by Sheila Connolly
I don't know how I made it to my advanced age without knowing about this, until my daughter pointed it out in a food magazine. I am in love with it: I can make it and stash it in the fridge or freezer and I have a protein that I can do almost anything with, at the drop of a hat. Definitely a win-win.
There is little thinking required to make this, but it does take some planning. You need one boneless piece of pork (preferably shoulder), anywhere from a minimum of two pounds to a maximum of six. My market seldom has anything larger than two pounds, although I could probably beg something larger from the butcher. But the recipe seems to work with any size.
In a plastic bag, mix a couple of tablespoons of salt, the same of sugar, and maybe ten grinds of pepper (if you have a pepper mill—otherwise, a teaspoon or two of ground pepper will do it). Shake the bag to mix. Pat dry your chunk of pork, then put it in the bag and shake to cover evenly with the seasonings. Stick the bag in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, preheat your oven to low (no more than 250 degrees). Take out your pork, remove the bag, and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Put it in the oven for, oh, five or six hours, depending on how big your roast is. I've seen recipes that say to baste it with the pan juices now and then, but so far none of mine has produced enough drippings to bother. This is not time sensitive—just don't forget it's there and leave the house.
Remove the roast from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then tear it apart. You can use one fork or two, or you can just sink your hands into it when it's cool enough. It should pull apart easily into long shreds (feel free to sample the nice crunchy bits). And that's pulled pork! I've found that a two-pound roast makes about 3-4 cups of shredded meat, which for our family of three goes for two dinner meals.
Yes, there are recipes for it (apart from slathering it with barbecue sauce and slipping it into a bun). I'm fond of this one:
Pulled Pork and Orecchiette
1 pound orecchiette (they're those round dried pasta that look kind of like little space ships—the name means "little ears")
2 pounds shredded pork, chopped roughly
3 Tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tblsp dried oregano
1 ½ Tblsp tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth (or a combination of white wine and broth)
1 Tblsp wine or cider vinegar
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the orecchiette in a large part of boiling salted water for 8 minutes (the pasta will not be fully cooked).
Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan (you may add pan drippings if you have any) and sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat until soft. Add the oregano and the tomato paste and stir, then cook for three minutes. Stir in the broth, vinegar and pork. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You may wonder where the salt and pepper are—they're on the pork, so do not add any more until you've tasted the sauce.) Add more broth as needed, if the mix seems dry.
Add the orecchiette and cook until the pasta is done. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
Note: I decided to try a variation on the recipe because I had some fresh spinach on hand, so I threw in about two cups worth when the onions and garlic were soft. The spinach cooks down nicely, and I get to pat myself on the back for adding a healthy vegetable.
This should serve 6 people.