December 01, 2011
Pork & Friendship
Channelling Laurie Colwin, I want to introduce this recipe with a long string of stories about my incredible friend R. You've met her before, of course, but do you know what an awesome mom she is, and how when I have kids I am going to be calling her every single day for her advice. Or how she's always got the best ideas for our book-club. Or how she (with my help and the help of her 5 year-old) trimmed a tree and decorated an entire apartment in 2 hours, flat. Or that I always feel perfectly at home with her and her family. Or that, in fact, most of my most treasured pieces of furniture were her finds. Or that she is the hardest person to shop for because she is the easiest person to shop for (so many options! what to choose?)
Or have I told you that she is one of the most generous and thoughtful people I know. And that at the end of a long, long week, she and J hosted us for a magnificent feast, and the star of the menu was this incredible pork. None of these things are essential to this recipe, but these things make me love the recipe even more.
This really is the most incredible pork I've ever had. It's also one of the easiest recipes I have ever made. Yes, it takes time and preparation--it sits overnight in the fridge and then roasts for 8 hours!--but it is shockingly easy, and fills the house with the most sumptuous aromas. I popped it in the oven at 5 am on Thanksgiving, and went back to bed. When I woke up at 7 (ah! to sleep in!) I wanted to devour it right then and there, it smelt so good.
As you can see, the original recipe uses oranges and onions. R swapped grapefruit for the oranges, and doubled the fennel seed topping. When I made it, I added some fennel heads to the onion, because I love fennel. Any way you like it: it's delicious. And if you don't like fennel or anise flavors, please give this a try anyway. It is adds a subtle woody depth to the pork, but is not overwhelmingly anise-y. Mom said that Mario Batalli has a version of this with a pork loin, which means it would cook a lot faster (3 hours), but it also means it's more expensive.
Italian-Style Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder
adapted from the Wegmans recipe.
1 medium onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
2 small or 1 large head of fennel, thinly sliced
2 ripe grapefruits, unpeeled, thinly sliced
1 (7-10 lb) pork shoulder
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs fennel seed
Salt and cracked black pepper
You'll Need: Roasting pan (remove rack), gravy separator
Day before: Combine onion and fennel and grapefruit in the bottom of the roasting pan. Diagonally score fat-side (top) of pork about 3/4-inch deep in a diamond pattern. Rub garlic, then fennel seeds into top of pork. Season well with salt and pepper. Place pork on top of onion and orange slices. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight.
Day of meal: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Remove plastic wrap. Bake uncovered, 7-8 hours.
Remove from oven; carefully place roast on clean platter and allow to rest. As roast rests, ladle hot juices into gravy separator. Reserve de-fatted juices (au jus); keep warm. Reserve onions if desired. (If I thicker gravy is desired, you can thicken with cornstarch.)
Serve au jus with pork. It really is that easy. I promise. (Photo by R.)