Pork Season

Pork season is almost here!

What is pork season, you may reasonably ask?? Is it the time when the young wild piglets sprout up from the earth after a spring rain? Is it the brief window when the pig molts its old skin, and is tender and new beneath before the new skin hardens?

Henri, napping amidst the rosemary

No, no… nothing like that. It is the time when the weather grows warm, and I begin noticing the racks of baby back ribs in the grocery store. And thinking of lazy afternoons on the deck with friends, a hot grill and ice cold beers. It is the time when I can hear furtive goings on from the carport of my friend and neighbor, Chris, as he readies his smoker, “R2D2,” for the days ahead. (Sometimes I think I can even hear the rumblings of his belly.) It is a time when fair weather and activity-fueled appetite converge in a celebration of all things porcine.

The nose-to-tail movement in pork has enterprising chefs across the globe presenting parts of the pig people would’ve never eaten before. The trendy Lazy Ox Canteen in L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood, for example, has a popular dish of pig ears, as does the new Umamicatessen, which serves them crispy in a paper cone a la french fries. At the restaurant Animal, they hawk pretty much the entire beast — from “sliced pig head” to “buffalo-style pig tails”. Now that’s nose to tail, literally! As remarkable as is the fact that restaurants are offering these parts, is the fact that yoga instructors and starlets are actually ordering them and nibbling with their ruby red grapefruit soju martinis! Was a time not long ago you couldn’t get these girls to eat bacon! But presented with a trend, who in Los Angeles would be so bold as to not acquiesce?

My friend Leo approached me in a parking lot recently as I was leaving the community center where my son takes tae kwon do class. “Sean,” Leo called out, “I need to talk to you about something…” What he needed to talk to me about was his idea about doing a pig roast fundraiser for one of the kids’ schools. A zeitgeist of pig-minded people!

The other day, I went out onto the back property. There was our pet pig, Henri, all nestled cozily in the middle of a bunch of rosemary, napping in the sun. And I’ll admit… my imagination immediately went there — I pictured tossing some cloves of garlic around him, gently packing the earth about him without waking him, and getting the coals ready. “That’s a roast, right there!” I thought to myself.

Must be just about pork season.

*   *   *

Grilled Spanish-style pork shoulder with garlic and pimentón
serves 8 – 10

3-4 lb. pork shoulder, bone-in
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp. Spanish ground pimentón (smoked paprika)
1/4 cup salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt or fleur de sel

With a sharp knife cutting through the shoulder horizontally at it’s thickest part, butterfly the pork shoulder open and with a meat mallet or the back of your knife, pound to flatten to a thickness of 1.5 or 2 inches. (The bone will prevent you from truly butterflying the shoulder. But you want to make it as flat and wide as you can, while keeping it a couple inches thick.)

In a large mortar and pestle, crush the garlic together with the salt and pimentón. (You can also do this in a small food processor, if you don’t have a large enough mortar and pestle. Do you even have a mortar and pestle!??) Whisk in 2/3 cup olive oil in a slow drizzle to emulsify.

Rub the garlic/pimentón mixture all over the surface of the pork shoulder, covering completely. Place on a platter, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to marinate for 1-3 hours.

With the lid closed, heat your grill to high (either gas or coals). When it has reached a temperature of 500 or 600, open the lid and place the pork shoulder on the grill. Cook for 3 minutes, and turn over. (You may need to flip it sooner if the fire is flaring up too much.) Cook another 3 minutes and lower heat to medium. Continue cooking, flipping occasionally, until meat is cooked through and a crisp amber brown on the outside (it may char a little at the tips, which is fine). Remove from heat.

Place the shoulder on a cutting board drizzled with remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and 1 tbsp. Maldon salt or fleur de sel. Let the shoulder sit for 5 minutes, then cut across the grain with a sharp knife into half-inch-thick slices. When all the meat has been cut from the bone, sluice it around in the olive oil and meat juices, drizzling with a bit more olive oil if you’d like. Serve with pa am tomàquet toast and grilled padrón peppers, if you’d like.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Gaskin
    May 18, 2012 @ 01:54:14

    If I didn’t know you better bro…I would think poor Henri was doomed 😉

    Reply

  2. g
    May 18, 2012 @ 03:00:03

    Nooooooooooo!

    Reply

  3. a toast and tea
    May 18, 2012 @ 21:39:03

    I just tried some crispy pigs ears for the first time at a tapas place (so also Spanish style) the other day – they were tossed in some kind of tasty vinegary sauce, and rather addictive. I hope the pig that produced them wasn’t as cute as Henri! Also, that recipe sounds pretty tasty.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      May 18, 2012 @ 21:58:46

      Sounds kinda addictive! Yeah, try that pork shoulder if you happen to get ahold of one. It’s pretty memorable. Feed all your friends!

      Reply

  4. Leo
    May 21, 2012 @ 05:47:47

    It’s time we had you guys over so we can discuss that pig roast. I’ll cook the ribs if you bring the cold beer! You’d better leave Henri at home. What say you?

    Reply

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