I bought a beautiful 3 lb pork shoulder at my Saturday market from one of my favorite bay area meat sources (Fallon Hills Ranch) with the intention of preparing a succulent 5 anchor Sunday pork roast complete with garlic mashed potatoes and crusty homemade bread.
However, on a last minute whim, we ended up trekking to San Francisco to check out a sailboat for sale and enjoying a scrumptious dinner at one of our favorite seafood spots along the embarcadero, Hog Island Oyster Bar.
The roast was put on hold until the next day, while the mashed potatoes and bread would have to wait for another meal on an allotted 5 anchor carb day. There are exceptions (especially around the holidays) but for the most part I start the week off with one or two anchor meals and good workouts. Gotta keep my baking addiction in check 😉
What’s great about a pork roast is that by itself, it’s a one anchor meal. But add a couple of decadent starchy sides (garlic mashed potatoes, buttery rolls etc..) and it turns into extreme comfort food worthy of a feast.
Plus, it’s so easy to make! Season with a yummy dry rub like this one, roast at a low temperature for a few hours until fork tender and you’ve got mouthwatering, fall-apart pork. It’s the perfect thing to cook on a cleaning day or when you know you’re going to be home, since it takes quite a long time in the oven and makes the house smell heavenly all day!
I like to roast a decent sized shoulder even if cooking just for two to ensure plenty of leftovers, which I use over the next few days in other easy and tasty weeknight meals
Such as quick BBQ pork and beans (just add some BBQ sauce!), pork tacos, pulled pork with summer fruit salsa, or with a quick tomato ragu over some creamy polenta. These might sound fancy, but once you’ve got the pork all cooked up, it’s just about having the other ingredients handy and throwing it all together.
For this rub, I use a Middle Eastern spice called Aleppo pepper. It’s milder than most hot pepper spices and adds other delicious undertones like fruitiness and a slight cumin scent. Because it’s mild, you can use a bit more than usual. If you don’t have Aleppo, feel free to substitute with some hot paprika or a chile powder, just use a bit less.
And should you find yourself with a lot of gorgeous carrots from your local market like
I did, this is the perfect recipe to use them up. When I go low carb, I like to make a larger amount of yummy vegetables with the roast to help satisfy carb cravings. Both the carrots and the onions absorb all the delicious pork juices and make for such a tasty side! So tasty in fact, that you might almost forget about the missing potatoes and bread… almost 😉
Who put the butt in pork??
For years, I unknowingly embarrassed myself every I time I approached the meat counter and asked for a nice piece of pork butt. I, like many others, assumed that the butt came from the butt region of the hog. When the butcher would point to the pork shoulder, I would determinedly ask if it was possible to cut a fresh piece from the butt region. I’d cooked the shoulder many times and wanted to finally try the elusive butt! The common reply was that the shoulder was all they had.
The confusion was never cleared up for me until I decided to write the Foodstory for this blog entry. I was surprised to learn that the shoulder and the butt are indeed the same exact cut of meat, so I unknowingly had been roasting the butt all along! In hindsight, I suspect that some of the butchers didn’t know either. I also felt better when I asked Chris if he knew where the pork butt came from and he casually replied “ Yea… it’s the pig’s butt!”.
So why butt then, if it’s the shoulder? The term pork butt goes back to colonial Boston, which at the time, was famous for its pork production.
The pork shoulder (the least desired part of the pork because of its toughness) would be shipped out of Boston to other parts of the country in specifically sized barrels called “butts”. Eventually, the pork meat inside these barrels became known as “pork butt”, even though it was the shoulder. I wonder how many people have spent their whole life cooking pork butt without knowing the truth! Glad I’m not one of them. Today, pork butt and pork shoulder are interchangeable, though the latter is used more frequently.
But wait… what do they do with the actual butt?? I guess that’s part of the ham then. Turns out I’ve been putting the pig’s rear end in my sandwiches for decades.
- A 3 to 4 pound pork shoulder / pork butt (or larger if feeding more)
- 2 to 3 yellow onions
- 1 or 2 bunches of carrots
- 10 to 15 garlic cloves (or less if you don’t like garlic)
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 1 cup of water
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh sage leaves (optional)
- 2 tbs kosher salt,
- 2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper,
- 2 tbs light brown sugar,
- 1 tbs Aleppo Pepper
- 2 tsp sage
- 4 minced garlic cloves
Day before roasting:
Mix all the rub ingredients and evenly over the pork. Place in fridge and let it sit covered with fat / skin side up for a day, overnight or a couple of days even.
The next day, remove pork from fridge and let sit at room temp for an hour before roasting. Preheat oven to 300 and place rack in center of oven.
Set the roast skin side up in the middle of a large roasting pan and place in the oven. Cook at 300 for 3 to 4 hours, turning pan halfway, until pork is tender around the edges and slightly in the center. It shouldn’t be falling apart yet. (For a larger roast, like 6 lbs, the time will be closer to 4 1/2 hours). You can check every now and then, but don’t open the oven too much or heat will escape. Meanwhile, peel the onions and slice lengthwise into uniform wedges, trying to keep the pieces intact. Peel the carrots and slice on the diagonal into 2 inch pieces, cutting thick ones in half. Peel 10 to 15 cloves of garlic.
Once pork is somewhat tender, remove pan from oven and distribute the vegetables evenly around it. Season with a couple of sprinkles of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper and top with the sage leaves if desired. Add 1 cup of wine to the pan along with the 1 cup of water. Stir a little to mix into veggies.
Roast another 45 min to an hour until the carrots and onions are cooked through, stirring the vegetable occasionally to baste in juices. If the veggies dry out too much, you can add some more water. But don’t make it too soupy.
Once again, remove pan from oven and raise oven temperature to 375. If the pork has skin, remove it and either toss or reserve to make yummy treats like pork cracklings.
Separate the pork into a few large chunks, trying to keep them the same size. This is easiest using tongs. The pork should easily come apart now, if it doesn’t, then let it cook a bit longer at 300.
Place pan back in oven and cook another 15 to 20 min until the pork chunks are nice and brown on top. Remove pan from oven, tent with some foil and let it rest at least 10 min… if you can wait that long 🙂 Fair Cooking!