Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Momofuku's Pulled Pork

It was a lazy Saturday morning. The bigger half was at work, and I hadn't a thing on my agenda for the day beyond tidying up and relaxing. And of course, Sunday dinner. So with time on my side, and a crack-like habit to consume all things swine, I started scouring the interwebs for a proper pulled pork recipe.
Unfortunately, tons of these recipes center on the use of a slow cooker and a bottle of shitty barbecue sauce. There's nothing wrong with either of these things. However, when cooking pulled pork in a puddle of sugar and ketchup, you end up with something that does not properly render all the fat into a pronounced, concentrated pork flavor. In fact, it's mushy. People who love barbecue sauce love these recipes, singing the praises of a crock-pot to the high heavens. As you can guess, I think these recipes blow wicked hard. 
4.5 lb pork shoulder
But in a land of crappy recipes, there are a number of chefs and publications that do things right. I turn to chefs like Martin Picard and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for techniques that will do right by meat. In this case, a fantastic, simple and straightforward recipe presented itself, a wonderful little ditty from David Chang as published in the first issue of Lucky Peach. This is Momofuku's pulled pork.
So after stopping by my local butcher, the ever reliable New England Meat Market in Peabody, I arrived home with about a 4 1/2 lb pork shoulder. The recipe was simple, requiring a stint overnight in the fridge after rubbing with a mixture of salt, sugar and pepper. I combined approximately five tablespoons of salt, five tablespoons of sugar, and a good teaspoon of cracked pepper and proceeded to rub all over my precious pork. Onto a sheet pan, covered with plastic wrap and into the fridge overnight went the meat.
Into the dutch oven
Late the next morning, I threw my dutch oven into the actual oven and preheated to about 425 degrees. In went the pork for a half hour, and then I reduced the temperature to 250 to slowly cook over the next six hours. The bigger half came home from work, a fork was stuck into the butt, and the tender strands of slowly rendered protein pulled apart to reveal something prettier than the Mona Lisa (what a coy bitch). 
Succulent pulled pork
Now when I say this pork was tender, easily pulled apart, and intensely savory, I speak the truth. It was delicious and simple. Remember, there was no sauce, only the most basic of seasonings, and a well spent chunk of time allowing the meat to soak up the salt and sugar, and in turn roast and roast and roast to produce something truly special. Every bite was delicious, juicy, tender and packed with pork flavor. I don't think I could do any better with any addition of sauce or spices. It made for a wonderful meal on a Sunday night, complemented by a serving of arroz blanco and a simple fresh salsa of onions, green bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and the necessary lime, salt and pepper. Oh, and the following day we had pulled pork tacos with guac, salsa, limes and cilantro. How awesome is that? One hell of a recipe.

With salsa and white rice

Boneless pork shoulder
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of pork
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar per pound of pork 
black pepper

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