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Pig Of The Week: Shoulder – No Butt Of A Joke

Our resident swine-lover Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen sings the praises of pork shoulder, and serves the perfect hangover sandwich. It’s Pig Of The Week time.
By Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

Pork shoulder and hangover sandwich

Before and after: Pork shoulder and hangover sandwich

In the last decade pork belly has become as ubiquitous in British gastro pubs as  Yorkshire puddings, Sunday papers and traces of Charlie in the toilets on a Friday night. Pork belly’s alluring texture of meat layered in between slabs of fat has been a hit with punters and provides an affordable alternative to more conventional cuts, such as loin or chop. Chefs braise it, brine it, put it in water baths and fry the hell out of the swine until you get crispy skin that crackles in your mouth.

I’ve enjoyed the belly renaissance as much as the next guy but sometimes find its taste and consistency to be a bit one-dimensional. However, this a charge that could never be levelled against my latest love interest: the pork shoulder.

The shoulder, like any favourite child, has many names. In the US the thicker and more marbled part of the shoulder  is known as Boston butt, because of the way it was stored in barrels – or ‘butts’ – doing Colonial times. I’ve eaten this  prepared as pulled pork for barbecues or cooked as a roast. But the guy who opened my eyes to the true potential of the shoulder is the American chef David Chang (watch this and don’t tell me you are not just a little bit in love with him as well).

Last year I went to his Momofuku Ssam Bar restaurant to try the much heralded pork buns. Pretty much the only thing on the menu I didn’t sample that night was his version of the Korean classic bo ssäm, where you wrap up pork meat, kimchi and oysters in salad leaves.

When I got to work on Chang’s cookbook back in my own kitchen bo ssäm was first on the menu … and the beast delivered. Chang’s recipe for the meat is pisstakingly simple, yet genius. He brines the shoulder overnight in plenty of salt and sugar and then pops the shoulder in the oven until it is tender, before caramelising it with brown sugar. The end result is quite staggering as the fat and  marinade permeates the entire lump, leaving you with the most tender and tasty pork.

The roasted shoulder is also one of the best hangover meats, and works brilliantly with pickled cucumber and shredded red cabbage in a burger bun. I’m not much of a recipe writer – in fact this is my first ever attempt – but here is a rough adaptation of Chang’s recipe for the pork shoulder he uses for bo ssäm, as well as the trimmings necessary for the perfect roast pork hangover sandwich.

The meat
1. Don’t try to be cute and cook shoulder for two people ; get hold of a proper sized cut, about 6-8 lbs (2.5-3.5 kgs) with the bone in. Trust me – you will eat it all. Put the shoulder in a roasting tray and add 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of salt. Make sure you give the pig a good old massage with the salt and sugar mixture and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

2. Next day, drain the tray of any liquid and stick the shoulder in a preheated oven on 350F (180C).

3. After about 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 320F. I find it hard to overcook the shoulder but after about 5-6 hours you should be left with the perfect succulency. If the shoulder starts to brown too early you can cover it with tin foil.

4. Take out the shoulder and let the meat rest for 30 mins. Crank the oven back up to about 420F. Rub 3/4 cup of brown sugar over the top of the meat and stick it back in the oven for half an hour. There should now be a lovely golden and sticky caramalised outside. Even if it looks a bit charred chances are that it tastes divine.

At this point you can follow Chang’s bo ssäm recipe and present it Korean BBQ style, or slice up the meat and serve it with apple sauce and crispy potatoes. The roasted shoulder really is a very forgiving and adaptable friend.

However, let’s focus on the most important meal of the week: The hangover snack the day after.

Take the leftover bits of pork  with all that lovely sticky-sweet goodness hanging from it. Tear and chop it into strips and heat it in the microwave or in a pan with a drizzle of honey. You will end up with your own little batch of pulled pork.

Pickled cucumber

  • One cucumber
  • 3/4 cup (0,6dl) of vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2  tsp salt

1. Slice the cucumber thinly (a mandolin will save you some aggro but prettiness is not of the essence).

2. Stir the other ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved and add it to the cucumber slices.

3. Let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours (or even overnight) and season to taste before you serve it. You can always add a bit more vinegar or salt at this point.  You can also do all sorts of wicked things with dill and chili but let’s keep it simple for the sake of this recipe.

Mayonnaise

1. Mix the egg yolks with … Ah, forget about it. Just use any kind of decent looking posh mayo in a jar (but not the cheap stuff in a tube that looks polyfill).

Red cabbage

  • Small red cabbage
  • Vinegar (cider, apple, white wine – whatever you got knocking about)
  • 1/2 cup water or freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Red currant jelly
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • One whole star anise
  • 1 tbsp honey

1.  Remove the outer leaves and stem, and slice the cabbage finely into short strips.

2. Heat the butter in a large pot and fry off the cabbage lightly without colouring it.

3. Add the water or orange juice, a couple of tablespoons of the jelly, star anise, honey and a splash of vinegar and let it simmer for 15 mins with an occasional stir. You can add more vinegar as you go along to get the right sweet and sour balance.

Don’t overdo the cooking time; you want the cabbage to be soft but with a crispy touch on the outside.

4.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and honey and leave to cool.

Assembling

Slice a burger bun in half and toast it lightly on both sides. Spread the insides with mayonnaise and add the cabbage, pork and cucumber.

Line up a couple of these sliders, turn on the footie, grab the beer left over in the fridge from last night, and you will reliase why pork shoulder should be hogging the culinary limelight.

Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen lives in Copenhagen where he writes about food and football for the Guardian newspaper. Prior to that he spent 10 years in London where he studied journalism, worked on the Guardian’s newsdesk and enjoyed a passionate love affair with British food culture (stop sniggering at the back) and the pub.

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Originally Published: March 26, 2011

7 Responses to Pig Of The Week: Shoulder – No Butt Of A Joke

  1. Johanna Kindvall

    Johanna Kindvall Reply

    March 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I really have to do this hang-over pork shoulder! Sounds the best!

    • Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

      Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen Reply

      March 30, 2011 at 4:30 am

      Well, you will need to lay the foundation for a hangover first, but I never found that to be a particularly difficult task.

      The whole thing just makes perfect sense to me: cook a lovely roast for your mates in the evening, get pissed and chuck the leftovers together in a sandwich the next day. The red cabbage and picked cucumber is very much inspired by the roast pork sandwiches you get at the hot-dog stalls here in Copenhagen, but you can pretty much throw anything together with the roast butt – it will come out lovely.

      btw. love your beef stew diagram.

      • Johanna Kindvall

        Johanna Kindvall Reply

        April 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm

        Thanks! I will look for the pork sandwiches at the hot-dog stalls when I’m in Copenhagen next time. What do they call in Danish?

        • Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

          Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen Reply

          April 11, 2011 at 3:13 am

          Just ask for a ‘flæskesteg sandwich’. My favourite is the one they serve at Isted Grill on Istedgade (http://www.istedgrill.dk/). It’s a greasy little late-night Chinese takeaway that somehow pulls off this classic Danish snack. Perfect end to a night out in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro area. But whatever you do, stay away from their hotdog wrapped in filo pastry – it’s filth.

  2. Laura Davis

    Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet Reply

    April 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I made this for guys in the house and they loved it. I was lazy and didn’t do the cabbage and cucumber but they came up with their own accompaniments. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Curtis Maybin Reply

    May 1, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Lars, I have a Primo grill and was wondering if I just cook Pork shoulder they way I normally do. This look great and with summer coming here – oh yeah this will be a good choice.

    thanks

    Curtis

    • Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

      Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen Reply

      May 17, 2011 at 3:49 am

      Hi Curtis. Sorry for the belated reply. Very jealous of your Primo smoker. I’ve lived in urban areas for the last 15 years of my life and haven’t owned a BBQ, so I’m probably not the right guy to ask. On this talkboard (http://www.bbqsource-forums.com/invboard/index.php?showtopic=22) there seems to be some debate as to whether the brining is necessary but I think it can only help.

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