This has become one of my favorite recipes. I love a pork shoulder any way I can get it, whether smoked and slow roasted, stewed in a spicy bath, braised in rendered lard for carnintas, or chopped fine and cooked to a crisp before simmering in a sauce for some tender tendrils of pasta. I don’t consider myself a fanatic when it comes to pork, but then I remember the pork shoulder.
The idea for this came a few years ago from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigellisima—her culinary love song to Italy. In it she gives a recipe for lamb steaks served with a quick pan sauce of melted anchovies, minced thyme, and rosato vermouth. I loved the idea. I attempted to emulate it but, at the time, I lived in a place where boneless lamb leg steaks were unheard of—most parts of the lamb were, frankly—and getting my mitts on rosato vermouth was an impossible feat. I made due with lamb chops, the hardship that it was, and a mix of rosé wine and white vermouth. It was a revelation for me, this use of those punchy little fish and rosé. I had used anchovies with beef before, in stews and braises and the like, but I’d never even considered it with anything like lamb. The rosé brought a certain, almost floral nuance that I can’t imagine achieving with anything else.
It got me to thinking about pork. Funny transition, I know, but so many things that pair with lamb work with pork, too. According to my own personal bible, The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, anise, apricot, black pudding, cabbage, chestnut, cilantro, cinnamon, cumin, dill, garlic, rhubarb, thyme, and shellfish are just among some of their overlapping affinities. To that, I’d like to add anchovy, for the obvious reason, chilies (c’mon!), and mint—lamb and mint are obvious, but pork and mint are a classic combination for Laotian larb. At any rate, I thought that if this works for lamb it just might for pork—I wasn’t wrong.
I smear a bone-in pork shoulder with plenty of garlic—don’t worry, it can handle it—anchovies, and fresh thyme that have been minced and smashed into a paste. You can of course, as you might with lamb, cut slits into the meat and stuff slivers of garlic and anchovy into them; either way let the meat sit in it’s piquant marinade for at least over night before you sear it a hot Dutch oven before being braised in rosé wine. I know that I based it on something for which Italy was the muse, but I can’t help but feel like it’s so Parisian. Maybe it’s because some of the old, more French-focused cookbooks I inherited from my grandmother and mother years back use anchovies with such nonchalant calm, or my inexplicable association with thyme to France (rosemary belongs to Italy).
I loathe to say it, passé as it is now, but don’t be afraid of anchovies—it’s the fault of bad pizza chains that obligatorily stock anchovies that, I’m sure, are allowed to sit for too long before being topped on subpar pies and cooked inadequately, resulting in something that tastes like a cross between rusty nails and dried rubber bands, stuck to the bottom of a paver’s boot. When dealt with properly, cooking gently, they melt into the most savory, salty, and mellow mush so rich you’ll wonder how you got along without them. If you leave them uncooked they can take some getting used to but here they become so savory, adding to the pork’s own natural saltiness and balancing its sweet overtones. With lamb, which can be sweeter and even a bit funky, the anchovy balances the gaminess and makes it savorier, and even meatier.
It doesn’t really matter where it would call home or who would claim it, and that’s not the point any way; it’s incredibly delicious and, while it takes several hours to cook, the vast majority of it is it sitting in a low oven, almost totally undisturbed. I like to serve this with roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts (or butter-steam them by melted some butter in a Dutch oven, tumbling in the potatoes and sprouts, turning the heat to low, covering, and letting them simmer gently, cooking in the steam of the butter) and a green salad along with—something simple like baby arugula or some chicory or other. Whatever liquid remains in the pan after the braise gets thickened a bit, not to the point of being a gravy or anything, but rather a silky and unctuous sauce that’s so mellow, but still so complex and complicated—brooding, really.
I love this just shredded with a fork and plunged back into the sauce, but you can also cut the finished pork into slices to serve, though don’t be surprised when it falls apart a bit as you do. A sandwich of the tender meat on a crusty, grainy French baguette, smeared with soft butter on the inside, would be good, too.
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|Cook Time||Passive Time|
|4-1/2 hours||12 - 24 hours (for marinating & meat coming to room temp)|
- 1 4-pound Boston Butt (bone-in)
- 6 - 8 cloves garlic
- 2 - 3 anchovy filets packed in oil preferred
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- A few sprigs thyme (optional)
- 3 t-spoons kosher salt divided
- 2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil divided (plus more as needed)
- 3 shallots peeled and cut into 1/2" thick rounds
- 2 - 3 cups Rosé wine divided
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Start by prepping the pork—if there’s a large amount of fat on the outside of the pork trim it off so you have roughly ¼” of fat left. Set the removed fat aside* and the pork into a dish that fits it comfortably.
- Finely grate the garlic onto your cutting board, sprinkle on the 2 t-spoons of salt, the thyme leaves and anchovy filets. Mince everything together a bit and then start to mash it all into a paste by dragging the flat of your knife across the flavorsome bits, scraping it back up, running the knife through it a bit more, and repeating.
- Add the garlicky paste to a small dish and mix with 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil. Smear this all over the pork, taking care to get into every nook and cranny of the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinade in the fridge for 12 – 24 hours.
- Allow the pork to sit on the counter for at least 1 hour, but up to 2, prior to cooking so it comes to room temperature.
- Set an enameled Dutch oven in your oven with the lid on, and set it to 275°. Once the oven comes to temperature, let the Dutch oven sit in there for about 20 minutes to achieve even heating.
- Move the Dutch oven to the stovetop, leaving the lid in the oven to stay warm, and set over medium heat for a few minutes to get really hot before searing the pork shoulder for about 3 minutes on all sides (start with the side of the pork with the fat on it). If the pan seems a little dry add a splash more olive oil to keep everything lubricated, and if any bits of garlic, thyme or anchovy that fall off the pork appear to be burning remove them.
- Set the pork aside and discard the fat before adding the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and shallots to the pan. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and cook for just about 5 minutes, until they start to brown just slightly and soften.
- Pour in 2 cups of the rosé and ½ cup of water and deglaze the pan. If you want, tie up a bundle of thyme springs and chuck that in, too. Add the pork back to the pan and bring the liquid to a simmer—the liquid should come about halfway up the pork so if it doesn’t add a bit more wine.
- Cover the pan with the waiting lid and move the whole thing to the oven for 4 hours, flipping halfway through, and adding more wine if, by flip time, it’s reduced to covering less than a third of the pork.
- After 4 hours is up, remove the pork from the pan to a wide and shallow bowl, spoon over a little liquid to keep it moist, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Set in a warm spot (or thick wooden cutting board) to keep warm. Taste the liquid and add more salt if needed.
- Typically I like to strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve before thickening so I have a smooth sauce, but the choice is yours (you can either do so right into a small saucepan, where you’ll finish the sauce, or add it back to the Dutch oven if you want to shred the pork and add it back to the sauce before serving). At any rate, skim some of the fat off the surface of the liquid and discard. Bring it to a boil while you whisk the flour with about 3 – 4 tablespoons of rosé until totally smooth. When the liquid is boiling, whisk the flour-wine slurry into it vigorously. Let it bubble away for a minute or two, then reduce the heat to medium-low or low to simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened slightly. This doesn’t end up like a thick gravy, but rather a sauce with some body; if you want something more gravy-like just up the amount of flour, making sure to add enough wine to get a smooth and pourable paste.
- Serve the pork shoulder whole, and slice into it at the table (I say slice, though it will fall apart as you do) or shred it into a meaty pile of pulled pork, bathed in the savory sauce.
- Served with some baby new potatoes roasted whole and a simply dressed green salad is all you need—that, and more rosé.
*Any fat that you have trimmed off the pork can be rendered down to a liquid (lard) and used for sautéing or cooking later. Chop the fat into small bits and put in a saucepan (one where the bits of fat will be spread more horizontally than piled vertically) and cover with water. Put over low heat on the smallest burner you have. Let it come to a simmer and leave it there. The heat of the water helps soften and melt some of the fat without burning and, once it all evaporates out, lets the fat finish melting down. Keep a careful eye on it once the water is gone and you start to hear gentle sizzling—it can burn in a matter of seconds at this stage. Once the fat is melted and the solid bits are browned remove it from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve. It freezes incredibly well.