The menu for my big Mexican dinner party (which happened last night) has been planned for a few weeks. Then, two days before the party, I was watching Cook’s Country and heard Chris Kimball declare his latest recipe to be “the best pork recipe he’s ever eaten.” Sure, I hear that every few episodes, but the final pork looked amazing. So I switched my theme from Mexican to Latin. I added ceviche, but left the Mexican Chicken Flautas on the menu. I also made a homemade tomatillo sauce. The pork was absolutely delicious; flavorful, tender. Yet without a doubt, the crispy pig skin was the best part of the entire meal. The recipe softens the skin by soaking it in water while baking at pretty high temperature for 4 hours. It’s as if the entire recipe is crafted towards perfecting the skin; the piece de resistance on an entirely delicious meal. The only flaw in the recipe is that the wonderful flavors of the sofrito do not permeate into the meat; even after 24-hours marinating. Instead of the complexity of the sofrito, the final presentation of the dish relies on a much simpler lime/cilantro jus. 4-1/2 stars. Definitely worth the 6-1/2 hours.
To overcome the recipes main flaw, a Latin friend says her sister pokes holes all over the roast with a big knife. Allowing the Sofrito, or Recao as she called it, to flavor the entire roast rather than just the exterior.
- About 4 hours into the recipe I had a near disaster, so I offer this warning. Do not treat the 4 hours of cooking in steps 3 and 4 as virtually unattended cooking time. After you remove the foil, starting with step 4, plan to add 1 to 2 cups per hour. In my case I caught it just in time to save the drippings. Another 15 minutes and I could not have made the Jus.
- The 1 hour of cooking in Step 6 only brought my port up to 180-degrees. It took an extra 35-to-40 minutes to attain 195-degrees.
- While not described in the original recipe, the step of crisping the skin (step 8) had an added secret, which was very subtly shown on the Cook’s Country episode. You can use balled up aluminum foil to hold your roast in perfect position so that the skin crisps evenly.
- I had to buy two bunches of cilantro to yield the requisite 1-1/2 cups. One bunch will give you enough for the night before dinner, but I had to make another trip to the supermarket the next day.
- Chris Kimball recommends serving this with plain, white rice.
Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. Ready at: 6:00 PM. (Begin marinating the day prior)
The Cook’s Country original recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:
1-1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems (used in Step 1 and Step 10)
1 onion, chopped coarse
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
7-pound bone-in pork picnic shoulder
3 to 4 limes (1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus 1/3 cup juice)
- The day before you cook the meal, add 1 cup cilantro, onion, salt, oil, garlic, pepper, oregano, and cumin to food processor. Pulse 15 times until finely ground. You may need to scrape down sides of the bowl.
- Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub sofrito all over. Wrap pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Start cooking 6 hours before dinner. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees. Pour 8 cups water into a large roasting pan. Unwrap pork, place in pan with the skin-side down in the water. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast at 450-degrees for 90 minutes.
- Remove foil, and turn down oven to 375-degrees. Continue roasting uncovered for 2-1/2 more hours.
- Prepare a V-rack by spraying it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
- Remove entire pan from oven. Gently slide metal spatula under pork to release skin from pan. Using two clean, folded dish towels (or wads of paper towels) to grasp both ends of pork and put on V-rack with the skin-side up. Use paper towels to wipe the skin dry. Place V-rack with pork in roasting pan. If the pan looks dry, add 1-cup water (I recommend adding it no matter what). Return to oven and bake for another 1 hour (mine took 1-1/2 hours) until the pork registers 195-degrees. (If needed, to add water several times to prevent the pan from drying out.)
- Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil (for easy cleanup).
- Remove pan from oven, and set V-rack with pork in prepared baking sheet. I saw on the Cook’s Country episode that they make the roast level by creating a ball of foil to support the flatter end. Return to oven, and turn up the oven temperature to 500-degrees. Cook for 15 to 30 minutes; rotating sheet halfway through cooking. It will be done when the skin becomes well browned and crispy., and you can tap it lightly using tongs and it should sound hollow.
- Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes on a carving board.
- Meanwhile, pour juices from pan into fat separator. Allow to settle for 5 minutes, then pour off 1 cup of the de-fatted juices into large bowl. If you don’t have 1 cup, then make up the shortfall using water. Whisk 1/2-cup cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice into bowl with the de-fatted juices.
- Remove crispy skin from pork in large pieces. Chop skin coarsely into bite-size pieces and put in serving bowl.
- Trim and discard any excess fat from pork. Remove the pork from the bone and chop it coarsely. Transfer pork to bowl with cilantro-lime sauce and toss to combine. Serve pork, with crispy skin on the side.