August 28, 2019
Most people associate pork shoulder with pulled pork, a traditional southern barbecue dish done for several hours—often an entire day—in the smoker. You can get similar results in a low oven, without the smoke; pork shoulder’s tough connective tissues need a long time over low heat to break down, but when it does, you’ll be rewarded with meltingly tender, flavourful meat.
Braising is the perfect cooking method with pork shoulder, but consider the possibilities beyond stock, tomatoes, beer and wine. All are ideal braising liquids, but this caramel pork is a step beyond—heating sugar into caramel, mixing it with fish sauce and simmering the pork in it, plus coconut water, is a revelation. Add chilies to suit your taste, ginger or cilantro if you like it, and if you want to make it ahead, refrigerate it overnight to reheat the next day. Bonus: the fat will rise to the surface and solidify, making it easy to remove (even if you only want to skim away some of it) before reheating.
Braised Caramel Pork
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup fish sauce
canola oil, for cooking
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
salt and pepper, to taste
2 shallots or 1/4 purple onion, thinly sliced or chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Thai birds’ eye chilies or 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
pinch red chilli flakes
1-2 cups coconut water
steamed rice, for serving
In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, cook the sugar with about 2 Tbsp water, swirling the pan often, until it turns the colour of maple syrup. Remove from heat and stir in the fish sauce. If it solidifies, keep stirring until it melts again.
- Julie Van Rosendaal
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