Cooking for a small crowd can be really stressful for the budding Michael Chiarello. However, it can be one of the most fun things you can do for friends and family. There is something perversely satisfying with making something delicious and sharing it with people you really really care about. A lot of things can go wrong but there are a few things I always do when having a few guests over:
- Have lots of booze. If the food sucks, a good buzz makes it better.
- Make most of the food ahead of time.
- Hope and pray that there are no vegetarians.
This Shanghai recipe for slowly cooked pork starts off with a quick sear in copious amounts of hot oil. There is a lot of potential for an unintentional burn ward visit so use a really hot oven to brown if uncomfortable with the idea of lowering a hunk of pig in hot oil.
Red cooked pork shoulder, like most braised and slow-cooked meats, is much better made a day ahead. The sauce is slightly sweet and rendered aromatic from the use of eight-star anise, cinnamon sticks, and ginger.
recipe adapted from Eileen Yin-fei Lo’s The Chinese Kitchen
Red Cooked Pork Shoulder
Jau Yau Tai Pong
5 to 6 pound skin-on pork shoulder
1 cup + 2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 1/2 cups peanut oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 pieces eight-star anise
2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds
2 one-inch slices ginger, peeled
10 cups cold water
1/3 cup Shao-Hsing wine
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered red rice (optional)
- The powdered red rice can be difficult to find but doesn’t really add anything other than that authentic shade of red. For a more vibrant reddish tint, add the red rice towards the last half hour of cooking.
Red rice, inexplicably labeled “yeast”
Wash the pork shoulder with cold water while scraping the skin with a knife. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub the pork shoulder with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
Heat the peanut oil in a hot wok over high heat. The oil temperature should be around 375ºF.
The pork shoulder I used weighed 15 pounds and won’t fit in my largest pot so I had to cut off the shank. I used it for a searing test run:
The skin immediately started getting small white bubbles and the smell reminded me of chicharrón. Sear the pork shoulder on all sides. Ladle hot oil over the meat for 1 to 2 minutes or turn if necessary. Remove the pork shoulder from the wok.
Place the pork shoulder in a large pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Add as much liquid as needed to completely immerse the pork shoulder.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Try to keep the liquid at 185ºF. Cook for anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on the size of the pork shoulder. It’s ready when the meat pulls away easily from the bone.
Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Reheat gently before serving.