"If you can plan ahead two days in the kitchen, rather than just for tonight, you can go a long way toward saving tons of money -- just by avoiding those urges to go out and buy convenience food."
--Matt and Ted Lee on eating well for less
When people ask what advice we'd give to aspiring food writers, the first thing we say is, Know how to cook a pork shoulder. Without fail, they laugh at that advice, but we couldn't be more serious; our Sunday night shoulders have gotten us through the lean weeks with style.
Everyone who's ever been seriously low on cash and who loves good food knows the cut of pork called the picnic shoulder. It is the bottom part of the shoulder and encompasses much of the bone and joint, so it's perceived to be neither as meaty nor as choice as the top of the shoulder (called the Boston butt). Picnic shoulder is rarely more than a dollar and a half per pound and sometimes half that.
We adore the picnic shoulder. It's got unctuous dark-meat bits and also parts that are as sliceable and presentable as loin. Braise it and the fat just melts away. And the leftovers! Even though it feeds a great crowd, we cook one often on Sundays just to have some around for the work week, because it keeps on giving and giving. Hence the number of variations and killer leftover suggestions we've provided here.
LUAU-STYLE BBQED PORK SHOULDER
We're convinced Hawai'i is actually a cultural part of the south. Think about it: 1) Elvis made it big there, 2) boiled peanuts are big there, and 3) the trophy dish of the luau is a smoky, pit-cooked whole hog. Called kalua pig, the hog is wrapped in taro and banana leaves and set in an oven dug in the ground and lined with volcanic rock.
We developed this recipe for a smoky pork shoulder wrapped in collard greens when we were in Charleston and dreaming ofthe Aloha State. We were thrilled with the results. Like barbecue, kalua pig has a smoky pork flavor, but banana and taro leaves give it the herbal, stewed flavor of simmering greens. The collard greens in our recipe accomplish the same feat, and even if you've never been to Hawai'i, you'll find this pork shoulder to be a revelation.
For 8 people
TIME: 4½ hours
One 6-8 pound pork picnic shoulder
1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
12 large collard leaves (about 1 large bunch), stems trimmed
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Set the pork skin side up on your work surface. With a sharp knife, slice the skin from the shoulder with a gentle sawing motion,working back from the point diagonally across from the leg end where the skin forms a corner (asking your butcher to do this for you will save time). Leave a thin layer offat on the shoulder. Score the shoulder all over with cuts about 1½ inches apart. Mix the paprikaand salt in a small bowl and rub the mixture all over the pork,making certain to rub it into all the crevices.
Cut six 3-foot lengths of string and lay four of them on your work surface in parallel lines about 3 inches apart. Center the remaining two, perpendicular to the others. Make a large rectangular blanket of collard greens over the strings by laying down 3 leaves in a line,their stems facing down and their edges overlapping 1 inch or more. Lay down 3 more leaves in the same way, with their stems facing up,and overlapping the stems of the row already on the work surface. At each end of this layer ofleaves, position more leaves (2 at most), with their stem ends perpendicular to the stems already on the work surface. Lay the scored, seasoned pork in the center of the blanket and wrap the leaves around it, securing them with the string. Trim the ends of the string. Then wrap the pork in two layers of aluminum foil.
Pour ½ inch water in a 9-x-13-inch roasting pan. Place the pork on a rack in the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 450 degrees and bake for 3 more hours, adding more water to the pan when it becomes dry.
Remove the pork from the oven and transfer to a work surface, still on the rack. Pour the water from the pan, return the rack and shoulder to the pan, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice vents in the bottom of the aluminum foil so the juices drain into the pan. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let cool. Unwrap the aluminum foil and cut the string. Unwrap the collard greens and discard.
Pull the pork from the bone and serve with spoonfuls of the pan juices and a cruet of Pepper Vinegar.