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When the weather gets cold and it’s dark by dinnertime, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good pork roast.  You can warm your house, make your kitchen smell fantastic AND put dinner on the table with a minimum of effort and ingredients.  What’s not to love?  I purchase pork shoulder roasts from the butcher: they are fairly inexpensive and very flavorful.  Because I cook for two, I generally look for a 2 lb. roast, which provides between three and five meals for us.  This is a versatile meat, in terms of the vegetables and herbs you can pair with it, but I tend to keep the cooking method fairly standard.  Here’s my way, but be creative!  There are so many great variations to this recipe.  Sometimes I make a pork roast just to have the leftovers for subsequent meals.

Roast Pork Shoulder 

  • 2 lb pork shoulder, fat trimmed but not completely removed
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 c. sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 c. water or chicken broth
  • 1-2 stalks fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 3-4 stalks fresh thyme or 1 T dried thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large stove-to-oven skillet or Dutch oven*, heat oil.  Season roast liberally on all sides with salt & pepper; use tongs or a large fork to place roast in the hot pan.  Let sear for 3-4 minutes before moving.  (If roast resists being lifted from the pan, the sear is not complete.  It should give fairly easily when browned.)  Repeat with other side and then use the tongs/fork to hold roast up, allowing browning of the short ends and any other un-browned areas.  Don’t skip the searing steps, as it will provide both flavor and moisture to your final dish.  Add sliced onions around and on top of the meat and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, until you can start to smell them.  Add vinegar and use a wooden spoon to scrape browned bits off the bottom of the pan; add stock or water to cover the bottom of your pan by about an inch.  Remove from burner and place herbs, if using, on top of the roast.  Cover and place in your preheated oven; cook for about 45 minutes.  At this halfway point, carefully uncover, turn roast and baste with some of the cooking liquid, placing some onion on top.  Return to the oven for about another 45 minutes.  When your roast is done (internal temperature of 160 is recommended for pork), remove pan from oven and leave covered to rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

*An enameled cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven is recommended; if you don’t have a pan that will go from the stove to the oven, transfer the roast from a stove-top skillet into an oven-proof dish before baking.

Suggested variations

  • Add potatoes and/or carrots to your pan with 30-40 minutes left to cook for a pot roast-style meal.
  • Replace herbs with a dry rub made of chili powder, cumin and a touch of brown sugar for a Southwestern flavor.
  • After browning, mix 1/4 c. dijon mustard with fresh or dried thyme and use a spoon to coat the roast with this mixture.  Decrease vinegar to 1-2 T.  Be careful not to wash the mustard off when you add stock/water to the pan.
What to do with leftovers:
  • Slice thinly; add to sauteed onion & pepper mix and serve fajita-style in warmed flour tortillas.  Garnish with salsa verde, avocado  & cotija cheese.
  • Slice thinly and then give slices a rough chop; add to saute pan with onions or shallot already browned.  Serve warm on a toasted baguette with crisp lettuce and horseradish mayonnaise: 2 T. mayo, 1 tsp. (or more to taste) prepared horseradish, 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, salt & pepper.