The issue of keeping food costs down when trying to eat a local, sustainable and ethical diet is a real one. It is interesting however to note that Americans spend only around 10% of their income on food, and we spend 40% of those dollars eating out, while other nations spend at least double if not more. What these statistics point out is the importance of the actual food ingredients to each country and the cultural value of the meal itself. I believe we Americans need to commit more of our income to whole fresh foods and more of our time making them.
Taking eating less meat as a given in controlling costs, another easy way to keep food costs down is to buy larger portions of not as popular meat cuts like the pork shoulder. Most butchers use the pork shoulder to make sausages. But at my local butcher a fresh pig shoulder was running 1.59 a pound, which is pretty incredible for New York, and would be even cheaper in other places. My butcher doesn’t sell the shoulder in portions, it’s the entire thing or not at all, which depending on the pig is anywhere from 8-10 pounds. I had already planned several recipes to make with the meat and wanted to do a slow roast because having never done one before, and by slow I mean sloooooow, the 8-12 hour range. I knew I wanted to make banh mi, pork stuffed buns and a Vietnamese soup. The rest I was going to freeze in portions allowing me quick access for those, “Oh, crap what am I going to cook for dinner moments.”
Other than the time involved this is super easy, like roasting a chicken. After reading several recipes and relying on my cooking instincts this is how I roasted the pork shoulder. I will say I kept the flavors very basic because I wanted the meat versatile for a variety of dishes.
7 hour Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
1 8-10 pound pork shoulder bone in and skin on
3 medium yellow onions quartered
4 carrots cut in large chunks
4 celery stalks
1 bulb of garlic in cloves, then smash with your knife to break them open no need for anything fancy
10 bay leaves
small handful of thyme washed but not picked
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 ½ cups homemade chicken stock
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Place the rinsed and patted dry pork shoulder on a dry cutting board. Take a small sharp knife and use the tip to score the skin about every ½ inch. I just did vertical cuts. You want to cut through the skin and into the fat but not all the way to the flesh. I cut too deep in a couple of places but it was fine. Take salt and rub it into the cuts you just made. Turn the shoulder over and season the bottom (non-skin side) with salt and fresh ground pepper. Turn back over so the scored skin side is up place on a rack in a roasting pan and put into the oven. Roast for 45 minutes. The skin will start to puff up. Take the pan out of the oven. Turn the heat down to 300 F. Cover the roast with aluminum foil and put back into the oven for 4 hours.
Take the roast out of the oven and remove the foil, take the roast out of the pan and put on a cutting board. Drain most of the fat and juices out of the pan into a bowl leaving about a 1/2 cup in the pan, add the carrots, onion, celery, bay leaves and thyme and toss in the juices. Put the roast back on the rack in the pan, baste with another ½ cup of the juices and put back into the oven for another 1 ½ hours to 2 hours. When the top is a nice dark rich brown and you can take two forks and pull the meat apart the roast is done. Put the roast on a cutting board and let it cool off. Now, if you want cracklings you may need to cut the skin into bite sized pieces and put back into the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the roasting pan with the juices, and vegetables on a burner, the juices should add up to 2 ½ cups. Add the homemade chicken stock to get to that amount and bring the juices and veggies to a boil, allow to simmer for 7 minutes stirring and scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Strain the juice through a colander into a bowl. And voilà gravy. Of course you can serve it like this, for a large group of people. I however had other plans.
One summer when I was working at Rockefeller Center I had a friend Mof, who would bring me banh mi from a piece of heaven disguised as a sandwich shop somewhere in Brooklyn when I was really, really good. They came to me wrapped in foil, somehow the veggies were sharp, crisp and fresh while the meat and bread was warm and comforting. I’ve wanted to learn to make my own ever since. This was my first shot, and they were everything I remembered.
1/2 cup julienned carrots
½ cup julienned cucumbers
1 red ahaheim pepper sliced very thin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon cane sugar
small handful picked cilantro leaves, around 4 teaspoons
6 ounces warm shredded pork meat
1 fresh baguette warm, but not toasted
mayonnaise or fresh aioli (recipe below)
Take the carrot, cucumber and pepper and place in bowl. Mix the vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar in a bowl and once the sugar has dissolved, pour over the veggies. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes, just long enough for the veggies to pick up a nice pickled flavor. While the veggies are doing their thing make your aioli. To finish your sandwich, spread the aioli or mayonnaise on the fresh baguette. Sprinkle one side of the bread with the cilantro sprinkle the other side with shredded pork. Take the cucumbers, peppers, carrots out of the marinade and layer between cilantro and pork. Add a touch more aioli and try to eat just one.
1 egg yolk
¾ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove (you can add as many as 3)
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Take the garlic and put it in a food processor and whiz to a paste add the, egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice and blend well. Take out of processor and put in a bowl. In a slow stream add the olive oil while continuously whisking. Once the oil fully blended add salt and pepper.