rub my finger where I think the holes are so that I can see/feel where they are. Then I poke the holes with my can poke with a knife if you want. Ta-da! A foil covered roast pan for minimum dishes. I'm not the only one who thinks this is super cool right?

Step Eleven: Place the roast by the holes of your roasting pan, and then place it in a 350 degree oven. Cook a 2 pound roast for about 2 hours. This roast was about 1 1/2 pounds, so I cooked it for about 1 1/2 hours.
When it is done, let it sit for about 15-20 minutes before cutting. There are two reasons for letting it sit: 1) The pork will continue to cook for a bit as it sits. 2) Letting it sit allows the juices to distribute evenly. If you cut it when it first comes out, the juices just run out, making the roast dry.
Slice when ready!

Roasted Pork Shoulder
Click here for printable version
1 2-lb boneless pork shoulder
2 garlic cloves, smashed and/or minced
2 t. dried oregano
3 1/4 t. sea salt
1/2 T. coarse ground pepper
1 1/2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. apple cider vinegar

With a sharp knife, poke holes all over the pork shoulder. Mash the garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper into a paste on a cutting board with the flat side of a knife. Place the paste into a bowl, and stir in the oil and vinegar. Rub the garlic paste all over the pork, being careful to get into the incisions so that the salt can penetrate the meat and pull out the moisture - this will help form a crust. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil. Marinate in the fridge 3 hours to overnight (overnight preferred). Bring to room temperature before cooking. Place the pork, fat-side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack insert. Let roast in a 350 degrees F oven for two hours uncovered. Let it sit about 15 - 20 minutes before cutting.
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