Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Slow Cooked Pork Spring Rolls

Got a beautiful pork shoulder from Paulina Market and decided to cook it for a real long time and eat it. I'm old and have traveled a lot, and the one thing I've learned is that very few things are universal. Not every culture is monogamous, not every culture has money or property, not every culture even has numbers to express quantities bigger than three. But everybody on earth not forbidden by religion cooks pigs slowly and eats them. Some do it by burying the pig in a hole full of hot rocks, some wrap the pig in leaves and build a fire over it, some rotate the pig on a spit over the fire, and some put it in a pot and braise it. The only  common feature is that a pig is getting cooked for a long-ass time and people are going to eat it and tell each other how fucking delicious it is. Pork is magical, in that as long as you season it and cook it for a real long time, you basically can't make it anything but delicious. We've all had bad barbecue or mediocre ribs. Delicious, wasn't it? Totally finished the whole thing.

I seasoned the shoulder with salt and pepper, after first scoring the beautiful fat cap into a diamond pattern, and started it off in the dutch oven. With pork I usually like to bring the meat up to temperature slowly, so it doesn't seize up and get tough. If I want to caramelize a pork chop or roast, Ill do it at the last minute under the broiler, once the meat texture has been finalized by slower cooking. For a big butt like this though, I brown it all over to develop a nice flavor and fond first, then let it braise long enough to break down and become unctuous. I started the browning on the fat cap, so the rendering fat would provide most of the cooking medium and I don't need to add much extra oil, just enough to get the fat started.

Once the meat was browned all over, I moved it to a platter to make room and loaded the pot with an onion and apple, both cut into substantial chunks, a handful of little carrots from a bag and six cloves of garlic, smashed but not chopped. I let all that brown in the rendered fat, then seasoned it all with salt, pepper and a couple glugs of vinegar. I threw a cinnamon stick and some dried hot chiles in the pot, nestled the pork back among the vegetables and added a  pint each of chicken stock and apple juice. Once it came up to a boil, I stuck it in the oven at 225 degrees with a lid on it and let it cook for christ knows how long. Hours. Five hours, maybe eight.

How was it? Dude, we've been over this. It was slow cooked pork, it was fucking awesome. Delicious, succulent, unctuous and tender. That's what you get when you do this. You strike a match, you get fire. You cook pork a long time, you get something delicious. When it's a big ass pork shoulder, you also get a lot of it, way more than can be eaten all at once, and that's where the spring rolls come in. We had so much left over that I could make enough spring rolls to feed both Heather and the poker crowd.

Somewhere in there Legs* sent me an email asking if raw apples would be good with cooked pork. I replied of course they would but then realized I hadn't eaten raw apples with cooked pork before. A regular late-night snack for Heather and me is a plate of apple slices with prosciutto or salami, and I cook pork with apples all the time, but raw apples with cooked pork, nope. Time to give that a shot. I began grating an apple in preparation for making rolls with it, but the grated apple began discoloring immediately. I tried acidifying it with a little rice vinegar but that didn't stop the discoloration. I decided that since the apples were going inside the roll the discoloration wouldn't offend, and stopped worrying about it. I made the spring rolls with the apples and shredded delicious braised pork on a bed of rice cooked in stock and saffron, and some parsley, basil and mint from the alley. I served them with a quick Siracha aoli made by emulsifying some Siracha with an egg yolk, a little honey, mustard, pureed garlic, salt, sesame oil and olive oil. It's a favorite quick sauce and all-purpose dressing. It goes well with anything containing strong flavors.**

Single men, for a good time in the LA area, call Legs. Can't find a photo of her at the moment, but picture the girl of your dreams, only sexier. That's Legs. She has a car and a Prince tape she plays in the car. She will sing along to Prince in the car. Guys, really it's better than I'm making it sound.

** Absolutely no dick jokes this time. Didn't even slip one in accidentally.***
*** Footnotes don't count.


  1. Mr. Albini, have you tried beef cheek meat? If not, it's exactly what it sounds like: the cheeks from a cow, which are huge and ugly. It's a big deal down here in South Texas. It's cooked in similar fashion: very slowly, preferably in a pit of some sort. I usually just put it in the oven. That gnarly-ass piece of meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

    When it's done, you shred it. As you're doing so, you might see ribbons of what look like snot. As you said, "unctuous."

    Like fajitas (translated: "belts"), the use of this cut has humble origins, and like fajitas, it has transcended those origins. Now, it's the "It" meat, according to culinary writers.

    Anyway, if you haven't tried it, I recommend it very highly. You can tell your friends and family it's a roast.

    Take Care.

  2. Followed your recipe on the pork last weekend and it turned out great! I used a shoulder instead of a butt, and there was way too much cooking liquid after the 7 or so hours (it wasn't a real big cut), so i just drained it off and stuck it under the broiler for a minute or two.

    I can see the wisdom in just kind of eye balling shit when cooking. I've been trudging through the Art of French Cooking for the last few years and its easy to get hung up and stressed out on time and measurements or whatever. It also got me paying a little more attention to color when I was doing the sauteing.



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