Perfecting a pork roast, like slow cooking, takes some time. It’s moments like these when I like to consider myself a pit master in training.
Straight out of the oven, I served the roast with a corn and ham pudding and green salad. But, as you’ll soon find out, I made enough to feed an army. So I’m freezing a good bit of what remains to use in a couple weeks for some mean pulled pork sandwiches. Stay tuned!
Braised Pork Shoulder with Apple Cider, Thyme and Tomatoes
If there’s just two of you, I hope you’re creative with leftovers
4-5 lb. pork shoulder, bone-in or boneless
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
1 large onion, sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups canned tomatoes, drained
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups apple cider
Heat enough oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to sear pork shoulder. Generously season meat with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. When the oil is hissing and sizzles as soon as you drop something it in, add meat and brown well on each side. This will take about 20 minutes. Once the pork is seared all around, transfer it to a plate and pour off all but a few tablespoons of fat.
Reduce heat to medium and add the onion and fennel. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and just starting to brown. Stir in the thyme sprigs and garlic slices and cook another minute more. Add the cider vinegar and simmer until liquid reduces by half. You can judge using a toothpick; insert pick straight into the pan just after adding vinegar, note the liquid line. After a little while – and be patient here – stick the toothpick in straight again to see if liquid hits halfway towards the high-liquid mark. If there’s still too much, let the mixture continue to simmer. When you get there, add tomatoes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Return meat to the pot, and add enough chicken broth, apple cider and water to barely cover it. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Transfer to the oven and braise, uncovered, basting and turning the meat occasionally, until the meat is tender enough to cut with a fork, 2 to 4 hours. Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.
Transfer meat to a plate, let the liquid cool and spoon off any fat. For a smooth, refined sauce, strain the liquid. Bring the sauce, strained or not, to a simmer and reduce until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
When ready to serve, return the meat to the pot. Warm the meat in the sauce, but don’t let it boil, basting frequently. Transfer pork to a cutting board and cut into slices. Arrange the slices on a platter and spoon some sauce on top. Put the rest of the sauce in in a bowl to serve at the table alongside the meat.