Donald Link's pork shoulder in his new cookbook Down South is a fine example of his approach to Southern tradition. The pork is roasted and braised in a lower-than-low oven—the best possible way to turn a tough cut of pork into a succulent delicacy. Enhancing the pork doesn't take much.
Here Link adds thin slices of kumquats (you could use any citrus really), jalapeños, and garlic to slits made in the shoulder, giving each element an opportunity to subtly infuse the meat. He seasons the shoulder with an easy rub made of paprika, coriander, sugar, and salt and then lets it cook gently atop a bed of onions for the better part of the day. Water and a foil covering are added partially through roasting to lend moisture and steam. What emerges from the oven after eight-plus hours is a roast so tender that the merest touch of a fork causes the pork to collapse into itself.
Why I picked this recipe: Did you really think I would cook Southern and skip a pork roast?
What worked: This pork roast is a perfect dish for entertaining—it's easy to throw together and then is almost entirely hands-off. Plus, the kumquats and chilies lend it both festive flair and bright acidity to counter the rich pork.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: You could certainly use a bone-in shoulder if you'd like. It might need a little more time, it might not. If you can't find kumquats, you could use small oranges or limes in their place.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.