A large roast pork shoulder makes an impressive centerpiece for many Cuban celebrations. Chef David Guas pierces his and stuffs whole garlic cloves deep into the roast. As the meat cooks, the garlic softens and perfumes the meat, and the skin gets crispy.
We found bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder, also called a picnic, at Union Meat and Canales Quality Meats in Eastern Market, and at Americana Grocery in Falls Church. If you can't find a shoulder that weighs 10 to 12 pounds, roast a smaller shoulder at about 30 minutes per pound.
Make Ahead: The shoulder brines for 12 to 18 hours before it is cooked.
Servings: 16 - 18
- 2 quarts water
- 2 cups kosher salt, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 cup sugar
- One 10-to-12-pound bone-in pork shoulder
- 10 to 12 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup dried oregano
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, from about 3 limes
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups of salt and the sugar. Whisk until the salt and sugar dissolve, and remove from the heat. Add enough ice to make 1 gallon of brine.
Trim excess fat off the pork shoulder if it is very thick, but leave some fat on the pork. Use a sharp paring knife to cut long, very shallow parallel lines across the surface of the skin, just deep enough to penetrate the skin and the fat, but not the meat. Then cut another series of lines across the surface perpendicular to the first set.
Line a stock pot with a large (2.5-gallon) resealable plastic food storage bag. Place the pork in the bag and carefully add enough brine to cover the meat. Remove any air from the bag and seal. Refrigerate for 12 to 18 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the pork from the brine and discard the brine. Place the pork, skin-side up, on a rack inside a large roasting pan.
Use a sharp paring knife to cut 10 to 12 slits, each about 2 inches deep, in the pork. Insert a clove of garlic into each slit.
Combine the oregano, oil, lime juice, pepper and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt in a medium bowl, then rub the mixture evenly all over the pork. Make sure to push the mixture down into the slits with the garlic.
Cover the pork with aluminum foil and roast for 5 to 6 hours (about 30 minutes per pound). After 90 minutes, check to see how much liquid is in the pan. There should be about an inch; if there's less, add water. Check the liquid level every 45 minutes and add water as necessary to maintain a 1-inch depth.
About 30 minutes before the end of roasting time, remove the foil. This will allow the skin to crisp.
Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes. (The meat should register 175 to 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.) Slice and serve with the pan juices.
From David Guas, chef-owner of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington.
Tested by Jim Webster.
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