Pork


from My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method, pp. 77-75.

Forgive this cookbook’s subtitle that promises no work. I’m sure Lahey had nothing to do with it. Revolutionary, yes. No-knead, yes. No work? Not quite. Nevertheless, Lahey’s new book has taken up permanent occupancy on the shelf where I keep the cookbooks I use constantly. Now that I have made three breads from the book, I have come to appreciate the recipes and the specific advice the author gives. For instance, he cooks his breads in a very hot oven (475 F). But he also says that home ovens can vary so much that those who use his book have to decide for themselves where their oven works best for the bread. The acceptable range runs from 425 F all the way to 500 F. My oven, I’ve decided, works best for bread at either 425 F or 450 F, but not higher.

Even if you’re devoted to the version of Lahey’s No-Knead Bread offered by Mark Bittman in his column a couple of years ago, your technique will improve and your options will double if you use this book.  The recipes, however, differ subtly from Bittman’s and Cook’s Illustrated adaptations of the Slow-Rise Bread. I find the doughs in Lahey’s book wetter than the imitators, which is no bad thing. That’s partly what makes the crust hard. It means you have been handle the dough more carefully. The crust on all three of the breads turned out hard. When I pushed my thumbs into the bottom of a roll to break it open, the crumb displayed a beautiful constellation of air holes. My only quibble about this particular recipe concerns amounts. Lahey recommends doubling the Pancetta Bread recipe and cutting the twice-risen dough into twenty balls. I made half the Pancetta Bread amounts and cut the dough into 5 balls. They seemed a little small to me. Plus, I found the pancetta amounts a little on the skimpy side. But don’t err in overcompensating!

So, in what follows I combine Lahey’s instructions an for  Pancetta Bread with the Pancetta Rolls variation that comes at the end:

For 10 pancetta rolls:

300 grams, or about 2 1/3 cups, pancetta, sliced 1/4-inch thick (by the deli) and cut into 1/4-inch dice, or slab bacon, diced

3 cups, or 400 grams, bread flour (strong flour, in the UK)

1/2 teaspoon, or 3 grams, table salt

Shadowcook: I used a scant teaspoon of kosher salt.

1/4 teaspoon, or 1 gram, instant or other active dry yeast

1/4 teaspoon or to taste, or 1/2 gram, hot red pepper flakes (optional)

1 1/2 cups, or 350 grams, cool (55 to 65 degrees F) water

wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting

1. Cook the pancetta or bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the fat. Drain the pancetta on paper towels and let cool.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, pancetta, salt, yeast, and red pepper flakes, if you’re using them. Add the water and reserved rendered fat, and using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

Shadowcook: Remember, it’s likely to be a wet dough, so don’t worry. If it isn’t wet, you’re still okay.

3. When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, life the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.

4. Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gentle poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Shadowcook: Because this dough has the potential of being wetter than the Slow-Rise Bread dough, make sure you do generously flour both the work surface and the tea towel. The first time I made bread from this book, the dough stuck to the tea towel when I tried to flip it into the heated Dutch oven. In this recipe, it is a problem, since you’ll be making balls and placing them on a baking sheet.

5. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third. Oil a baking pan. Transfer the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Cut the dough mound into two strips and break each strip into five equal pieces. Each piece should weigh 80 grams. Round each piece into a roll-shaped ball. Place the balls on the pan in even rows. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the rolls are dark brown. Place them on a rack and allow them to cool thoroughly.

Shadowcook: If your oven runs hot, place the rack in the middle. Weigh the dough. It helps to make the balls of equal weight. 40 minutes was too long for my oven. And 475 degrees is too hot. Next time, I’ll try 450 for 40 minutes. If that doesn’t work, then 425. Last word of caution: keep your hands off of them for a full hour after they come out of the oven! It makes a difference to the texture of the crumb.

Adapted from “Roast Leg of Pork (Fresh Ham) with Cracklings,” in The Complete Meat Cookbook, pp. 348-349.

“What is THAT?” I shrieked, startled by the sight of an eighteen-inch pig’s leg — hoof and all — draped across other cuts of meat in the butcher’s display case. Zampone, said Danny, the owner of the world’s finest little grocery, Taylor’s Market. It was the first one he had ever made. A week or so before, he noticed that a fancy food catalogue offered a frozen boned pig’s foreleg stuffed with Italian sausage for $225. “Hell, I can make that!” And better yet, he can make it fresh, skin on (most thrillingly), and sell it for $50 flat. The photograph in the catalogue showed a roasted pig’s foreleg of a golden hue that can only mean one thing, crackling, the Holy Grail of pork lovers. It lay on a bed of lentils, apparently the traditional accompaniment of this dish that northern Italians eat on Christmas Eve.

At home, I searched the web for zampone recipes. Every recipe I found sounded disgusting. I’m supposed to wrap the leg in cheesecloth, put it in a roaster, fill it with water, poach the leg, and slice it to serve. Not bloody likely! No site proposed a way to roast it.

When you need a meat doctor, there’s only one guy to call: Bruce Aidells. I pulled out my copy of The Complete Meat Cookbook and began my research. His recipe for Roast Leg of Pork with Crackling looked most suitable. And simple, I might add.

Here’s how I’m roasting the zampone:

So, the zampone I bought weighed six-and-a-half pounds. I’m counting on feeding eight people tonight. We plan to eat at 7 pm. The only equipment I need is a roasting pan and a meat thermometer. The strategy is Low and Slow.

To prepare the leg, I placed it in the roasting pan, skinside up, sewn-together-side down. With a sharp knife, I stabbed the leg all over. Aidells recommends hundreds of little slits all over the skin. I suppose the release of juices helps produce crackling, but he doesn’t say so. He does warn, however, against basting the leg during the roast, because basting reduces the crispiness of the skin.

3:30 pm: I put the roasting pan in a preheated oven set to 300. I expect to roast it for three hours. My goal is for the interior temperature of the leg to reach 145 F. Aidells sears the meat at the beginning of the roasting period. I’m following my friend Ann’s advice. Over in London, where pork roasts often come with the skin still attached, she has found that a slow roast at a low temperature works well if she has to run errands. About twenty minutes before it reaches temperature, she turns up the heat to 475 F to induce the crackling effect. The timing of that could be a little tricky.

5:30 pm: After two hours, the internal temperature has reached 131 F. The outer skin is deep gold. I don’t want it to be ready before 6:15, so I’ve turned down the temperature to 250 F. At 6:15, I’ll crank up the heat to 475 and watch it carefully.

6:10 pm: Holy Toledo! The temperature shot up to 150 F! Out it comes. Now to let it rest for half an hour.

6:45 pm: Eight of us sit down to a sumptuous meal of zampone, lentils, mashed potatoes, sauteed red cabbage, and creamed spinach.

The zampone delighted everyone, but we all agreed that the crackling was too tough, the sausage dominated the pork meat, but the juice was heavenly. The juices of the zampone enriched the lentils with sweet high notes. All the food was complementary. Holiday meals are supposed to be filling. This one filled the bill.

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from The Gourmet Cookbook, p. 153.

Nearly every time I post a recipe from a cookbook, I feel confident that my reproduction of the recipe, with my amendments, here constitutes fair use. Very few cookbooks contain as many good recipes as it would take to violate copyright law. I seldom have to restrain myself from posting too many good recipes from one book. The Zuni Café Cookbook comes to mind.

The Gourmet Cookbook constitutes my greatest challenge. I have yet to find a dud recipe in it. I cook out of it a lot. But there are a zillion recipes in it. I’m not even sure how many recipes would equal one percent of the contents! Therefore, I’m proceeding in good faith.

Anyway, here’s a great summer dinner:

For the dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (mild or hot)

Shadowcook: If you’re not familiar with this spice, look for a small metal red can with “Pimetón” displayed on the side and then read the fine print to make sure that it’s smoke paprika. Don’t worry about the heat. “Hot” is not so hot here.

1/4 teaspoon salt

Shadowcook: Diamond Crystal Kosher salt calls for about 1/2 teaspoon.

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

4 cups 1-inch pieces cantaloupe (2 1/2- to 3-pound melon)

4 cups 1-inch pieces honeydew (from 2 1/2- to 3-pound melon)

Shadowcook: Go for color here. If another melon besides honeydew is in your market, use it. But be mindful of the color contrast between the orange cantaloupe and a lighter color melon.

1 1/2 pounds arugula (4 large bunches), coarse stems discarded

1/2 pound sliced (1/16-inch thick) Serrano ham, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide strips

Shadowcook: In other words, the ham should be thicker than you would normally ask your butcher to slice prosciutto.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the dressing: Whisk together lime juice, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended.

Shadowcook: Then again, putting all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shaking the hell out of it works just as well.

Make the salad: Toss cantaloupe and honeydew with half of dressing in a medium bowl. Toss arugula and ham with remaining dressing in a large bowl. Add melon and salt and pepper to taste, tossing gently. Serve immediately.

Shadowcook: And enjoy an unusual combination of sweet-and-salty flavor. Personally, I went heavy on the kosher salt, but that’s just me.

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from The New York Times, May 20, 2009

Another title for this recipe might be “Adventures in Grilling.” Is this the third or fourth pork belly recipe that I’ve posted? I no longer remember. It certainly is memorable. The image of Sherry practically engulfed in flames emanating from the gas grill will stick with me. There is a flaw in this recipe that is worth fixing. Perhaps more than one flaw. Crisp and unctuous as advertised, this pork belly version requires some thought and planning.

But apart from the design flaws inherent in the recipe, the question of pig skin preceeds all considerations. I haven’t been able to find pork belly with the skin still attached, even though nearly every roast pork belly recipe I’ve found assumes the piece I have to cook still has skin attached. As I learned from the friends who raised and sold me the pork belly, leaving the skin on certain cuts of pork is labor-intensive and, as a result, more costly. Pig skin requires boiling and scraping. Slaughtering a pig and preparing the carcass for the butcher’s takes far less time and effort is the skin is removed. The lack of skin on the piece of pork belly I had to roast is the start of the problem in this recipe — but it’s not the only problem.

My interlineated comments will reveal the why and wherefor:

Adapted from “Serious Barbecue,” by Adam Perry Lang (Hyperion, 2009).

Time: 6 1/2 hours, plus at least 12 hours’ marinating and 2 hours’ resting

For the Marinade:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup cider vinegar

10 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

2 tablespoons sliced serrano pepper

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

For the pork:

1 4-pound piece of pork belly, skin-on

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup bourbon

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. In a blender, pulse marinade ingredients until roughly chopped. Transfer to a 1-gallon freezer bag and add pork belly and 1 cup water. Squeeze to remove air, then seal and refrigerate at least 12 hours.

Shadowcook: First of all, I worked with a 3 pound piece of pork belly and had to cut it in half in order to fit it in the plastic bag.

2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 275 degrees. Place pork in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with marinade, butter and water to cover. Cover with heavy-duty foil, crimping edges tightly. Braise in oven 5 1/2 hours; let rest in pan, covered, 2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, simmer bourbon in a small pan over medium heat until alcohol aroma fades. Stir in sugar, parsley, vinegar and pepper flakes. Cover and set aside.

4. Heat a grill. Carefully remove pork from pan and place in a grilling basket. Grill skin-side down over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until skin is crisp and golden. Remove from heat and brush skin side with 1/4 of the bourbon glaze, then return to heat, skin-side up, for another 5 minutes. Remove pork from heat once more and brush meat side with 1/4 of the glaze, then return to heat, meat-side up, for another 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining glaze on both sides.

Shadowcook: I followed the above instructions exactly and nearly set my deck on fire. I used my gas grill this time. Without the skin, the fat on the pork belly dripped down onto the fire. Even when I turned off the middle burner, flames shot out. The instructions do not mention whether the lid should remain up or closed. I didn’t have a choice. Fat-fuelled flames shot out of the lid. I had to stand there and manipulate the grill basket, removing it and replacing it on the grill when the flames diminished. Had the skin been left on the pork belly, would as much fat have ignited a fire as this piece? Probably not, but I find it hard to believe that there would have been no flames and no fire. As it turned out, I barely had time to brush the sauce over the surface of the pork before another fire broke out. I’m tempted to say, “Do not attempt this at home” but instead will only issue a caution.

5. Dress a cutting board with half the olive oil, lemon juice and chives, and salt and pepper. Place pork skin side up on cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining olive oil, lemon juice and chives, and salt and pepper. Cut into 1-by-4-inch pieces and serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Shadowcook: Indisputably delicious, but worth it? The meat was beyond fork-tender. In fact, it was almost too moist, if that’s possible. The marinade and sauce delivered a complex package of flavors, but the flavors might have been heightened with the addition of a bit more salt.

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from the Essential Cuisines of Mexico, pp. 275-76.

Ever since I bought half of a slaughtered pig, I’ve promised myself that I would venture into the world of Diane Kennedy’s cookbooks on Mexican cuisine. No time felt right. Too busy, too hot, too distracted.

Last night, I went to hear Slaid Cleaves perform his heart-wrenching songs at the Palms in Winters. Something about his sad Texas stories, punctuated by aphorisms in foot-tapping folk-country twangs, created the mood for puerco en adobo. Then again, maybe it was the acordion.

At any rate, this afternoon, I rounded up all the ingredients and got to work:

Serve 6 to 8

3 1/2 to 4 pounds (1.5 to 1.8 kg) stewing pork with some fat, cut into 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) cubes

1 pound pork neck bones

1/2 white onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves

8 peppercorns

1 tablespoon salt

Shadowcook: One of the reasons I first set my sights on this recipe were the neck bones it called for. One of the benefits of buying half a pig — I got half the neck. I imagine a meat counter at a Latino market would have neck bones. Another reason to get out there and investigate those markets you always pass and wonder about.

The Adobo:

6 ancho chiles, seeds and veins removed

10 pasilla chiles, seeds and veins removed

1-inch (2.5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick, crushed

5 whole cloves, crushed

6 peppercorns, crushed

6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried

6 sprigs fresh marjoram or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed

6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 tablespoon mild white vinegar

The Final Stage:

1/4 cup (65 ml) lard

2 Mexican bay leaves

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 cups (750 ml) reserved meath broth

salt to taste

2 cups (500 ml) thinly sliced white onions

Put the meat, bones, onion, garlic, peppercorns, and salt into a large saucepan and barely cover with water. Bring the meat to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer it until it is just tender — about 35 minutes. Let the meat cool in the broth.

Shadowcook: The amount of bones and cubed pork on hand required a bigger pot than I expected. When it came to a boil, I skimmed off as much of the scum as I had patience for.

Drain the meat, reserving the broth. Set them aside.

Toast the chiles lightly, turning them from time to time so that they do not burn. Cover them with hot water and leave them to soak about 10 minutes. Transfer the chiles to the blender with 1 cup (250 ml) of water. Add the rest of the adobo ingredients and blend to a fairly smooth texture.

Shadowcook: It pays to organize yourself ahead of time. Seed and devein the chiles before you start. The chiles burn easily, so they bear watching closely. If this was a Rick Bayless recipe, he would advise straining the adobo paste through a medium-meshed strainer once you’ve blended it to a paste. Now that I’ve tried the end result, I’m inclined to think it would be better if I had done so. Regarding the spices for the adobado, I put all the dried spices in a coffee grinder I reserve for spices and ground them very lightly by pulsing the blade a few times.

Melt the lard in a large casserole. Add the adobo sauce, bay leaves, and sugar to the dish and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring most of the time to avoid sticking. Keep a splatterproof lid handy. When the sauce becomes a very dark red and thickens so that it will barely slide off a wooden spoon, it is cooked. Add the cooked meat.

Shadowcook: I do not have a splatterproof lid, but I did take care when I poured the adobo sauce into the hot lard. Step back as you pour, because it will splatter at first. Once it settles, there is no danger. I also found 15 minutes a trifle long. I would say 10 – 12 minutes is sufficient to darken and thicken the sauce.

Gradually stir in the broth and add salt as necessary. Add the meat and continue cooking the adobo over low heat for another 10 minutes.

Shadowcook: The “add the meat” direction here must be an extended typo — unless I’ve missed something. I boiled it for about 20 minutes to reduce the liquid and thicken the sauce.

Serve topped with the onion rings.

Note: The sauce can be made 2 or 3 days ahead — in fact it improves in flavor — up to the point of adding the broth. the pork can then be cooked the day you are going to use it. If there is any left over, the sauce freezes very well and makes a very good filling, mixed with shredded meat, for tacos.

Shadowcook: The pork came out exceedingly tender; the sauce deep, rich, and smoky. The chiles supplied heat, but not so much that it obscured their slightly sweet flavor. My only reservation concerns the fat. Defatting the sauce would diminish the richness, Im sure. Still, some might prefer to store the stew overnight and scoop the fat off the surface before reheating it the next day.

And while you’re at it, buy one of Slaid’s CDs. As well as deserving support, the poor guy looks like he needs it.

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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.

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from Rick Bayless\’s Mexican Kitchen, pp. 378-79.

The decision-making process I use when I consider buying a new cookbook involves finding a chair in the bookstore and counting the number of recipes in the candidate book that I would make. If I find ten, the deal is clinched. Rick Bayless\’s new book turned up far more than ten. In addition to a variety of salsas, I intend to try, among other, the Chilied Tortilla Soup with Shredded Chard, Slow-Simmered Fava Bean Soup with mint and pasilla chile, Smoky Shredded Pork Tacos, \”Drunken\” Pintos with Cilantro and Bacon, Oaxacan Green Mole with Pork, White Beans and Mexican Vegetables, Chile-Glazed Country Ribs, Tangy Yucatan Grilled Pork with Roasted Onions and fresh Garnishes, and so on.

The chiles are what appeals to me. I like toasting and rehydrating ancho and guajillo chiles. The smokiness is deep and rich. And now that I have finally sorted out which is the best grocery for all the ingredients I might need — and it turns out to be the store closest to me — I am determined to explore these recipes and some from the other Bayless book I own, Authentic Mexican, but have seldom used.

In spite of what I just wrote about toasting chiles, Bayless makes a point in this recipe of not toasting chiles. \”For pork that\’s cooked this long, you won\’t notice much difference in flavor between toasted and untoasted.\”

So, here we go with the recipe and my comments:

Makes 6 servings (enough meat for 20 good-size tacos)

2 medium (about 1 ounce total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

4 medium (about 1 ounce total) dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2 small white onion, roughly chopped, plus a couple of slices (broken into rings) for garnish

2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs (such as marjoram, thyme and Mexican oregano)

A scant 1/4 teaspoon allspice, preferably freshly ground

A pinch of cloves, preferably freshly ground

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rich-lasting lard

Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon

3 pounds lean, boneless pork shoulder or (Boston) butt roast

or 4 1/2 pounds fresh picnic ham with the skin on (for classic crispy skin)

8 leaves romaine leaves, for garnish

3 radishes, thinly sliced, for garnish

Shadowcook: Because I had only a bone-in pork should roast, I followed the one or two stipulations for the picnic ham.

1. The chile paste. Place the chiles in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and let stand 30 minutes to rehydrate, stirring occasionally to ensure even soaking. Drain, reserving 2/3 cup of liquid, then transfer chiles and reserved liquid to a food processor or blender.

Shadowcook: I used a blender in order to ensure a smoother puree.

Pulverize the bay leaves in a spice grinder or a mortar, then add to the blender, along with the vinegar, onion, garlic, mixed herbs, allspice and cloves. Process to a smooth puree (adding a little more water if needed to keep the mixture moving through the blades); press through a medium-mesh strainer into a small bowl.

Shadowcook: Here I had to omit the straining. Both of the strainers I own were too finely-meshed for the puree. All that came through was the liquid without any of the pulp. As it happens, the unstrained puree cooked down fine. I tasted miniscule shreds of the chile skins, but not enough to notice much or mar the taste. However, I intend to add a medium-mesh strainer to my kitchenware.

Set a large (6-quart) pot with a lid (preferably a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat and add the oil or lard. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree really sizzle, add it all at once. Stir constantly as the puree sears, concentrates and darkens into a spicy-smelling paste, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt.

Shadowcook: I found this recipe very forgiving of salt. Ok, I\’m from New Jersey, where salt is one of the major food groups. Still, the sauce can stand a good dose — particularly if you use kosher salt, like I do.

2. Seasoning and pot-roasting the meat. Turn on the oven to 325 degrees. If you are using pork shoulder or butt, cut it into slabs roughly 3 inches thick (try to get them all about the same thickness so they\’ll cook evenly); leave a picnic ham whole, but make 1-inch-deep incisions every few inches all over the meat. Lay the meat into the pot with the chile paste, then flip it over to cover with the chile (slathering with a spoon or spatula to give an even coating). Pour 1/2 cup water around the meat, cover tightly and place in the oven.

Shadowcook: I left the roast whole. The size of the pot makes a difference here. My Dutch oven is seven-quart, which meant that the sauce and 1/2 cup of water barely came up the side of the roast an inch. A six-quart would have immersed the meat in liquid to a higher point, more like a braise. That, I think, would have been preferable.

Baste the meat every 30 minutes with the liquid and rendered fat that accumulates around it. After about 2 1/2 hours (the fresh ham may need another 1/2 to 1 hour), the meat will be fork-tender and will have darkened to an appetizing and crusty, rich, red-brown. If all the liquid evaporates during the cooking, leaving only chile paste and fat, dribble a little more water into th epan so you can go on basting. If time allows, let the pork stand, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes to reabsorb juices before serving.

Shadowcook: I roasted the meat for three hours and let it sit covered on the counter for 30 minutes. That last 30 minutes is crucial to the moistness.

3. Serving the meat. Line a serving platter with the lettuce leaves. With the help of tongs, spatulas or meat forks, transfer the meat to the platter, then taste the pan juices and add a little more salt if necessary. Spoon the juices over the meat, then scatter the onion rings and radish slices over all, to create a riot of color and texture.

Shadowcook: Bayless doesn\’t suggest tortillas, but maybe it\’s a given. I heated a couple and wrapped them in a towel. But next time I\’m going to follow a suggestion he makes in another recipe: wrap the tortillas in foil, stick them in a bamboo steamer over simmering water, and steam them until really warm. I like that idea a lot.

Advance preparation: The pot-roasted pork holds well in a low oven for an hour or so before serving. It can be done ahead and rewarmed in a 350-degree oven, though the texture of just-cooked pork is the best.

Final Thoughts: The chile paste is so deep and smoky that I\’d like to use in other ways. Maybe it would work as a marinade for pork chops.

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