A Girl of Two Islands

As you may know from various previous posts, I am a fan of the pork shoulder. It’s the biggest, least expensive cut of the pig — and the best. I’ve featured it slow smoked North Carolina-style by my neighbor Chris; I’ve featured it wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted in the Yucatan Mexican style; and I’ve rubbed it with fennel and done my own Italian take on the grill. And here it is yet again, a glorious new guise, this preparation courtesy of my friend, Monica Schneider.

Monica tending her octopus.

Monica and her husband Don are full of life. They eat, drink and love with an unhinged abandon that I admire and enjoy having in my life. Monica is the product of two islands that share the commonality of living life with a certain unrestrained passion — the Dominican Republic and Ireland. With tumbling Medusa curls of black hair, an infectious smile and ebullient personality, Monica is the best of both, and it’s hard to tell where one island ends and the other begins. I’ve been to Ireland, and I can see the Irish in her. I don’t know much about the Dominican, except that they share their island with Haiti, and they love baseball. I love baseball too.

Scheduling our pernil dinner proved difficult. It was supposed to initially be a lunch, for which we were available. Then Don called to let us know he had a Laker game and could we move it to dinner, which we could not. Could we move it to dinner the following night? Also no good, so the third night out would be the charm. “It’s not going to suffer from a couple extra days of marinating!” Monica assured us.

The appointed Monday afternoon arrived, as did we. Opening the door of the Schneider’s upscale recently renovated home in a gated community was Monica’s mother — the Dominican half — a woman whose hips begin to move at the slightest suggestion of a rhythm, and one who looks less at home in these confines than she might standing in the doorway of a brightly painted house beneath the palms of a Caribbean village. The house smelled of garlic, citrus and roast. We drank wine and chatted and laughed, and then Monica brought the pernil from the oven and presented it. The meat was bronze and glistening, the fat on top like lacquered mahogany. They call the crispy fat layer cuero — I’m pretty sure that must be Spanish for “love”.

Monica was disappointed with her pork. “I abandoned it for too long,” she said. “It was less tender than I like.” If this was the less successful version, I would give up an internal organ to one day try the more tender one! You’ll notice Monica includes “TLC” in her recipe. Never a bad idea. I could taste it in the pernil.


A few days later, Monica brought over three jars of her frozen “fusion version of a Dominican sancocho” — which she described as the ultimate comfort food. We defrosted and ate the soup, and it was indeed comforting. I would include the recipe for that here, too — but it’s my blog, not hers’.


*   *   *

Monica’s Dominican pork pernil
serves a small army of your friends & family

12 large cloves of garlic crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
One 6-8 lb pork shoulder with fat/skin attached
2 tablespoon white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons of dried oregano — crushed with your fingers
Salt/pepper to your taste
Juice of 4 large limes
Juice of 1 sweet orange (fresh squeezed)
2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons adobo powder (Goya prep is good)

The morning before: In a blender mix garlic; salt; pepper, oregano, olive oil, lime and orange juice and vinegar.  Adjust seasoning with salt (should be a bit salty).

With a sharp knife make deep cuts into the pernil (pork shoulder) — all over, excluding the skin — and stuff garlic mixture into the cuts. Sprinkle adobo powder all over, also covering the skin. Later you will use all this juicy liquid for basting. Leave to soak it flavors overnight in refrigerator.

If you are cooking this for dinner then you want to start cooking it with TLC by 10:30 am to be ready 5:45 as at 5:30pm you can take it out but it should sit for 15 minutes before cutting it.

Preheat the oven to 450 and cover pork loosely with large heavy duty tinfoil with fat side always up. Immediately after adding to the oven, lower it to 275f and cook for 6 1/2 hours, basting it every 30 minutes (If the roast starts to become dry at bottom of pan then add a little unsalted chicken stock to continue with basting, using the entire cup if needed.)

After the 6 1/2 hours, raise the temperature of the oven to 400, uncover the pernil and cook for another 30-45 minutes maximum, no basting at this point — until the skin on the top gets nice bronzed color and becomes crispy.

When done take our of oven  and let sit uncovered for 10-15 min.

Serve with rice and beans and green fried plantains, garlic yucca or sweet platano maduros.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mom
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 00:26:22

    Can’t wait to try this one!!


  2. Lisa Gaskin
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 01:15:27

    This Monica…what a cute one


  3. Andy
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 03:56:00

    Yeah, cute Monica….


  4. Gray Black
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 19:30:02

    We recently got a smoker and I can’t wait to try each of the pork shoulder recipes. Can’t decide which one to make first. Decisions, decisions…


    • scolgin
      Mar 30, 2012 @ 21:20:58

      Let your mood that day (or actually, the day before) be your guide, my friend. Also, consider what you will like to be drinking — wine, margaritas, mojitos? It is a decision that cannot go wrong, whichever way you choose.


  5. rachelocal
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 00:40:28

    Yes! I also love pork shoulder–so versatile and YUMMY! I was told today by a random guy at Home Depot that we can make a smoker out of an empty filing cabinet! (Smoke on the bottom, meat in the drawers.) His smoked meat of choice: pork shoulder.


    • scolgin
      Apr 01, 2012 @ 14:36:01

      That’s a great idea! And we happen to have a couple extra metal filing cabinets! (Although I already have a smoker, and my wife might get mad if she opened a filing cabinet drawer and found a pork shoulder.) Up in the Northwest they use old fridges to smoke salmon.


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