There are plenty of yummy things to be done with a pork shoulder. It’s one of those inexpensive cuts that needs long, slow cooking to break down the tough connective tissues, but winds up far more tender than even the most expensive cuts, with far more flavour.
I had one the size of a turkey in my basement freezer, so when I spontaneously invited a dozen or so friends over for dinner on Saturday night, it was an excuse to haul it out and let it roast in the oven all day. Pulled pork is a Very Delicious Thing that people tend to get excited about, and if you have a big braising pot – which you must, if you’re going to cook the thing – you can set it right out on your table with soft tortillas and all manner of chopped-up tasty things and let large groups go to town.
But if you don’t want to go the dry rub-BBQ sauce route, butt naked (get it? pork butt?) slow roasted pork is delicious enough as is – just like roast chicken or beef. In this case a cupful of milk and an orange brings out the pork’s sweetness while adding a subtle citrus tang; you can pull it apart with forks, set it out right in the pan and let everyone make their own little carnitas – “little meats” – it’s the new-fangled version of those taco kits we used to get when we were kids. (Bonus: a ginourmous pork shoulder takes as much time, heat and effort as a small one, and leftovers freeze beautifully; they could reappear doused in BBQ sauce with slaw on soft buns and no one would recognize them.)
Same amount of work, and no seasoning packet.
Slow-Roasted Pork Carnitas with Orange and Milk
This could be done in the slow cooker, but I love the way the oven produces dark, sticky bits, intensifies flavours and prevents the meat from going mushy. Adapted from Epicurious.
2-3 lb boneless pork shoulder (butt) or boneless country pork ribs
canola or olive oil or lard, for cooking
1 orange, washed and quartered
1 cup whole milk
salt and pepper
corn tortillas, warmed
finely chopped onion
Preheat the oven to 300F. Cut the meat into a few chunks, heat a generous drizzle of oil or dab of lard in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meat on all sides, transferring it to a baking dish as it browns. Squeeze the orange wedges over the meat and toss in the rinds alongside; pour the milk overtop, then add enough water to almost cover the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bake for 3 hours, until the meat is very tender.
Break or pull the meat apart into smaller pieces, remove and discard the orange rind, and turn the oven up to 375F. Roast the meat uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat is crisp and brown on the edges.
Place the pot of pork directly on the table and surround with corn tortillas and accessories; let everyone serve themselves by piling pork, avocado, onion, salsa, sour cream and cilantro on their own corn tortillas. Serves lots.