When Petey and I first married, not only could I not cook, I had no idea how to cook for two. At home, my mother always made enough at each meal to feed many, many unexpected guests. In my entire childhood, while it may not “have been fancy,” as mom would say, there was always plenty, no matter how many sat at her table, or needed a to-go plate or fourteen.
So when I made meat loaf for my handsome groom, it was always at least four pounds, and then I couldn’t figure out why I had a frat party’s worth of food going fuzzy in the fridge.
It took a long time, but I finally figured out how to cook for a realistic number of diners. Since then I am obsessed with using all the food that I buy, and wasting as little as possible.
But when I plan on making Boston Butt, the shoulder of a pig, I always buy a cut as large as my big dutch oven, “Old Blue” can handle. Usually about five pounds. When the Kid was at home, I could make an eight pounder in“Mrs. Lovett”, The Kid’s massive cooker. But the pot went north, along with our child, and most of our money.
And not one ounce of an oinker goes to waste.
Last Monday night I made a 4 1/2 pounder. I cooked up a pot of yellow rice with pigeon peas as well. I marinated the hunk of pig in the fridge over night. Early in the day I dried it off, rubbed seasoning all over it, and gave it a dark brown sear on all sides. I brown my aromatics (the flavoring veg, and spices) in the same pot, deglaze, put the roast back in the pan fat side up, and pour in liquid until it comes about halfway up the sides of the pork.
I am purposefully not advising on other ingredients. You can make it any style you want. From beer, cabbage, and carrots to fish sauce, yuzu and five spice. Have fun, but keep tasting your concoction for flavor and balance.
Bake it low and slow. The lowest safe oven temperature to cook it is 225. Monday, my little piggy took six and a half hours. This meat will tell you when it’s done. When the muscle groups of the roast are falling away from each other, and you can easily shred even inner meat with a fork; it’s done. Don’t try to force the pig, it doesn’t work.
For our rice and pigeon peas, I put some pig chopped, into a pan with achiote-garlic oil. I crisped it up, and put a handful on the top each serving of rice.
At the end of cooking it, I had four bags of slow-roasted pork to freeze for later.
Last night, I added some Mexican spice and made a torte in a spring-form pan. I layered rice (leftover from Monday, and spiced with poblanos) and pork with freshly roasted corn between tortillas. I put sliced tomatoes, and sliced Oaxaca cheese on top. At the end, I spread a lime-cumin sour cream, into which I’ve whisked some fine white masa. This bakes up like a super creamy polenta. I sprinkled shredded cheddar, snipped chive, and a fine dusting of smoked paprika on the top of the polenta. It went under the broiler to puff, and brown. I let it rest for a bit, release the ring, and am left with a layered cake kinda thing, full of a Mexican dinner.
Another night my bag o’ pork might be used on tacos, sandwiches, or baked potatoes. I put it in pies, casseroles, and pasta. I have the slowest of slow-roasted pork, which only takes defrosting time.
If I’m in the kitchen, making a huge batch of something, Petey, veteran of many dinners for two, featuring casseroles for eight, looks nervous. But if I have a piece of pig the size of lawn mower in the oven, he just looks hungry.
Thanks for your time.