I’ve got another savory pause for you all today. If you liked my last post for Dominican Seasoning , you are going to LOVE this one.
In my familia, nothing says celebration like Pernil, or Dominican Roast Pork Shoulder. Growing up, we made turkey on Thanksgiving only because we were in the US and that’s what we were “supposed to do”. But no one paid much attention to it because there was usually pernil right next to it, which, in my humble opinion,was and will always be a zillion times better. And while most associate it with the holidays, at my house, just about any excuse is a good one to indulge in this Latin delicacy.
Dominicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans (or Caribbean Latinos) all have their own way of preparing pernil. On the islands, it is usually prepared as part of a whole pig roasting on a spit. Another method that I’m fascinated with is used by Cubans whereby they roast an entire pig inside a box called La Caja China. But no worries as this method uses your stove-top and the oven to give you a little piece of Latino heaven.
I almost feel guilty about giving you this recipe. And that’s because this is so easy to prepare. No seriously – it really is. The base of it is this seasoning. Once you have that, the rest is a cinch.
So you start off with a pork shoulder, which is a pretty inexpensive cut of meat. It’s got a large bone running through the middle and a beautiful layer of fat on top. (Yes, fat is beautiful!) And whatever you do not trim any of that fat off. A good portion of it renders during the cooking process and is what helps the meat, which cooks low and slooooow, stay beautifully moist. Eventually what is left of the skin forms a hard shell that EVERYONE will fight over. I actually exercise cautious supervision when I make this for a large crowd to make sure folks aren’t getting greedy with the crunchy skin.
To season, take your marinade and rub it all over the meat. Make incisions into the meat on every side and use your fingers to get some of the marinade in there too. Once you’re done, stick it in a heavy bottom pot and let it marinate overnight. Where my method differs from most others is that I start the cooking process on top of the stove. Depending on the size of your shoulder, it can cook from 5-9 hours. While necessary, it’s a long time, which can sometimes result in a juicy exterior but dry interior, which is no bueno. In essence that I do is steam in on top of the stove, which will result super moist and fork tender meat. Then, I roast it uncovered in the oven to help caramelize all of the flavors and make that skin get extra crunchy and delicious. When it’s finished it looks and tastes like a million bucks but the stove and the oven do all the work.
People often make references to materials items they would want to be buried with when they die. If given a choice, this chica wants to be buried alongside of plate piled high with pernil. I can’t think of very many things that taste better than it.
Pernil (Dominican Roast Pork Shoulder)
2/3 cup Dominican Seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground oregano
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
4.25 pound pork shoulder
Combine Dominican Seasoning, black pepper, oregano, 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt and the juice of half a lime and set aside.
To clean the shoulder - rinse off the shoulder under cold water. Sprinkle half of the remaining salt all over the fat side along with the juice of half a lime. Rub the salt-lime mixture all over with your hands. Repeat on the other side. Then rinse off all the salt lime mixture with cold water.
To season - use a sharp knife to poke holes all over the shoulder. Place the shoulder in a large heavy bottom pot. Then take the marinade and rub all over the meat. Using your fingers make sure some of the marinade seeps into the incisions. Once the marinade have been evenly distributed all over the meat, pour the juice of one lime over the top. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator 12-24 hours.
Let the shoulder sit on the counter for one hour before cooking. Then let cook/steam in the covered pot over low heat for 3 hours on top of the stove. Transfer to a roasting pan and pour half of the juice left in the pot over the shoulder. Then transfer to an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Roast in the oven for 3 hours. Check every hour and baste only the meat with some of the juice left in the pot (to make sure your skin remains crunchy).
Your shoulder is done with the meat pulls away from the interior bone. You can also check for doneness by inserting a table knife into the meat the check for tenderness.
Let sit for about 10-15 minutes before shredding and serving.