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Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork Shoulder)

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 13 July 2010 at 15:18

From Daisy Martinez: 

Quote Pernil

If you were to ask me, “What does Christmas smell like?” I wouldn’t say “pine” or “fresh snow,” I would say, “Pernil.” By the time my kids finish their cereal on Christmas Eve morning, the house is filled with the wonderful aroma of roast pork.

You want the shoulder, not the butt, for this, and you definitely want the skin on. If you have the opportunity to marinate the roast for three days, two days, or even overnight, you’ll be rewarded with a roast that has juicy, fragrant, tender meat and crispy, salty, mahogany-colored skin. It’s so good, I’m almost afraid I have to bring it up in confession!

The first step in making pernil is to make a very flavourful rub/paste called adobo mojado:
 
Quote Adobo Mojado

You’ll hear me say over and over how a simple thing like sofrito will change your life. This is another one of those little life-changing secrets. Adobo...either wet or dry..., will change the way you make pork, chicken, beef, and even fish. I run the risk of repeating myself, but this is not shy or subtle. It is very much “in your face” food, and I mean that, of course, in a good way.

Yield: Makes about ½ cup

Ingredients

12 cloves garlic, peeled
1½ tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt (see Notes)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Directions

Pound the garlic cloves and salt to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the peppercorns and oregano, pounding well after each one to incorporate them into the paste. Stir in the oil and vinegar.

Notes

The salt keeps the garlic from flying all over the place as you pound them together.

This wet rub will keep for 5 to 6 days in the refrigerator, which gives you a chance to try it on anything you like, from fish fillets and pork chops to turkey cutlets and steaks.

© 2005 Daisy Martinez

Once the adobo mojado is made, you can proceed with the pernil:
 
Quote Yield: Makes 8 large servings plus leftovers

Ingredients

One 4½-pound skin-on pork shoulder roast
Adobo Mojado (wet rub for meat)

Directions

1. Up to 3 days before you serve the roast, set it in a bowl, skin side up. With a paring or boning knife, make several slits about ½ inches apart through the skin of the roast and into the meat. Make the slits as deep as you can. Wiggle a finger in the slits to open them up a bit and then fill each one with wet rub using a teaspoon. (A pair of latex gloves comes in handy when it comes time to rub the wet rub into the pork.) Do the same on all sides. If you have rub left over, smear it all over the outside of the roast. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 day or up to 3 days.

2. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

3. Set the roast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour, turn the heat down to 400°F, and roast until the skin is a deep golden brown and crackly and with no trace of pink near the bone, about 1½ hours or until an instant reading thermometer inserted near the bone registers 160°F. Let the roast rest at least 15 minutes before carving.

4. To serve, remove the crispy skin. It will pull right off in big pieces. Cut them into smaller pieces—kitchen shears work well for this—and pile them in the center of the platter. Carve the meat parallel to the bones all the way down to the bone. (It will get trickier to carve neat slices as you get near the bone; don’t let that bother you).

Notes

A good rule of thumb for roasting pork is to cook the roast half an hour for every pound.

© 2005 Daisy Martinez

Here are some of my own some cooking notes:
 
It says to start the roast at 450 for a few mintues and then reduce down to 400. I see what they're trying to do there, but my recommendation is almost exactly opposite. Start at a low temperature (275-325), then roast until it's almost done, then turn it up on broil to sear the outside if you want. That way, the roast comes out very, very tender, with all the fat rendered out. I would also recommend letting the roast "rest," covered, for half an hour or so before serving. I do that for my barbecue, and it is always tender, juicy and very good!
 
Also, She says to cook until you reach an internal temperature of 160, but for tenderness and rendering the fat as I describe above, I recommend an internal tempcloser to 180 or 185 for sliceable pork roast; 190-200 internal will provide a pulled-pork texture, which is also really good.
 
Doing it as described above worked very well for me, and the flavour was amazing.
 
Let's have a look at how to do this "by the numbers...."

The first step in preparing pernil is making the adobo mojado - here's how it's done.
Here are the goods - as easy as it gets:

From Daisy Martinez: 

Quote Adobo Mojado

You’ll hear me say over and over how a simple thing like sofrito will change your life. This is another one of those little life-changing secrets. Adobo...either wet or dry..., will change the way you make pork, chicken, beef, and even fish. I run the risk of repeating myself, but this is not shy or subtle. It is very much “in your face” food, and I mean that, of course, in a good way.

Yield: Makes about ½ cup

Ingredients

12 cloves garlic, peeled
1½ tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt (see Notes)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Directions

Pound the garlic cloves and salt to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add the peppercorns and oregano, pounding well after each one to incorporate them into the paste. Stir in the oil and vinegar.

Notes

The salt keeps the garlic from flying all over the place as you pound them together.

This wet rub will keep for 5 to 6 days in the refrigerator, which gives you a chance to try it on anything you like, from fish fillets and pork chops to turkey cutlets and steaks.

© 2005 Daisy Martinez

Ok, here we go - following the steps outlined above for adobo mojado, here's how it's done.

Here are the goods - as easy as it gets:

The garlic cloves I used were very large, so I didn't quite use a dozen of them. Also, I didn't have any white wine vinegar on hand, but no matter - red wine vinegar is just fine; nearly any acid used in cooking would do. I have often used various citrus juice combinations similar to naranja agria ("bitter orange" juice (from Seville oranges) with good success.

One way to prepare adobo mojado is in a food processor, which I did for my first attempt. After crushing and peeling the garlic cloves, I placed them in the food processr with (clockwise from top) oregano, kosher salt and pepper:

Next, I added the olive oil and the red wine vinegar:

I actually added a teaspoon or so extra of olive oil, since the bottle was nearly empty - but that's no problem.

I pulsed the food processor a few times:

Not quite done enough for my preference, so I pulsed it some more, using longer pulses:

That's just about right! It can be pulverized even more, if one wishes, but this is what I wanted, so this is what I got.

How easy is that?

The food processor works just fine for making this, and you will not regret using it. It's what I used for a very long time with absolutely no complaints. But if you want to take the experience and the results up a notch, another way to prepare adobo mojado, which is superiour in my opinion, is to use a mortar and pestle. I purchased one recently from www.latienda.com:
 
 
 
I must say, after making my adobo this way, that it will be the only way I make it in the future; either way works, but this really gets you down into the experience, in my opinion.
 
Here we are, mashing the garlic and salt into a wonderful paste:
 
 
And here, we see the whole peppercorns crushed into the garlic and salt:
 
 
Next, the oregano was worked into the mix:
 
 
And finally, here we have the finished adobo, with the olive oil and acid (in this case, naranga agria) added in:
 
 
The result, in my opinion, is a much better paste that really allows a person to work all of the flavours of the adobo into whatever you're using it with.
 
Once the adobo mojado was ready, I turned my attention to the pork:

Since I'm going to be slicing this for Cubanos, a boneless shoulder cut is perfect; however, if this were going to be for a roast pork supper, then a bone-in shoulder would be fine as well.

This roast is just under 4 pounds - the amount of adobo mojado that I made works well for this:

And I could probably go another half-pound more before I needed to make a second batch of adobo mojado.

Ideally, I would marinate the pork in a ziplock bag or possibly even a vacuum sealer, but today, I did it in a large "popcorn bowl." I began by putting a little of the adobo mojado in the bottom of the bowl:

Then I pressed the pork, fat-cap-down, into the bottom and proceeded to spread the remaining adobo mojado on top of the shoulder roast:

I then covered the roast and bowl well, and put them in the refrigerator to marinate. I turned the roast over a couple of times a day and kept it covered with the adobo mojado.

Please note, people ~ I did make ONE mistake in my procedure up there! I coated the outside of the roast with adobo mojado, which is fine, but I should have also cut a few fairly-deep slits into the roast in various places and worked some of the rub into the interior of the roast, as well.
 
I did just that the first time I made pernil, and it did absolutely wonderful things for the pork. Considering the nature of the rub ingredients, which tend to carmelise and nearly burn on the outside while cooking, it actually seems better to me that most of the rubushould be on the inside of the roast, rather than on the outside, where it just sloughs off and turns black.
 
Here's a later pork roast that has the slits cut into it for the insertion of the adobo:
 
 
As you can see, this method allows for better penetration of the adobo into the meat, and a superiour fusion of the flavours.
 
Worthy of note here is that the roast was pre-trimmed by the butcher, much to my disappointment. Normally, a pork shoulder roast such as this should have a beautiful "fat cap" or "rind" on it composed of the skin of the pig; however, in this case, it was trimmed off:
 
 
This is too bad, because one of the quintessential joys of pernil is the crispy, savory roasted skin, which protects the roast as it cooks and renders out nearly all of the fat. When the roast is finished, the skin is cut up and served along with the pernil as a special treat, but in this case, we missed out on that. Cry
 
In any case, the cutting and inserting of the adobo mojado INTO slits in the roast is definitely recommended; for best results, make sure you give this procedure a try.
 
I ended up letting the pork roast marinate in the pernil for two days, rather than three, and then roasted it in my enameled cast iron dutch oven to cook it. Had the weather been even halfway decent, I would have done this over charcoal, or even on the gas grill at low setting, but for the project I was doing, the oven worked just fine, since I was making Cubanos.
 
Here's how the pernil looked when I originally made it with a boneless shoulder roast, coming out of the oven and ready to be sliced for the sandwiches:
 
 
The roast was fork-tender and sliced very easily, almost TOO easily, if I would have been serving it for supper on its own ~ but considering my sandwich application, it was perfect. This picture shows just how good and tender this wonderful stuff is:
 
 
Whether you are making pernil for sandwiches, or on its own - in the oven, or over some fire and smoke - slicing, pulling, shredding or chunking the end result, I know you will be very, very happy with the explosion of caribbean flavours that you can find here. Give it a try!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 April 2012 at 09:00
We made this again last weekend, using a slightly modified adobo mojado, and the results were nothing short of spectacular.
 
For the most part, we followed the directions exactly, including pulverising the garlic first before adding other ingredients to the adobo mojado, and also cutting slits into the pork roast in order to get the adobo mojado inside, where it really did some good.
 
One important difference is that, rather than wine vinegar, we chose instead to use citrus juice as an acid, squeezing a fresh orange and grapefruit (as a substitute for naranja agria), for a very good combination that is highly recommended.
 
My friends, if you have not yet tried this, then you really must. It is truly wonderful!
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 February 2013 at 12:17
Please see edits in the opening post above, reflecting some new techniques (using a mortar and pestle for the adobo mojado) and also the proper way to work the adobo into the meat.
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