Pork Shoulder Braised with Dried Chiles

pork serving dish
(part of From Provence to the Catskills, our celebration held as part of of the Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 blog event)

The main course was inspired by Alice Waters, working off of a recipe in her fabulous cookbook The Art of Simple Food. While we diverged in several ways from Waters’ recipe, the biggest point of departure was that while Alice cooks her pork at 375F for about two hours, we did a longer, slower braise at lower temperature. I will have to say that this was one of the best braises I’ve ever made, and I’ll give equal credit to the flavor combinations and to the quality of the pork. We got our pork shoulder from Fleishers in Kingston, NY, which is an amazing butcher I’ve written about previously that only deals in grass-fed and organic meats.

Dry Rub (made the day before)
3 dried ancho chiles, with seeds and stem removed* (see footnote)
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1 large bay leaf

1 6 lb pork shoulder, bone-in

Combine everything into a food processor and pulse until the chiles are reasonably chopped up.

pork shoulder

If you have a lot of excess fat on the pork shoulder, trim it down but do not remove it all as it will help the flavor enormously. As I was trimming some of the fat from my pork shoulder, I was imagining Josh Applestone leaning over my shoulder going “you’re killing me! that’s the best part!”

pork dry rub

Rub the spice and chile combination all over the pork shoulder, then wrap it up and place in the fridge overnight.

Braising the Pork

2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
2 dried ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed
1 dried chipotle chile, seeds and stem removed
1 head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 black peppercorns
4 oregano sprigs
4 to 6 cups chicken stock**

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Combine the onions, carrot, chiles, garlic, peppercorns, and oregano in a large dutch oven and stir together. Nestle the pork shoulder fat-side down on top of the vegetables and then pour the stock** over the top – enough to reach a quarter of the way up the pork shoulder.

pork vegetables

Cover your dutch oven and place in the oven. After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 320F. Cook for two hours. Every hour, check the pork and pour some of the broth over the top with a spoon (be careful not to burn yourself!). At this point, turn the pork shoulder over, lower the oven to 300F, re-cover and return the pot to the oven. Cook for another 2 1/2 hours, again checking the pot halfway through to pour some broth over top.

pork partially done

Remove from the oven. Place the pork shoulder on a large chopping board and lightly cover with aluminum foil while you create the gravy.

pork cooked

Making the Gravy
Using a large spoon, skim as much fat off the top of the liquid as you can. Then spoon the vegetables and a fair amount of the remaining broth into a food processor. Lightly puree and pour into a pitcher or gravy boat. The chipotle chile will give it a slight kick but not overwhelmingly so.

Remove the bones from the pork shoulder and “carve” — as much as one can carve meat that is falling apart so deliciously! Place the meat on a platter, lightly salt, and serve.

pork carving

pork gravy boat
To die for.

* In keeping with our goal of using as much local ingredients as possible, I had dried a bunch of poblano peppers (which, dried, are called ancho chiles) several weeks ago when they were in season. I still ended up needing a couple extra dried ancho chiles and a chipotle chile from the market, but the effort was made! To dry your own peppers, place in the oven at around 175F all day long (and you might decide you need to let it go all night as well).

* In our case, we had a couple cups of homemade chicken stock in our freezer which I doubled by combining with a vegetable stock the day before, which was a simple combination of water, 3 carrots, 3 celery ribs, 1 onion, 3 large cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, several sprigs of thyme and a large bunch of parsley — all simmered together for several hours.

table eating main
We served this with a full-bodied red wine, accompanied by a shell bean ragout and some risotto wrapped in chard leaves.

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