Sometimes you see things on sale and they are just too good to pass up. On a Sunday afternoon at a local market, there were these beautiful pork shoulder (sometimes called a “pork butt”) roasts at a great price. How could I resist? The only thing was, these roasts are often best cooked at a low temperature for hours and hours – but we wanted to have it that night for dinner! So I got to thinking about what we could make by cooking this for a couple of hours.
It’s in part because of the Polish in me, but there is something about the taste of pork that I just love. It can be succulent, flavorful and moist. But we’ve all experienced dry, tasteless pork from time to time. Pork loins, especially, are very lean. While there are many benefits to the lean meat, they can easily overcook and become so dried out that no amount of gravy can redeem. This is why, if I have the time, I always go for the shoulder/butt roast. Sure, it contains a lot more fat, but it holds up to longer cooking times and generally delivers better on flavor.
We decided on three different ways to enjoy out pork roast. First, sliced roast pork with gravy made from the wonderful drippings left behind in the roasting dish. Second, we would shred part of the roast into small bite-sized pieces and then use those to make BBQ pork sandwiches. Finally, there was a bunch of corn tortillas to use up, so we would chop up some toppings and have the makings for pork tacos.
I set the 4.5lb roast out for about an hour before starting the cooking. During this time I put together a rub for the outside of the roast using some of our favorite spices:
2 TBSP Kosher salt
1 TBSP black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika (you could use hot or sweet paprika instead)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp thyme
Making rubs is a creative way to blend your favorite seasoning together. Some spices/herbs go better with certain meats, but I generally use those I like best. I rubbed all the surface areas of the roast with the rub mixture and heated a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Once the oil was hot, I browned each side of the roast and then transferred it to a roasting rack in a baking dish.
Now Ralph doesn’t own a roasting rack – I have about 10 of them. So, I fashioned one out of a big piece of aluminum foil and it made due. I covered the roast with foil and put it in a preheated 325 degree oven for 2 – 2 ½ hours.
This is also a great exercise if you want to do nothing more than make your house smell wonderful! Regardless, after removing the roast from the oven uncover it (carefully – there will be a lot of steam) and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes.
I pour off the dripping from the bottom of the roasting pan into a measuring cup. As it cools, the fat will rise to the top. I use the pork fat with some flour to create a roux, and then add the rest of the drippings in to make my gravy. If I find the gravy too thick, I’ll thin it out with a little chicken stock or white wine.
After the roast has rested you can get to slicing. Now you could slice the whole thing if you just wanted to serve roast pork and gravy as the main course. Leftover sliced pork is also excellent sandwich making material, so none of it would go to waste. Since we had plans for three different dishes, I sliced about half the roast. The other half I took apart (with my hands) into small pieces. If you just wanted to do BBQ pork sandwiches, you could take the entire roast apart, put it in a slow cooker, add your favorite sauce, and have delicious hot sandwiches for your Super Bowl party. We probably could have eaten the whole thing via tacos, because we love well-made tacos simultaneously present a complexity of flavors yet with a simple and straightforward delivery. It’s all good!
We chopped up some tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lettuce and lime for the taco topping. I heated up some of my favorite sauce in a small skillet and added the pork pieces. Within moments we were enjoying roasted pork in three different, yet delicious ways!