Yesterday, we had our good friend, Rich over to reconnect, share some stories, and to show him the progress in the garden – since we usually are making something a little bit special each weekend, it was also an opportunity to share some good food, and talk about it as well over a few beers. The deep, rich smells of Diana Kennedy’s Veracruz Pork Shoulder Roast filled the house, and gave us all the motivation we needed.
I’ve always loved Kennedy’s approach to sharing her knowledge of Mexican food, which she only does through the cloak of Mexican culture – and her recipes are always carefully gathered gifts from families or friends of personal acquaintance, and therefore reflective of long tradition – Yes, they sometimes are stubbornly complex and precise, but out of respect for one of the world’s major food cultures, Kennedy has left intact every detail as shared with her by proud recipients and stewards of that culture’s food treasures. Only in this way can we really begin to know what true Mexican food is all about (we are certainly never going to learn by eating in America’s brand of Mexican restaurants! – don’t get me started.).
Her book, “Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico” (Harper & Row, 1978) is prime example of this cultural approach to Mexico’s foods, as Kennedy never misses an opportunity to share not only detailed recipes but fascinating tidbits of Mexican life, as well as the history and tradition of each dish. The section on La Panaderia (The Bakery) is both touching and revealing, but most of all, it shows the depth of commitment that Kennedy was willing to go to for authenticity – it is classic author research.
For years, we’ve been making her Asado de Puerco a la Veracruzana, (page 44), not only because it’s fantastically delicious, but because it’s one of the easiest ways to enhance the already rich and heady flavors of roast pork. You essentially make a paste to rub on the pork, and then marinate it overnight, before roasting in a dutch oven for 4 hours or so – most of the work is in making the marinade.
Although I respect Ms. Kennedy’s precise and true approach to working with dried chiles, I also know that few American cooks are going to adhere to that level of detail, and so in my adaption below, I’m using chili powder as a substitute, but I’ll also include Kennedy’s original instruction for using the dried chiles also. Still, I applaud those of you who wish to taste authenticity – you will be rewarded.
Veracruz Pork Roast
(adapted from Diana Kennedy)
A smaller pork shoulder with bone (if too big, it may not fit in your pot!) – skin removed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Tbs salt
1 ½ Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
4 Tbs chile powder *(See Note below for Kennedy’s original instructions for using dried chiles)
2 tsp ground allspice
Mix all ingredients except pork in a blender – add enough water to give it the consistency of pancake batter – stop the blender frequently to clean the sides of the jar.
If pork shoulder still has skin on it, remove the skin (try to get one w/o skin) – using a small, sharp knife, make many inch deep punctures into the flesh of the pork over the entire surface. Put meat into a pan, rub the chile paste mixture over the entire surface, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees – move pork to a dutch oven or large oven safe pot with a close fitting lid – put into the preheated oven for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove lid and continue roasting, basting with pot juices every half hour for an additional two hours, or until the meat is beginning to fall off the bone and is very soft.
* (Note: For those of you wishing to use dried chiles instead of chile powder, here are the instructions from the original recipe: Remove the seeds and veins from 4 dried ancho chiles, and toast them lightly in a frying pan or griddle. Cover them with hot water, add 1 dried chipotle, or 4 dried chiles moritas or 4 serranos secos, and simmer for 5 minutes – turn off the heat and leave the chiles to soak for 5 minutes longer. Transfer the chiles to a blender with a half cup of the water they simmered in. Add the rest of the marinade paste ingredients and blend until smooth. Add a little more water only if necessary to free up the blender blades.)
This is usually served by pulling off large chunks and shredding the meat, then eating with tortillas and accompaniments.
You will have a lot of leftovers, but this freezes well – and of course, it can be enjoyed as any pork roast, sliced and reheated for dinner.