Summer you say? So hot you can only eat salads and look at homemade gourmet popsicles? Well not in New England buddy. You've heard of the Mason Dixon line, that mistical invisible divider of the North and the South? We're currently living north of the mason dixon of sumer weather, we are firmly planted in early cold wet spring even though the calendar indicates we are not so many days from July. I want to have the urge to just toss something on the grill and whip up a gorgeous salad of fresh garden grown greens but mother nature has decided that I will whip out my crock pot and hunker down with stew instead. FINE! I can play that game.
On Thursday I raided the chest freezer in the garage and found a pork shoulder I had brought back from a farmer in Maine kicking around in a dark corner, I tossed it in the fridge to thaw and headed off to work. I knew it would end up as some semblance of pulled pork, I just wasnt sure what country the pulled pork would be from. Thursday went by without a chance to research any recipes and I headed home without stopping at the store. Friday I ended up staying home to update the work calendar so I had to raid fridges and pantries and in the end I settled on Italian.
I prepped everything in the morning and then wandered upstairs to my computer to work on the calendar. Sometime around 3:00 my house started to smell like my Italian grandmother had been in the kitchen all day. It was in the slow cooker on low for about 7 hours, but I'm pretty sure it would have been fine to eat after around 5 hours. We had it with cauliflower that was tossed with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and roasted. Caulifower and tomato sauce are a match made in heaven, trust me on this.
Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder in the Italian Style
2- 28oz cans of tomatoes (I chose one whole and 1 crushed and both were fire roasted.)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 large Spanish or 2 small yellow onions cut to 1/4" dice
1 carrot grated finely (My Mom always added carrot to her sauce)
1 red chili chopped, seeds included (you could also use dried crushed red pepper to taste)
1 pork shoulder 4 - 5 lbs
4 oz guanciale or pancetta diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 - 1/2 cup Italian flat leaf parsley
2 cups dry red wine
6 - 8 sage leaves
1 sprig rosemary
handful of thyme
First make your sauce. In a heavy bottom pan drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and the garlic (don't worry, since the pan is cool the garlic won't burn), cook this over low heat until everything is nice and soft and just starting to get some color. Add the chopped hot chili and stir for 30 seconds. Add the grated carrot and cook 1 - 2 minutes or until carrot is soft. Turn up the heat, tip in the crushed and whole tomatoes and their juices (again, don't worry about adding the tomatoes whole, you'll chop them with a spoon as you cook) and bring everything up to a high simmer. Turn the heat down and cook for 20 - 30 mintes stirring ocassionally and chopping up the whole tomatoes with your spoon as you go. Cook until some of the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens. Season to taste with some kosher or sea salt.
While the sauce is cooking salt the pork and let it rest.
Make the soffrito: In a food processor pulse the guanciale or pancetta, garlic cloves, thyme and parsley until fairly smooth.
In a heavy bottom skillet or dutch oven add 1/4 cup of oil. When the oil is shimmering add the soffrito and stir. It will begin to melt into the olive oil and smell very fragrant. Add the sage leaves (whole is fine) and rosemary. Be careful to not burn the garlic, adjust the heat if neccessary. Cook 2 - 3 minutes. Pour this into the crock pot.
Return the pan to the heat and add the pork starting with the fat side in order to render some fat for the pan. Turn the shoulder and brown evenly.
While this is browning the sauce should now be done. Add this to the crock pot with the soffrito.
When the roast has browned add it to the crock pot squishing it down nicely and nestling it in the sauce. Add 1 cup of red wine to the pan and deglaze scraping up and brown buts ad reduce by half. Pour this into the crock pot and add the 2nd cup of wine.
Cook on low for 5 - 7 hours or until the pork shreds easily. There will be a good deal of fat that has risen to the surface. Just skim it off with a spoon before you remove the pork and stir everything together. Place the pork on a platter and either slice, chunk or shred it. Serve the sauce on the side to pour on everything. No really, everything. So good!