Echine de Porc aux Arômes

Two techniques go to work here to produce a succulent roast of pork shoulder—the best piece of the animal in my opinion—that is both golden and slightly crisp on the outside, and moist and tender inside. I qualify the use of the word tender here, because pork shoulder isn’t tender in the classic sense. It is laced with gelatin and the meat is actually firm, which gives it enormous, toothsome appeal.

Though this is a simple preparation, its flavor is elegant. It is also a bit surprising, for pork shoulder is considered a humble cut of meat, yet it is so flavorful and the texture is so satisfying that it is an unexpected treat.

I like to serve a St. Véran with this because for me, pork is a white wine sort of meat.

Astuces: A “coin” of ginger is roughly the size of a 25 cent piece. I recommend using spring water as a cooking liquid because so often tap water has the flavor of chlorine, which can adversely affect the flavor of the dish. I specify either Tellicherry black peppercorns from India, or black pepper from Vietnam. Tellicherry black pepper has long been considered the best quality because of its large size and robust flavor, is most likely easier to obtain than black pepper from Vietnam, though this country is a now one of the main exporters of gorgeously aromatic black peppercorns. Both are delicious, and interchangeable in any recipe.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

One 2 pound piece of pork shoulder, with bone

2 medium carrots, trimmed, cut on the bias into lozenges

2 medium onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 cups (750ml) spring water

3 fresh bay leaves from the Laurus nobilis (or dried imported bay leaves)

1 handful of fresh lemon thyme sprigs

Two coins of fresh ginger, unpeeled

4 garlic cloves, peeled, green germ removed if necessary

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper, either Tellicherry or Vietnamese

Flat-leaf parsley leaves

Fleur de sel

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F (200°C).
  2. In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed, oven-proof dish, heat the oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Brown the pork on all sides, which should take about 6 minutes total. Remove the pork from the pan and add the carrots, onions, and fennel, stir so they are coated with the oil and cook just until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Return the pork to the pan, nestling it into the vegetables, and pour the water around it. Push the herbs down into the water along with the garlic, sprinkle the salt over all, cover the dish and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat so the liquid is simmering and cook for 10 minutes on the stove.
  4. Remove the cover from the pork, and place the dish in the center of the oven. Cook for 1 hour, turning the pork every 20 minutes so it cooks and roasts evenly. If the water evaporates, add up to ½ cup (125ml) more so the dish stays moist.
  5. When the pork is cooked through (it should register about 140°F;60°) , remove it from the oven and season it all over with freshly ground pepper. Remove the herbs from the vegetable mixture. Let the pork rest for about 15 minutes so it can relax.
  6. To serve, transfer the pork to a cutting board. Return the vegetables to low heat and heat them until they are steaming, stirring very gently once or twice so they heat evenly but don’t break up. Slice the pork into thick slices, and arrange a slice in the center of each of six warmed dinner plates. Arrange an equal amount of vegetables over and around the pork, and drizzle each pork slice with an equal amount of cooking juices. Garnish the plate with a flat leaf parsley leaf, sprinkle the pork lightly with fleur de sel and serve immediately.

6 generous servings

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