PERNIL BORINQUEN…A SLOW COOKED PUERTO RICAN PORK ROAST
If you are a PORK lover this is your ticket to Nirvana. I am a Pork lover and the best treats for me are always the long roasted versions, like our American style BBQ smoked Ribs, the Italian Porchetta, Pulled Pork, and what I consider the best of them all, the Spanish influenced Roast Pork Shoulder, in particular the one made by the Puerto Ricans called PERNIL. Other Hispanic cultures use the same term for it but each culture, from Filipino to Dominican, Mexican to Venezuelan to Hawaiian Kalua pig , they all rub the meat down in a mixture of salt, pepper, Abodo seasonings, and lots of garlic. The Borinquen( Puerto Rican) version contains my favorite condiment Vinegar.
This tough and fatty piece of meat is broken down by the slow oven roasting and flavored from within by piercing the roast with a long knife in various places and pressing into the holes what is known as “ADOBO MOJADO”, or wet adobo, a paste of fresh garlic, dried oregano, black pepper, kosher salt, olive oil and vinegar.
Wow. Between the self basting of this piece of meat and all the internal flavors you infused it with, it breaks down into a pulled pork -like consistency and is served with rice and/or beans. Heaven. Muy bueno! Make your Adobo first. No clear cut recipe for this, just the same ingredients all the time…family to family this mix may have a little more of this or that…for a 4 lb Picnic cut pork shoulder (1/2 it’s normal size) make a paste of 4 sliced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 tsp. of dried oregano, 1 tsp. of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. of ground black pepper; 4 tbs. of olive oil and 3 tsp. of red wine vinegar. Mash together in a mortar and pestle, best implement for this as it does a better job at re- leasing the oils in the oregano and garlic..if you dont have one a quick pulsing in a food processor will do it. Rinse off the pork roast and pat dry with paper towels. With a long sharp knife blade pierce the thick skin all the way through to the inside of the roast in at least 10 spots. If the pork skin is too hard for your knife PLEASE don’t force it, instead, pierce the meat side in the same manner. Into each of the holes with your finger add the paste in all the holes until you’ve almost used it up. Rub what’s left over the whole roast, then salt, pepper, granulated garlic and oregano gets sprinkled all over the roast. Pour 1/8 cup of vinegar over the roast after you placed it into a roasting pan. Cover and let sit in your fridge for up to 2 hours, but even better letting it sit for up to 24 hours.
Be generous with the salt and pepper! For the novice to the cut known as the Picnic Roast…it’s one of the most unadulterrated butcher items left…the thick pigskin is still attached…this will crisp up and roast to become another Puerto Rican treat known as the CHICHARRON, or crackling…It’s KEY to this roasts unctuous quality. Do not remove until after cooking. Then, for the heartier pork lovers in the house, this will be like dying and going to porcine heaven. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When it’s at temperature add the roast, uncovered. and let it cook for at least 1 hour. Then add 1 cup of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar to the pan,2 bay leaves, lower the temperature to 375 and roast for 2 hours. If the roast starts to blacken at all towards the end of the 2hour time, cover with foil. The key to this dish, besides the cut of pork and ingredients, is that the meat pulls apart, you should be able to shred it. To test, take 2 forks and see if you can easily pry the meat from the bone. If you can’t, roast uncovered for additional 20 minutes. When it’s at that point, let it rest for at least 15 minutes. The rule of thumb with the cooking time is 38-45 minutes per pound. For a larger than 4lb Shoulder just double everything OR add more. This is a dish that loves extra flavor. You can’t go wrong. Some people add more things to theirs but there’s not ONE way only, remember. This is how mine is made so try it out this way then tweak as you wish. It’s always a winning dish.
Then pull all the meat apart, re- moving any visible fat pieces. Pry the top skin off and discard all the white fat between the skin and the meat. Mix the shredded meat with the meat juices and cover, heat in oven for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Serves 5-6. Works best with yellow rice (Arroz Amarillo), or rice and beans. Something to make when you have the time, a lazy day in the house. The flavor is sutble and strong at the same time (makes no sense, does that?) but you will know what I mean when you eat it.