This weekend, we hosted our very first Christmas dinner. We managed to feed 8 people from our tiny kitchen without too much stress, and I believe the reason things went so smoothly is the simplicity and forgiving nature of the pulled pork we served. Everyone loves pulled pork and with a family of picky eaters, we needed something that would be a crowd pleaser. It’s pretty hard to argue with slow braised pork, so tender it falls apart when you look at it. Even our most skeptical guest (my father-in-law would gladly eat cake over any savoury dish you put in front of him) gobbled it up quickly. The meat is juicy with a slight sweetness, and a beautiful depth of flavor as a result of being slow braised with a generous amount of herbs. In short – yum.
The slow braising of the pork makes for a “prep it and forget it” attitude. The ability to put this in the oven, and go about other business made for a very stress free affair. I was able to prep it in the morning, and just let it braise until we were almost ready to eat. I love dishes like this because it allows you to feed a crowd something really special without slaving over a tedious or fussy meal. This is the opposite of fussy. It’s rustic, hearty and incredibly easy to make. I will certainly be serving this roast again. It would make for a fantastic super-bowl dish. Served with split rolls, dijon and slaw these would make absolutely delicious self-serve style pulled pork sandwiches.
This recipe is designed to serve a crowd of 12-15 when served with starchy sides. Even when I’m not feeding a large crowd, I will make an 8 pound batch. Because of the slow cooking time, this isn’t something I can make very often. I love it though, and it re-heats beautifully. I generally freeze the leftovers in 8 ounce batches, which is the perfect size for 2 generously sized pulled pork sandwiches.
- 6-8 pounds pork shoulder (trimmed of fat, and cut into large but manageable pieces)
- 1 generous bouquet garni (4 fresh bay leaves, 2 sprigs rosemary, marjoram, oregano, thyme)
- 4 cloves garlic (smashed)
- Juice of 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 of an orange peel (kept in large pieces for easy removal)
- 1 quart beef stock
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Olive oil
- 1 cup dried apricots (rough chopped)
- Rub pork with salt and paprika
- In a large Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat
- Brown pork on all sides one piece at a time
- Discard all but 1 teaspoon of rendered fat from pot.
- Return pan to heat, and deglaze with beef broth
- Add remaining ingredients to the broth ( excluding apricots for later use), and return pork to pot. (pork should be about 3/4 covered with broth)
- Bring liquid to a simmer
- Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until pork is fork tender
- Turn meat halfway through cook time and add water if needed
- Remove pork from broth and transfer to a large baking dish
- Shred with 2 forks discarding any large pieces of fat or gristle
- Return pork to oven at 375 degrees for an additional 15 minutes (any residual fat will render and crisp up the shredded pork morsels)
- Separate liquids and solids from pot, and reserve liquid
- Transfer braising liquid to a small saucepan and skim off fat with a ladle.
- Add apricots and allow to reduce by half
- When pork is crispy and golden on top remove from oven and top with poached apricots and drizzle with the reduction.