Was it the way it felt to unfold ourselves from that long and rainy drive? Was it easing into that warm and laughing kitchen? Was it knowing that we’d granted ourselves leave, for one sweet week, to put all our complicated feelings about leaving our farm on a back burner? Was it because the roast came from our own pigs, raised outside in the sunshine and fresh air, with lots of room to run and root and plenty of good vegetable scraps and cracked eggs? Was it because we didn’t have to cook? Was it that long slow cooking is pretty much always the answer to our woes?
I can’t say for sure. But this slow roasted pork is one of the best things I have ever eaten.
Close-Roasted Pork with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa
from The Improvisational Cook, © 2006 Sally Schneider
This is really nice alongside some hearty rice and beans, and although I haven’t tried it yet, I am sure it would be phenomenal in a taco or burrito. You could also feed a lot more people with it that way. I can’t wait to try it that way this spring with some of our own cilantro, and maybe some avocado too. Oh, or how about shredded into a salad with lettuce, grapes or apples, chopped toasted walnuts, and maybe even some thinly sliced fennel if you have it?
In the original headnote for this recipe, Sally Schneider remarks that this is perfect for a dinner party because it’s so little work and it can be cooked ahead of time. True. But she also says it can feed eight people. If you’re not feeding ravenous farmers, and if you also have some fantastic sides on the table, that might be true too. But maybe double the recipe, if you can afford to. Because this stuff is INSANE.
Boston butt is the obvious choice for this recipe, but a picnic roast would also work well. The farmer’s wife in me feels compelled to encourage you not to neglect cuts of meat that are unfamiliar to you. After all, a pig is not made of bacon and ribs alone! The sooner you help your farmers work down their inventory, the sooner you get more bacon.
Another note: This is not my recipe. I am adapting it scarcely at all from the way it was originally written, since I didn’t make it myself and can’t speak to the process. I have not (yet) gotten permission to reprint this recipe, so I’m linking to the Amazon page for the book rather than my normal link to Goodreads. Sally Schneider’s books are wonderful and something pretty out of the ordinary – really highly recommended.
2 1/2 tablespoons Mole-Inspired Seasoning with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa (recipe below)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
About 3 1/2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder (try Boston butt or a picnic roast)
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves but not peeled
1. Season the meat. In a small bowl, combine the mole seasoning, salt, and sugar. Rub all over the pork shoulder and place on a plate. Marinate for 1 hour unrefrigerated, or 2 to 24 hours refrigerated.
2. Prepare the meat for roasting. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Place the pork in a Dutch oven or deep-lidded roaster just big enough to hold the roast snugly. Scatter the garlic cloves around the roast. Place a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot, then press the lid down securely. Alternatively, wrap the meat in a tightly sealed foil package (make sure the seam is at the top so the juices don’t leak out) and place the package in an ovenproof skillet or casserole.
3. Roast the meat. Roast the pork until very tender and practically falling apart, 3 3/4 to 4 hours. Transfer the roast to a platter and cover with foil.
4. Defat the roasting juices. Pour the juices into a sauceboat and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Spoon off the fat that has risen to the top.
5. Serve the meat. Pull the meat apart with two forks or your hands. Pour some of the juices over and pass the rest. Save any remaining juices for heating up leftovers.
Mole-Inspired Seasoning with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa
makes about 1/3 cup
In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder or sweet pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika), 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.