The plan was to work on a pork belly dish that is both brined and cooked with Dr. Pepper and harissa. That careful planning went out the window on Saturday. A fresh picnic shoulder grabbed our attention. Pick me! Pick me! The thought resonated as we pondered ribs, roasts and tenderloins. As I gave in to temptation and reached for the shoulder Aki surprised me with her firmly spoken, not quite a question, "We are roasting it on the bone, right?" I nodded. "Of course we are." I have this tendency to disassemble and reassemble ingredients. Occasionally she likes to keep things simple. Not a problem. One whole roasted hunk of porky goodness coming up. After all, no restrictions were placed on what I would roast it with.
We returned home ravenously hungry and it was fortunate that we had some leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes in the the refrigerator. A salad dressed with ponzu and a hunk of bread completed the impromptu feast. With my hunger tamed, I was able to focus on that shoulder. I seasoned it heavily with salt and put it in a roasting pan with a few cans of the real Dr. Pepper. The oven was set at 300 degrees Fahrenheit and it happily provided a warm environment for our pork. As I shut the oven door I lamented the fact that we did not have any harrisa on hand. And then I remembered that we had recently purchased a large jar of kimchee. When all else fails, adapt. And the idea of pork, Dr. Pepper and kimchee somehow sounded even better than our original harissa version. I did not want to roast the pork on the kimchee for the entire cooking time, so a hastily scrawled post-it note labeled "add kimchee to pork" adorned the oven door.
A slow roasted pork shoulder takes time. It also ensures that the entire area will become rich with the heady scents of caramelizing pig. When your nose gets that first hit of roast pork it is time to go back to the oven. After a couple of hours I peeked into the oven and saw the Dr. Pepper was reducing. I added some water to free up the developing fond. At this point I also added the kimchee. I used about a pint. I should have used a half gallon. That way I would have had more decadent pork infused kimchee to eat with my supper. Once the spicy cabbage was added to the pan a new smell developed. The Dr. Pepper and pork were a great combination. The addition of the kimchee made it sinful. It created a whole new aroma of absolute deliciousness.
I closed the oven door and my mind danced with visions and flavor profiles that were conjured up in my mind. Then I settled in to wait. A slow roasted pork shoulder takes time. Longer than you would hope with the scent of its lusciousness teasing your belly and making your mouth water. Be patient. A juicy, crackling pork shoulder is the reward for your endurance. Occasionally I would slip my head into the oven, basting the pork with the blended juices, adding water if the pan started to dry. This minding of the meat is important and it allowed me to watch the pork transform from soft pinkish-white meat to a crisp, dark mahogany roast.
When we were at the outer limits of our patience the shoulder appeared to be almost done. We turned off the oven, propped the door open and left it to rest. A half an hour later we pulled the pork from the oven. It was a thing of beauty. I quickly grabbed a plate and Aki picked up the camera. I spooned the roasted kimchee onto the plate. It had reduced down to a decadent, gooey mass of cabbage flavored with chilis, Dr. Pepper and ham juice. Then I placed the shoulder on top. A few shots later and we were finally able to snap off the crackling skin, sink our teeth into the tender, juicy flesh and slather on the roasted kimchee. A few crunchy leaves of romaine were on hand to balance the richness of the meat. I may have eaten a leaf or two, Aki a few more. It was delicious.
Next time, I plan to brine the shoulder for a few days, and use twice as much kimchee than I think is necessary. We may even try this with a pork roast, a thick loin wrapped and tied in a thin layer of bacon fat or lardo. Or as is often the case, we will move on to new things. Because while I can be patient in specific instances, my attention span is still short. The odds of quickly revisiting a successful idea are slim. For now I've got some leftovers and I'm seriously contemplating Cuban sandwiches for lunch.