Oh, honey. Sit down for a minute and let me tell you about this roast pork. The juicy, well-seasoned, flavorful meat. The woodsy bits of herbs and crispy, unctuous, oh-dear-Lord cracklings. (I mean, come on. Cracklings.) Your butcher will do most of the work (de-boning and scoring the skin so it’ll crisp), you just slap on some salt and a herb rub, and you’re ready for a Sunday night supper of the highest order. (It’s even a cinch to carve.) If you aren’t having the entire family over, buy a smaller shoulder, maybe three pounds or so, and follow along as is. (Use leftovers for bánh mì sandwiches on Monday. Yes!)
This recipe should take your pork right between medium-rare and medium, blushed with pink in its interior and wonderfully juicy throughout. Take it out a little sooner or later depending on your preference, but there’s no need to cook pork to well-done these days. When cooked at a moderate temperature, the shoulder is a forgiving cut; the ample connective tissue melts into the meat and helps keep it juicy within a range of about 30 degrees. Roast skin-side up, so that gorgeous layer of creamy fat beneath bastes the roast while it cooks. (Sigh.) New favorite recipe, friends.
- 6 lb boneless pork shoulder, skin intact and scored
- one generous tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
- 1/3 C flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 C Pecorino Romano or Parmigina-Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 C + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 C chicken stock (optional)
- kitchen twine
Ask your butcher to score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern or strips about 1/4″ apart. (You can do this yourself with a very sharp utility knife or razor blade, just be careful not to cut all the way into the meat or into your hands; aim for slicing halfway through the creamy white fat.) When you get home, salt the pork with a generous tablespoon of kosher salt, including the skin and the flap where the bone used to be. (I strongly recommend salting the pork the night before or at least several hours ahead.)
In a bowl or small lidded jar, add the herbs, cheese, mustard and olive oil and shake or mix to combine into a paste. Smear the herb paste all over the pork, inside and out. With several lengths of kitchen twine, tie into a squat package. Let rest and marinate in the fridge until needed. (You can also do this the night before.)
Let the pork come to room temperature 1 1/2 hours before cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pork in a roasting pan, skin side up, and roast for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and cook for about 2 hours, until the thickest part reaches about 140 degrees. Let rest for 10-15 minutes without covering to keep the cracklings crisp.
To serve the pan juices (optional), remove the roasting rack and pour off the clear fat from the roasting pan, reserving any dark pan juices (there won’t be much). Heat the pan over medium heat and add 3/4 cup of chicken stock or apple juice (or a combination), scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan until the liquid reduces by half. Set aside.
After it’s rested, remove the twine from the pork and use a carving knife to slice away the top layer of fat and cracklings. (If they’re crisp, peel them off the fat and add the cracklings to your serving platter.) Carve against the grain in 1/4 – 1/2″ slices and serve with the pan juices.
Note: a full boneless pork shoulder averages about 10-12 pounds, depending on the pig; your butcher will cut it down to a more serviceable size and remove the bone. If it’s from the lower portion of the shoulder, the cut I used for this recipe, it may be labeled as “picnic shoulder”. If your cut is from the top portion of the shoulder (“Boston butt” or “pork butt” or “blade roast”) it may take a little longer to cook. As always, buy the very best humanely-raised meat you can afford; the difference in flavor is worth the splurge.