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.
Reprinted with permission from Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything by Donald Link with Paula Disbrowe. Copyright 2014. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 8
- Active time: 15 minutes
- Total time:8 1/2 to 9 hours
- 1 (6-pound) boneless pork shoulder
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup thinly sliced kumquats
- 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4 jalapeños, thinly sliced into rounds
- 2 onions, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
Heat the oven to 300ºF. Using a chef’s knife, make a series of 1-inch incisions on both sides of the shoulder (there should be about 15 per side).
Combine the salt, coriander, paprika, and sugar in a small bowl and use it to evenly season the pork, making sure to include the inside cavity where the bone was. Work the kumquats, garlic, and jalapeños into the center cavity and the incisions, massaging in the seasonings as you go.
Evenly cover the bottom of a large shallow roasting pan with the sliced onions. Put the shoulder on the onions and transfer to the oven. Roast, basting the pork with the fat and juices that collect in the pan, until the meat is very tender and caramelized, about 1 1/2 hours.
Reduce the oven temperature to 275ºF, add 4 cups water to the pan, and cover the pork with foil. Bake for 7 more hours, until the pork is fork tender.
Remove the pork from the pan and pour all the pan juices and scrapings into a saucepan. Skim the fat from the top and simmer over medium heat to reduce the liquid by half.
Serve the pork on a platter (it will be very tender and will likely pull apart into pieces) with the reduced sauce poured over the top.