I got so carried away the other day describing my newfound love of all things Mediterranean that I never really discussed what made the cooking method of that pork shoulder so special. You guys all know that I am a low and slow girl. I’ll be the first to admit that when I first read Paula Wolfert’s recipe in The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook, I was highly skeptical that the pork would truly be tender. In the past many famous chefs and cookbooks authors have advised cooking tough cuts of meat like the pork shoulder or the beef chuck for less than 3 hours—and never once have I been satisfied with it. In a traditional braise (which Wolfert’s method is not), under 2 hours does not produce, to my mind, a truly falling apart tender hunk of meat. Or more to the point, it does produce a true hunk of meat, one that can still be sliced, which is not really my definition of “falling apart.”
The point being I just was not sure how much I was going to like pork shoulder that was simmered in water and then chopped, fried, and simmered briskly.
It was genius. The pork was completely tender and so deliciously, well, pork-y. I immediately started plotting other ways that I could use the same cooking method but with other flavors.
The chopped pork, after simmering.
The original intention was to wait a while, but John and I had a misunderstanding and instead of placing the still frozen other half of the pork shoulder back in the freezer, he placed it in the fridge where it thawed completely. Yikes. So now I needed a pork shoulder recipe and fast.
I decided to use the same cooking method but with Mexican flavors. I used dried Mexican chile peppers, dried Scarlet Runner beans from Rancho Gordo and added bell pepper and zucchini to the mix. Then, I was in the process of transferring the dish to the casserole when suddenly I realized the dish smelled so much like tacos al pastor that it simply had to have pineapple. To have not had pineapple in this dish I think would have caused the dish to be brutally disappointing, it smelled so much tacos al pastor. Luckily I had canned pineapple—one of the few canned fruits or veggies I keep around—and in went the pineapples with some of the juice. And it was perfect. We ate this one without rice and I loved every single slurp.
Scooping out frozen bacon grease.
- 2 cups dried beans of choice I used scarlet runners from Rancho Gordo
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb boneless pork shoulder cut into 2-3 large pieces
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 sweet bell pepper chopped
- 1 large (or 2 small) zucchini halves and then sliced into half-moons
- 1 1/2 T dried ancho pepper
- 2 t dried New Mexico Chile Pepper
- 1 t to taste dried chipotle pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 T ground cumin
- 2 t Mexican oregano
- 1 12 oz bottle Mexican lager beer
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced
- approx. 16 oz fresh or canned pineapple--reserve all juice if fresh, some juice if canned
- 1/4-1/2 cup bacon grease or lard I keep bacon grease in my freezer
Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Although I am not normally a huge fan of soaking (especially because I use super fresh beans from places like Rancho Gordo), I think it is important in this dish as you will not be just straight cooking the beans like normal.
The next day, place the beans in a large pot with their water--add enough additional water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, skimming the foam, and add one bay leaf and 1/2 of an onion, chopped. Cover and let very gently simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy.
In the meantime, place the meat in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add the other bay leaf and bring to a boil. Skim the foam and reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Let cook for about 60 minutes at a very slow simmer (if you simmer it harder, remove at about 30 minutes). I like lower and slower.
Remove the meat, reserving the cooking broth, and set aside to cool. Boil the remained broth down to 1/2 cup.
Drain the beans, reserving about 1 cup of the bean broth. Set both aside.
Cut the pork into 1/2-inch pieces--it should be juicy and barely cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
While the pork broth is reducing, heat a large, straight-sided skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon grease (you can use 50% oil if the grease bothers you). When it is hot, add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add the pork and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes, then add the beans. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the dried chile powders and cumin. Crumble the oregano in. Cook for 1 minute. Add the beer and reduced pork broth with a scant teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes. If it seems to have too little liquid, add some reserved bean broth.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Add some fresh ground black pepper. Taste the beans for additional seasoning, but note that the broth will be decidedly beer-y at this point; this will mellow after baking. Mix in the chopped bell pepper, zucchini, pineapple and the pineapple juice.
Place the pork and beans with the veggies into a baking dish (2 1/2 qt). Bake for 45 minutes, during which time a lot of the liquid will cook off (if it cooks off before the 45 minute mark, take it out then). My liquid never completely cooked off, so I served it as a delicious stew. My family enjoyed crumbling tortilla chips into it.
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