This picture might look strange – even unappetizing – but do not be afraid.
We lucked out when we moved into our house four years ago. Most of our neighbors are around our age, and some of them even went to high school and college with my husband or we know them from our professional settings. Every other month we meet with two other families of the college/accounting group, cook and eat a great meal, and play with their adorable little girls. On previous gatherings, we made French and Mexican inspired feasts. This time we planned a “Christmas in July” menu around one of PR’s best known culinary traditions: roast pork shoulder (pernil).
The weekend before our gathering, our hostess called me to ask if I wanted to see how she prepped and seasoned the pernil. Armed with an electric knife, Rebeca separated the skin from the meat and trimmed off the excess fat to (1) make room for the garlicky marinade and (2) allow the skin to turn into succulent pork rinds. The skin would crisp otherwise, but not into the crunchy bubbly top you see here. The marinade recipe came from a photocopy tacked to the back of her copy of Cocina Criolla. I believe every household in PR not only has a battered copy of Cocina Criolla, but it is probably overstuffed with recipes cut-out from newspapers or product labels and copied from friends.
Puerto Rican Pernil Roast Pork Marinade
(For a 6-7 pound pernil – adjust accordingly)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 6 medium to large cloves of garlic
- 10 black peppercorns or 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 ground oregano
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until a thick paste is formed. With an electric knife (or a boatload of patience), trim the pork fat from one end of the pernil, allowing it to remain attached from one side. You should be able to lift the skin and place it back on top of the shoulder roast. Cover the meat and the skin with the marinade. The pork should be marinated at least one full day before roasting in the oven to ensure the flavors infuse the meat.
Preheat the oven at 275°F. In order to maintain the meat moist, place a baking dish filled with water in a lower grate of the oven and refill as the liquid evaporates. When the oven is ready, roast the pernil for two hours. The skin should just be beginning to crisp at this time. After the two hours have ellapsed, bump up the temperature to 350°F and continue roasting for one more hour, until the skin is completely crispy and the internal temperature reaches 170°F to 180°F.
We paired the pork with traditional guineitos en escabeche (pickled green bananas), a not so traditional cava-infused risotto, and salad with a homemade mango dressing. I got to take it easy this time and brought a batch of Dorie Greenspan’s Cheese-It-Ish Crackers (made with smoked gouda), and a batch of cinnamon ice cream to go with mini apple turnovers prepared by our hostess. As it usually happens, we left stuffed, a bit tipsy, and with our next date scheduled. It will be our turn to host and we’re taking out the paella pan!
** Fear not, sweet Doristas! My post on the Coconut Lemongrass Braised Pork is coming up soon. Last weekend was a very porky one! **