Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cooking the Book - Real Cajun - Italian-Style Roast Pork Shoulder

I’ve got my soapbox ready, my speech is written; it’s time to extol the further virtues of Donald Link’s Beard Award nominated masterpiece “Real Cajun”. I’m sure more than a few of my readers are tiring of me writing about this cookbook, but it really is that good. Anyway, here’s a little background: I had been charged with cooking for a decently large number of people, but I was looking to take a break from beef. I had already cooked Link’s recipe for Smothered Pork Roast over Rice, so I needed something just as porky and just as delicious. Thumbing through my cookbooks, I opened “Real Cajun” and stopped at the recipe for Italian-Style Roast Pork Shoulder”. The picture looked amazing and the first sentence seemed perfect for the hurried arrival of warm weather: “Sometimes in the South it’s just too hot to eat a smothered, braised, falling-apart pork roast.”

Aside from the cumbersome part of trussing the roast, this is not a difficult dish. In fact there are only 10 ingredients, counting oil, salt and pepper.

Here are the seasoning for the inside of the pork shoulder: 3 tbs of kosher salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tbs ground fennel, 2 tbs minced garlic, and 1 tbs chopped rosemary.

It makes a very tasty looking rub.

The star of the recipe is a 7lb boneless pork butt.

Link includes instructions on butter flying the butt, but removing the bone had essentially butterflied the shoulder for me.

The seasoning is rubbed liberally over the inside of the shoulder. Link also recommends making a few small cuts to really let the seasoning permeate the meat.

Now for the hard part, I can truss a chicken, but I completely made a hash of trussing this shoulder.

Yes, that’s just individual lengths of twine tied around the roast.

After the mess of trussing, the shoulder is seasoned with 2 tbs of kosher salt and 1 tsp of ground black pepper on the outside, and then seared in a roasting pan over med-high heat.

It takes a good while to sear something that size.

With the oven preheated to 325, it’s time to get the shoulder ready for the oven.

A large onion cut into ½ inch slices make a nice bed for the shoulder.

I had a remote probe thermometer stuck in the shoulder and about and an hour and half later, the shoulder reached the nice range of 145 to 155.

It would be a waste to make this roast and not let it rest, so it was tented and rested for 30 minutes before slicing.

You don’t get pork shoulders with the skin on very often.

Slicing into the end of the shoulder, the meat looked perfect.

All that skin and fat made for a succulent roast, and I love the lines of inside seasonings.

With each slice closer to the center, the roast was juicier, but the real attraction was the saltiness, the garlic and the upfront flavor of the fennel. Usually I shy away from too much fennel, but it worked very well with this roast.

There are a few things I would do differently the next time I try this recipe. I’m curious to see how much the roast changes when it’s made with a skin less shoulder. Another variable is the rosemary. Link gives the option of thyme or rosemary. I actually couldn’t really taste the rosemary in the dish, but I’m sure the flavor would be lacking without either one of the herbs. Lastly, I would use more than 1 onion under the roast. Not only do the onions provide a nice platform for the roast, they are completely imbued with porky goodness. It’s a definite instance where the more the merrier.

Aside from those questions, I’m at a loss about serving this roast. Link writes one of his favorite snacks is sliced pork with Linda Zaunbrecher’s Homemade Rolls (another recipe in “Real Cajun”). This roast does make a fantastic sandwich, another reason to use more onions, but even over rice, this roast shines brilliantly. Regardless of serving questions, this is another stellar recipe from Link and I’m sure another recipe demonstration will be forthcoming.


NOJuju said...

That's a much bigger project than I care to take on, but the results sure do look worth the effort.

Unknown said...

So it's Memorial Day and I have the day off work and I want to cook. I have REAL CAJUN in my hand and a 6 lb bone in boston butt in the fridge. I'm about to attempt to bone and truss this baby. My roast is skinless so I'll see the difference in the after shots. This post inspired me to try my hand at this dish. Plus I love some good pork and REAL CAJUN is a new favorite.