November 9, 2011

Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder with Rosemary Potatoes and Butternut Squash

Fall.  It is perhaps my favorite season.  The Boise State Broncos are dominating opponents on the blue turf, the unrelenting heat of summer fades, and the calendar is filled with family celebrations.  While it is still over half a month until Thanksgiving, the chill in the air was making me pine for the type of food that takes all day to cook, whose aromas fill the house and makes stomachs growl; the type of food that makes dinner an event.  I had to ignore that desire the week of Halloween.  Our house was filled with guests, and we turned to quick fixes so that we could actually spend time with our company.  Pizzas, burritos, and pasta dishes all helped keep us out of the kitchen while satisfying the various dietary restrictions of our temporarily extended household.  The food tasted fine, and I had a great time with my friends, but as the last of them left for Oregon on the second I started planning how I was going to cure my craving.

The first part was easy; with Thanksgiving so close I knew I didn't want to cook a bird.  Anyway, Wife has pretty much perfected the Alton Brown turkey, and while I don't purport to be a true expert it seems counter intuitive to blog about a meal if I'm not even the best at making it in my own house.  That left beef and pork, and while a pot roast would certainly fit the criteria the humble pig had one very big advantage.  Towards the end of summer, Mother-in-Law decided to purchase a freezer with which to store all of the homemade pasta sauce she had made; unfortunately for her said freezer didn't actually fit in her house.  The unit ended up in my garage, and while I was excited to have it there it was still mainly just holding her sauce.  At least it was until I saw the pork shoulder. 

It was a ten pound bone-in monstrosity, going for just under a dollar a pound in the Winco deli on its "sell-by" date.  Without the freezer I would have had to pass it by; I'm a stickler for order, and I wouldn't have adjusted the menu I make each week before I go shopping just to take advantage of a good deal.  Despite throwing off my attempt to come in under budget for the week, I brought it home and stashed it in the garage for a rainy day.  So by merit of being already purchased (and therefore assisting this week's budget) pork shoulder nudged its way ahead of roast.  Now all that was left was to craft a meal around it.

Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder (Serves 8, liberally)-Adapted from this recipe by Jamie Oliver

Set your pork out on a clean cutting board while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  For best results, you will want to find a ten pound shoulder yourself, but if your market doesn't have one just check on the cooking a bit more often-nobody likes dry meat.  One side of the roast should still be covered with a decent layer of fat.  With a paring knife, make small incisions every couple of inches.  These shouldn't actually be deep enough to cut the meat, but are otherwise similar to the cuts you would make to stud a roast with garlic.  Once you have scored the fat, rub the entire roast with sea salt (I really like this Celtic sea salt I found at the Boise Co-Op) and fresh ground black pepper, making sure to work the seasonings into the cuts you've made in the fat.  Place the roast in a roasting pan, preferably one with a v-rack to keep the meat up out of its own juices.  This will ensure that the outside of the roast gets a nice crust.  Cook for half an hour, then remove (EDIT: Lower your oven temperature to 325 degrees), cover with two sheets of foil, and cook for another four hours. 

While the roast is cooking, prepare your vegetables.  I used a couple of red onions, a dozen baby carrots, a bulb of garlic, and (in the biggest deviation from Oliver's recipe) a whole butternut squash.  Since I was using baby carrots, I just kept them whole, but the other bits of produce needed some work.  I quartered the onion, peeled the garlic cloves, and chopped the squash into half inch chunks.  I kept the skin on, but I would definitely change that the next time I make this and you should too.  My rationale at the time was that it would be easier to remove the squash from its outer flesh once it was soft, but it will be time to make gravy when the vegetables come out of the oven and you will be in too much of a hurry to stop and deal with scalding hot squash. 

A wonderful fall medley.

When the roast has finished its four hour stint in the oven, lift up the v-rack and set it aside.  There should be a goodly amount of fat and drippings in the bottom of the pan.  Drain them and set them aside, then place your vegetables in the roasting pan.  Toss them in two tablespoons of the reserved pork fat, and add two teaspoons of crushed red pepper.  Place the roast (minus the rack) onto the vegetables and return, uncovered, for an additional hour.  Set the foil aside. 

When half an hour remains on your timer, heat the remaining drippings in a large lidded pot or cast iron over medium heat.  Once they start to boil, add six cups of cubed potatoes and two tablespoons of dried rosemary and cover, stirring every five to ten minutes until the potatoes are tender, approximately the length of time remaining on the roast.  (Alternatively, you could portion out the fat and cook the potatoes in batches so as to get them crispy, but I liked the way they came out a little creamy and saturated with flavor through to the middle.)  Salt and pepper to taste, and set aside-still covered-until you are ready to serve the roast. 

These potatoes are incredibly rich.
When the roast is removed from the oven, set it aside and cover with the foil.  Set aside the carrots and squash for serving, and throw away the garlic and onion.  (Alternatively, the garlic is soft enough you can spread it on baguette, but there are enough carbs in this meal that it seems like too much.  I just handed mine out to the family as a teaser for the meal.)  Place the roasting pan on your largest burner and heat on high heat, adding 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock gradually as you scrape up the bits of burned fat (fond) on the bottom of the roasting pan.  Reduce the heat and simmer the liquid to reduce. 

Once the gravy is ready, so are you.  The meat should be nice and fork tender. Portion it out along with your vegetables, top it with some gravy (and put a pat of butter on the squash,) and serve.  

This turned out to be a truly phenomenal meal.  Wife is telling everyone that it is the best meal I've ever made, and it was really easy.  There was very little active work, with the quality of the ingredients doing all the heavy lifting.  Not only that, but it reheats well, and while the squash and carrots only lasted the first day, Wife, Boy, and I were able to get three meals out of the pork and potatoes with generous portions of meat for the adults.  This dish is bound to become a regular staple of my fall and winter cooking, and I expect you'll have a similar reaction.     


  1. That is a delicious plate. Had to go back and check the date, as it did indeed remind me of late fall cooking... Fire up the slow cooker and moist, tender and delicious!

    Great post
    Thanks for sharing
    Dave at

  2. Sounds great... I just put a 6 pounder in the oven... at 425 degrees for a half-hour. Then will cover and put back in the oven for I figure approx 3 hours, but will keep an eye on this. However, I am assuming that I should turn the oven temp down for these last hours to 350, leaning towards 325 since this is to be "slow cooked". And I dislike "assuming". This is my first time with roasting a fresh shoulder. Looking forward to a great dinner... Thanks. Barbara

    1. Yes, absolutely drop the temperature to 325! I can't believe I forgot that step. What an overwhelmingly bad typo! Hope you check back, good that you were already planning on lowering your oven.