Sunday, February 6, 2011

Recipe: Pernil (Puerto Rican roast pork) (WCN! February 2011)

The Caribbean is full of unforgettable seafood dishes, but when I think of where island cuisine really shines, I think of pork. Puerto Rico is particularly known for its pig, as we found out when we were there in November, from the slow-roasted whole beasts of the lechoneras of Guavate to the smaller roasts you find at lunch counters all over, known as pernil.

This starts with a skin-on pork shoulder roast, the same cut my great-grandmother in Owsley County used to serve up every Sunday after church, with little potatoes roasted golden brown in the drippings.  So this dish reminds me not only of my recent travels, but of those Sundays when I was a kid at Granny Eunice's.  Isn't cooking awesome?


1 8-10 pound pork shoulder roast, skin-on
1 quart orange juice
2 sprigs oregano
2 heads garlic
salt, pepper, oil

Place a sprig of oregano and a head of garlic in a 2-gallon Ziploc and smash it up with a hammer.  In a bowl, whisk up 1/2 cup of salt, some pepper, and the orange juice.  Pour into the bag and massage the garlic and oregano into the mix.

Using a sharp knife, score the skin and the meat of the pork in a diamond pattern, like so:

Place in the bag and brine overnight, for up to 24 hours.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and put a rack on it.  Take out the roast, dry it thoroughly with paper towels, and let it sit out to air dry for a couple of hours.

Peel the other head of garlic, pluck the leaves off the oregano, and mash them up to a paste with some salt, pepper, and a little oil of some kind.  (A food procesor would work, but a mortar and pestle or pilon is perfect.)  Spread this over the entire roast, making sure to get it down in the cracks.

Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, then at 325 degrees until it hits 180 degrees in the middle.  Take it out and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Don't even try to avoid picking at it.

1 comment:

  1. Jenny here...I loved with pork when Jonathan made it on the show. If there is anything more delicious than perfectly crisped pork skin, then I don't want to know about it. Wait--yes I do. If you know of something, tell me. Anyway, I'm trying out this pork for a little supper party tomorrow night. Last week I had a nightmare that I tried to make it, and it turned out floppy and grey, and I kept trying to crisp it, but nothing worked, and Jonathan just kept saying "I dunno. Worked for me." And in the dream, it was really important for some reason that my pork turned out, and I woke up sort of gasping. So I'm apparently the sort of person for whom a poorly cooked pork roast is nightmare-inducing...anyhow, I'm trying it. I'll post results later. For now, I'll say these two things: Hit the garlic and oregano with a hammer? Nah. I'll just hit it with my immersion blender. Also I used a few sprigs of oregano and added the juice of a lemon (I thought Jonathan did that, because in Peurto Rico, the oranges are more sour or something), and in addition to the black pepper I ground into the juice, I threw in a couple of pinches of WCN! favorite esoteric spice, aleppo pepper. Also, I have this to say: Who the hell has room to marinate/brine (or brinade, as J says) in their refrigerator? Mine is always packed. But I shoved it in...more tomorrow!