Friday, January 31, 2014

Pork and Beans


Pork Shoulder Slow Cooked with Limas
Photograph by A. Schloss
I started this blog with a basic definition:"Cooking is a balance between temperature and time." This is the post to prove it. Here we have two recipes, both for pork shoulder slow cooked with beans. The first is pot roasted at 175°F/80°C, the second just 15°F/8°C higher, still at a moderately low 190°F/88°C. The textural differences between the two are dramatic. Not all slow cooking is created equal.

Raw Pork Shoulder with BBQ Seasoning
The shoulder of a pig is the most exercised muscle on the animal’s body, and like all tough cuts it requires long periods of moist heat to become tender. Pork shoulder corresponds to the chuck in beef, and,both are the most flavorful cut on the animal. The shoulder is webbed with well developed connective tissue, and highly striated with veins of fat that melt as the meat heats, keeping it moist no matter how hot the lean parts get. 

As meat heats three things happen, the lean protein firms, the fat melts, and the connective tissue tenderizes. Although connective tissue is present in all meat it is only of culinary importance in tough meat cuts, like shoulder, brisket, and parts of the leg, where it has become dense enough to be noticeable. Although muscle fibers are edible at any temperature, thick connective tissue only becomes tender enough to chew above 160°F/71°C.  


Cooked to 175°F
Photograph by A. Schloss
Between 140°F/60°C and 150°F/65°C, collagen, the principle protein in connective tissue that surrounds meat fibers, starts to tighten, causing the meat to lose juices and shrink . At this point a tough cut of meat is at maximum toughness. Then at around 160°F/71°C the collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin, which gradually tenderizes the meat. At 175°F/80°C, when the gelatinization is at mid-range, the flesh is moist and soft, but still has enough solid gelatin to keep the roast firm enough to slice without falling apart. By 190°F/88°C gelatinization is complete. The cooked meat fibers easily collapse into a succulent mass at the slightest touch, and the collagen has melted into the lip-smacking syrupy delicacy that is the benchmark of quality in slow roasted meat. 

Reaching those hallmarks of doneness can be accomplished at any roasting temperature, but the results are best, and the process is most convenient when the oven thermostat is set to the exact temperature you want the meat to be when it is done. This extreme form of slow cooking prevents overcooking, and takes all of the guesswork out of timing. Because the oven is no hotter than the finished roast, the meat, in theory, could roast for a week without ever overcooking.

Savory Pork Shoulder with Limas

This recipe, a riff on the pork shoulder recipe on page 32 of Cooking Slow, is slow roasted at 175°F/80°C, the lower end of the temperature range, yielding moist medium-done slices. As the meat cooks onions, tomatoes, green limas, and a flock of herbs and garlic simmer in the pot, melding into a saucy side dish that is served with the finished meat - one pot, two courses, practically no work. 
Pork Shoulder with Limas Set Up
Photograph by A. Schloss

Makes 6 servings

2 1/2 lb/1.2 kg boneless pork shoulder, rolled and tied by the butcher
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cups/480 ml dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
One 14 1/2-oz/415-g can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted, drained
2 lb/900 g frozen fordhook lima beans
1/4 cup/10 g coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup/10 g coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 garlic cloves, halved

Rub the Chef Salt all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 175°F/80°C.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the pork and sear until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onion to the oil remaining in the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans and return to a simmer, then remove the pot from the heat and set aside.

In a mini food processor, combine the fresh rosemary, the parsley, and the garlic clove halves and process until finely chopped. Stir half of the fresh herb mixture into the tomato-bean mixture and return the pork to the Dutch oven, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Cover and roast until fork-tender, 5 to 6 hours.

Pork shoulder braised with limas and vegetables at 175°F
Photograph by A. Schloss

Transfer the pork roast to a carving board. Stir the remaining fresh herb mixture into the beans in the pot. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a serving bowl. Snip the strings from the pork and, using a sharp slicing knife, carve across the grain on the diagonal into medium-thick slices. Arrange the slices on the platter or plates with beans on the side. Spoon the tomatoes and juices remaining in the pot over the pork and serve. 

BBQ Pork and Beans

A combo of two Cooking Slow recipes, Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder on page 32, and Slow Simmered Bourbon-Bacon Beans on page 100, this riff is the ultimate Super Bowl belly buster. The pork is cooked until it can no longer hold together. It slices fine, but at the first forkful it dissolves into a mound of smoky-sweet porky ecstasy. The beans are of the classic beer-undated BBQ variety. 

Makes 6 servings

BBQ Pork and Beans Set Up
Photograph by A. Schloss
2 1/2 lb/1.2 kg boneless pork shoulder, rolled and tied by the butcher
2 strips bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup/60 ml bourbon1 bottle (12 fl oz/355 ml) lager beer
One 14 1/2-oz/415-g can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup/60 ml molasses
1/3 cup/78 ml sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown mustard
Two 15-oz/430-g cans Great northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 bay leaves

Rub the Chef Salt all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 190°F/88°C.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the chopped bacon until the bits are starting to look cooked and the bottom of the pot is glazed with fat. Remove the bits of bacon, and reserve. Add the pork and sear until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Return the bacon to the pot. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the bourbon and beer, bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, molasses, sugar, soy sauce, mustard and beans and return to a simmer. Stir in the bay leaves and return the pork to the Dutch oven, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Cover and roast until fork-tender, 6 to 8 hours.

BBQ Pork Shoulder (190°F) and BBQ beans
Photograph by A. Schloss

Transfer the pork roast to a carving board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, return the Dutch oven to medium-high heat and bring the pan juices to a boil. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a serving bowl. Snip the strings from the pork and, using a sharp slicing knife, carve across the grain on the diagonal into medium-thick slices. Arrange the slices on the platter or plates. Spoon the sauce in the pot over the pork and serve with beans on the side. 

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