Braised Pork Shoulder with Chiles & Cinnamon
In my excitement to braise something, anything over the past freezing weekend, I got a little carried away and bought an 8-pound boneless pork shoulder…
…for four people, one of whom (Nathan) is hardly ever home and one of whom (my mom) has barely an appetite.
But guess what? It’s almost gone! I cut the roast in two, braised half, and grilled the other half long and slow. I served the braised half to our friend Marty, as well as Stacey and Cooper, for family dinner on Sunday night. I sliced the other half and gave some to Stacey, and made sandwiches for Mom and Nathan, and then nachos for Nathan, and about 50 snacks for myself…
And just like that, we’ll finish off the last bit in some sort of hash tonight.
What am I trying to say? That I’m excessive in oh so many ways? No, although of course that’s true. My point is that the versatility of braised meat is just endless! Braise on Sunday, with very little effort, and have several easy meals all week. It’s cheap, delicious, and damn good fun.
The pic up top is the braised version, on polenta, with tomato jam, and finished with bits of crispy guanciale (cured pork jowl) gifted to me by my friend Joy Summers. She visited Mom and me last week and brought me the guanciale plus a pound of Hope Creamery butter. There is love.
Round II goes to the tacos. Crisp pork in a skillet, in its own fat (not exactly carnitas, but same effect, as in kill-me good), wrap in warm corn tortillas with your favorite taco garnishes. Yah.
Pork Shoulder Braised with Chiles and Cinnamon
Serves 4 (twice!)
*Note: I’ve paired this recipe down to its essence. I don’t skim the fat from the pan juices because I like to store the pork with its fat to keep it from drying out. The only thing I don’t puree into the sauce is the cinnamon stick. This tastes great the day you make it, but even better the next day(s).
4 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 Tbs. bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 tsp. each cumin and coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 dried chiles, stems pull off, roughly chopped (dried ancho, New Mexico, chiles de arbol, and guajillo chiles are all easy to find; dried chipotles are smoked which adds a nice flavor as well; read the package to determine heat level)
2 c. chicken stock or water
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Sprinkle pork pieces evenly with Kosher salt.
Heat a Dutch oven (or use a deep casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When it’s hot, add two of the pork pieces. Brown thoroughly on all sides—don’t rush this step. Take the time to let each side achieve a nice brown crust. When the pieces are browned, transfer them to a plate and brown the other two pieces. Add them to the plate as well and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, cumin and coriander, cinnamon stick, and chiles. Stir around for a few minutes, then pour in the chicken stock. Arrange the pork pieces on top of the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to the oven.
Bake the pork for 2-3 hours, or until it’s very tender and pulls apart easily. Remove from the oven and transfer pork to a cutting board. Let cool while you finish the sauce. Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan and discard. With an immersion blender, puree the pan juices in the pan until mostly smooth. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and keep warm.
Pull the pork apart into bite-sized pieces and add them back to the pan. Serve the pork warm with pan juices. Store the pork and juices together in the refrigerator, tightly covered, in a narrow enough container to ensure the pork is covered with pan juices. Reheat slowly together in a saucepan, or fry pieces of the pork in a hot skillet until crispy.