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from The Art of Simple Food, p. 139.

Chiles continue to fascinate me. Their flavors vary more than I expected, but I’m still experimenting to learn which ones I prefer. This recipe by Alice Waters delivers a jolt of dried chipotle in the midst of a broader field of ancho flavor. As my friend Sherry says, however, it’s not Mexican. I don’t know enough yet to make that judgment. I will say that I didn’t find the sauce complex. Later this week I’ll be cooking another shoulder roast, this time from Diane Kennedy. For the moment, I liked this recipe without being wowed by it. I suppose how the dish strikes you depends on your preferred chile flavors.

Alice’s steps are pretty simple:

4 servings

Make a dry rub by mixing together:

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile

Use the dry rub to season, the day before if possible:

  • One 4-pound, bone-in pork shoulder roast, trimmed of excess fat

Shadowcook: I used fresh oregano from my garden. I also decided to employ one of Alice’s variations. Into the dry rub I crushed several cloves of garlic. I didn’t use olive oil.

Cover and refrigerator until 1 hour before cooking.

Put in a heavy baking dish or roasting pan that just fits the roast.

  • 2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 dried ancho chiles, split and seeds removed
  • 1 dried chipotle chile, split and seeds removed
  • 1 large head garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • A few black peppercorns
  • A few fresh marjoram or oregano sprigs

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the seasoned meat on top of the vegetables and pour in:

  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water).

Check the level of the liquid; it should reach about one quarter of the way up the roast. Add more if needed.

Shadowcook: My 6-quart oval Dutch oven was too big to hold the pork snugly, which meant that I needed more chicken broth to reach a quarter of the way up the roast. The liquid amount is important: too much and the meat will be boiled; too little and the meat will dry out.

Cook in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the roast over and cook for 30 minutes, then turn again. Check the level of liquid every once in a while, adding more broth or water if it gets too low. Cook for another 30 minutes and test the meat for doneness, continuing to turn and cook until done.

Remove the meat from the pan. Strain the sauce and skim well.

Shadowcook: I didn’t skim the sauce, because the strainer I used was fine-meshed. No visible particles passed through.

Pass the vegetables through a food mill and return to the skimmed sauce.

Shadowcook: The food mill produces a smoother paste. A food processor will produce a rougher paste. In other words, the issue here is texture more than flavor.

Remove the bones, slice the meat, and arrange on a warm platter. Serve with the sauce poured over or pass it around in a pitcher or sauceboat.

Variations:

  • Use any combination of dried chile varieties.
  • Sprinkle with chopped fresh marjoram or oregano before serving.
  • Pound 4 garlic cloves and stir into the dry rub with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Rub this on the roast to season.

Final Thoughts: If I make this again, I’d cook the roast longer at a lower temperature in order to dissolve the connective tissues. I’d rather braise the pork to the point at which the meat becomes fork-tender and can be pulled apart. Good dish, though, for a big group.

4 thoughts on “Alice Waters’s Pork Shoulder Braised with Dried Chiles

  1. I’ve made this several times in the slow cooker and love it (I’ve also added garlic but I like the olive oil too)! I haven’t searched out Mexican grocery stores to find all the right chiles, and couldn’t find dried chipotles, so I just used the canned version, which turned out a bit hot for our taste. But I’ve been adjusting the recipe and find it works just as well with other chiles and it’s a good way to get flavor without too much hotness. And in the slow cooker, the pork does, indeed, just fall apart — usually as I’m trying to get it out of the pot so I can puree and reduce the liquid! Not so easy to slice and arrange on a platter, but it doesn’t matter at that point — we’re so hungry we just plop a slug of meat on the plate, add a bit of sauce and side dishes and dig in!!

      1. Well, I’d do it on high for about 10 hours. Check it, though, after 8 to see if it’s falling apart.

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