Slow-Roasted Pork with Crunchy Skin and Chimichurri Sauce / by Amy Cantu

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When faced with a very large, beautiful, bone-in, skin-on, fatty beast of a pork shoulder, do not be afraid. Revel in awe in its size, richness, and sacrifice to our privileged bellies. I gathered up my courage and treated this beast the best way I know how - with love and simplicity. I love pork so much. I especially love this slow-roasted, juicy, succulent, messy, pork shoulder complete with its crunchy, puffy, crackling skin. I really can't fully describe the love, joy, and pure elation that Cynthia and I felt, as we pulled this meat into thick shreds. I honestly just felt thankful. Thankful for the plentiful gifts of the pig. Thankful to have Cynthia to share it with. Thankful that Father's Day gave us an excuse to roast such a beast. As for the simplicity, just salt and pepper season this pork to allow all of its sweet, meaty flavor to shine through. I served it next to a bowl of bright green, tangy Chimichurri Sauce to cut through some of the pork's richness and contrast the slow-roasted flavors with fresh herbs. Even now, I breathe a deep, happy sigh at the thought of it.

Notes: I bought my pork from a butcher, so I asked for the skin to be scored and the meat tied (what you see in the photos below).  It never hurts to ask if the meat counter will do the same! Scoring the skin encourages crunchy pork skin (or pork rind), and it looks pretty. Tying the meat helps the roast keep its shape for even cooking. All of that said, it’s not totally necessary to score and tie the roast for great results, so don’t sweat it if you don’t feel like the hassle.
To score the skin on your own, use a really sharp knife or a clean box cutter to cut a diamond pattern into the skin. The cuts should go through the skin and into the fat, but not the meat. (See photos below for an example.)
No need to get fancy with tying the meat. Just use kitchen twine and tie the meat in 2-inch intervals. If you want to learn how to tie butcher knots, you can Google lots of tutorials.

This recipe is very simple and straightforward, but do notice that the cooking time has a wide range for a couple different reasons. 1) The time it takes for the meat to achieve the soft, shredding stage depends on the amount of fat and connective tissue. A thermometer is not super helpful here – check it with a fork to see if the meat is soft and giving. 2) This is a two-step process: Once the meat is cooked, the pork comes out of the oven to rest for at least 15 minutes, before going back into a very hot oven for another 20 minutes or so to crisp up the skin to its proper crunchy glory.

The seasoning on this pork roast is deliberately simple to allow for limitless options in the pork’s destiny. I have included a recipe for Chimichurri Sauce, which Cynthia and I used to judiciously dunk thick shreds of pork with our greasy fingers. (Forks were just getting in our way!) We also devoured Cynthia's Pork and Broccolini Sandwich made with this pork - so amazing. My family made various fun tacos with the leftover meat throughout the week. To reheat the meat, crisp the meat in either a hot pan (no extra oil needed), or in an oven/toaster oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. Some ideas: dollops of Pico de Gallo and Guacamole, topped with Harissa and plain yogurt, drizzled with spicy Korean Bi Bim Bap sauce, and heaped with Thai Cucumber-Peanut Relish. The pork recipe comes from the venerable Serious Eats, which has its own fun list of suggested sauces.

Time: 8-12 hours
Servings: 8-12
1 whole bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder, 8-12 pounds
Kosher salt
Black pepper, freshly ground

Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a rimmed baking sheeting with heavy-duty aluminum foil and set a wire rack inside it. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the wire rack. (This prevents the pork from sticking to the wire rack.)
Optional: Score pork skin with a diamond pattern, using a very sharp knife or clean box cutter - cut through the skin and into the fat layer. Tie the meat in 2-inch intervals using kitchen twine.

Season the pork all over with a liberal shower of salt and pepper. Place skin-side up on top of the parchment paper.

Roast in the oven for 8-10 hours. Start checking for doneness at 8 hours, by twisting a fork into the meat – the fork should be met with little resistance.

Remove pork from oven, and let rest for 15 minutes and up to 2 hours with a piece of foil tented over it.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. If the roast was tied, remove the string. Return the pork to the oven to crisp the skin.  Rotate the sheetpan every 5 minutes, for a total of about 20 minutes. The skin should be puffy and blistered, and you should be completely beside yourself with glee at this point!

Tame your beating heart, tent the pork with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. (And by serving, I really mean tearing into the meat and crunchy skin with your fingers and dunking the juicy morsels into your sauce of choice – see Notes.)

Recipe very slightly adapted from Serious Eats.

Chimichurri Sauce

½ cup packed fresh parsley leaves, washed and dried
½ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, washed and dried
5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
½ shallot, roughly chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together parsley, cilantro, garlic, oregano, shallot, vinegar, salt, and pepper flakes until roughly chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, until just combined. Drizzle a little extra oil, if sauce seems too thick. Do not over-process – you should still see distinct flecks of herbs.

Alternatively, finely chop the herbs, garlic, and shallot. Combine chopped aromatics with vinegar, salt, and pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Whisk in olive oil, drizzling in extra if the sauce seems too thick. 

Use immediately or store up to 2 days in the refrigerator. (Also makes a great marinade.)