Sunday Dinner #1: Roasted Pork Shoulder with Spaetzle and Roasted Root Vegetables
Start this dish early in the day, because the pork takes about 2 ½ hours to cook, and it tastes better if you season it a couple hours before that. But it really doesn’t take that much time to prep—I promise!
For about 6 servings
1 boneless pork shoulder (also known as Boston Butt) (if you are on the Seacoast, go to Carl’s in Kittery—and ask them to tie it for you... and while you are there, check out their amazing beer selection!), any skin removed—about 5 pounds
Montreal Steak Seasoning (or Kosher Salt and Freshly-Ground Pepper)
1 onion, sliced
2 cups chicken broth-- I like plain ole Swanson's Natural Goodness if I don't have a batch of homemade handy
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 tablespoon fresh “woody” herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary… whatever you have or prefer)
1. As early as possible: Poke holes with sharp knife in your pork shoulder (this helps the salt to penetrate the meat more quickly). Dry it as thoroughly with paper towels as you can, then season LIBERALLY with Montreal Steak Seasoning or salt and pepper. If you are doing this early in the day, loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until 45 minutes before you are going to cook—then let it come up to room temp.
2. When you pull out the pork to warm up, preheat the oven to 450 (cut up your carrots and parsnips, if you are making the recipe below—and get them ready to put them in the oven at the same time as the pork). Put the onion slices on the bottom of a heavy, ovenproof pot just large enough to hold the pork, then nestle the meat on top.
3. Slide the pot into the oven and roast the pork for about a half hour, or until starting to brown. Then turn down the oven to 300 degrees, and continue to roast for about 2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 135 degrees. (While your meat is roasting for those 2 hours, make the spaetzle).
4. If the meat is 135 degrees, but you’d like the outside to be a little browner—broil the roast for a couple minutes to help caramelize the exterior.
5. If you are making the carrots and parsnips, set the oven back to about 400 degrees, then slide in the veggie baking sheet. Then transfer meat to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for about 15 minutes before slicing.
6. Make the jus. Discard the onions, and pour the juices from the pork that accumulated in the pot into a glass liquid measuring cup. Ladle as much fat off the top as you can (save a little for the spaetzle… if you dare!), then pour the remaining juices into a saucepan with the chicken broth. Cook over high heat until the broth/juices have reduced by about half, then whisk in the mustard. Off heat, whisk in the butter.
7. Snip the strings to the roast and slice the pork . Pour the jus over the top and sprinkle with the herbs.
Coconut- Curry Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
The coconut oil and the curry are totally optional, despite being in the title. These vegetables are just as delicious with olive oil and salt and pepper. Or experiment-- with cumin, caraway or anise seed. Or maybe switch up the veggies: celery root? Kohlrabi? Beets? All delicious!
6 carrots and 6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2 inch long “batons”
A tablespoon or so of (melted) coconut oil or olive oil
Curry powder if you are feeling fancy
A couple cloves of garlic, minced
Some chopped “soft” herbs (mint, parsley, chives)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (you probably have already done this for the pork).
Toss the carrots and parsnips in a bowl with the coconut oil, salt and curry powder.
Spread vegetables on a baking sheet, and slide into the oven— on the rack under the pork if you are cooking that too.
Roast the vegetables for that half-hour that the pork is cooking at 450 degrees, then pull them out.
While the pork is resting, before you tend to your jus, put the vegetables back in the oven, and roast until they are nicely caramelized.
When the vegetables are straight out of the oven, toss them with the garlic, and any nice green herbs you have—finely chopped mint and parsley goes really well with the coconut and curry.
My kids call these “squiggle noodles”, and whenever I make them, they eat twice as much as when I serve pretty much any other food. Spaetzle tastes like slightly-chewy versions of pancake “dots” that you drip across the griddle, and soak up all the meat juices perfectly. They are almost as easy to make as pancakes, and you can still get your “homemade pasta” badge.
Makes about 6 servings
3 cups all-purpose flour, preferably organic
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
3 eggs, preferably from your neighbor-down-the-street’s-hens, beaten
1 ½ cups organic milk (I just heard a story on NPR about how organic milk is 62 % more nutritious than regular!)
A little olive or vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons of butter (or a mix of butter and reserved pork fat)
Chopped chives, dill or parsley if you have it
While your pork is in the oven, make the batter: Fill a large pot with salted water (it should taste like the ocean). Bring to a to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high for a steady simmer.
Combine flour, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the eggs and milk and whisk until just combined. The batter should be like super-thick elastic pancake batter. If it isn’t, adjust with more flour or milk, accordingly.
If you love gadgets, you can get a spaetzle maker (which looks kind of like a cheese grater) for like $12 at the kitchen store—or you can use a colander set over the boiling water. Either way, scoop the batter into your device, and either slide the spaetzle maker back and forth, or stir the batter with a wooden spoon around in the colander over the simmering water, pushing "squiggles" of batter into it. Simmer until all the spaetzle are floating—a couple minutes. Depending on how quickly/ adeptly you are getting the batter into the water, you may have to work in batches.
Remove spaetzle with a slotted spoon, and shock with cold water. Drizzle a scant amount of oil over the noodles to prevent sticking. You can do the noodles ahead to this point. Refrigerate if it’s more than a couple hours before you are serving.
To Serve: Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat, and swirl the pan around until the butter just starts to brown and smell nice and nutty. If you are using your reserved pork fat, add that, or just add in the spaetzle. Toss and stir until the edges brown—a few minutes. Taste and season with more kosher salt, if necessary, then sprinkle with herbs.
Voila! Let the bonding commence