Last night I had a friend to visit from out of town. She used to live in Boston, so this was like a homecoming for her. Like a good Cubana, I decided to celebrate her visit in style and serve up a mouthwatering feast. Traditionally, Cubanos roast a pig in order to celebrate special occasions. Since I live in a shoebox in the middle of a city and don't have a purveyor of whole pigs on speed dial, I decided to use my beloved Dutch oven to braise up some pulled pork. If you can't have the whole pig, have a piece!
I found a great basic recipe on The Kitchn, which is for braising a bone-in pork shoulder. I've never looked for a pork shoulder before, and I was initially sadly disappointed, because neither the local Shaw's nor the butcher shop down the street had bone-in pork shoulder in the 4 to 5 pound range. The butcher shop had boneless pork butt but it was about 8 pounds. I was already trying to wrap my head around the size of a 5-pound piece of meat, so I had to decline. I ended up getting a 4.5 pound bone-in pork butt roast, figuring I'd just make due, but then I realized I did the right thing after all. The butt, I later discovered, is not the butt at all, but the upper part of the pork shoulder. What? The butt is not the butt? Whatever. I'll take it.
The website I linked to above was helpful in instructing me how to remove the excess layers of fat (of course, I left some bits of fat because braising just melts them away and turns everything into a pile of soft scrumptiousness), and it also provided a nice, basic but delicious recipe for braising the pork. I made it in my 5-quart Dutch oven, which fit the pork and veggies quite snuggly. The hardest part of this recipe is honestly the browning, because you have to use tongs and a giant fork to hoist a multi-pound, squiggly piece of meat and flip it around in a pot of hot oil. But it was worth it because this pork was astoundingly delicious.
I love braising! I love it. It is hands-off cooking. I spent four hours doing other things around the apartment, preparing other food, tidying up, showering, while my oven did all the work. The low and slow cooking procedure makes the meat soft as butter and also fills your house with a positively delectable aroma. And there is something immensely satisfying about pulling the pork off the bone. There are honestly very few of the "fatty" bits mentioned in the recipe above, because most of the fat melts and moistens the meat. I'll probably toss the fattier bits into a pan and saute them before adding them into a soup or something.
I made this for dinner and dressed it in the braising juice, served with potato-spinach casserole with individual Nutella bread puddings for dessert. (I'm saving those for another post!) Was it good? Well, considering that everyone got seconds, yes, it was a success. Tonight I'm going to toss some pork with barbecue sauce and serve them with slaw on rolls. NOMS. Yes, this will give you a lot of leftovers, but it is so versatile that it's hard to get sick of. I'll probably also make some carnitas tacos too. Yay, pork!