Thursday, February 12, 2015

Roasted Pork Shoulder with Fennel and Oranges

A perfect day according to Emma would be filled with two activities: taking baths and eating. When Emma wakes up in the morning, the first thing she asks for is a bowl of cereal. After she has sufficiently stuffed herself (she normally has a couple bowlfuls and a banana), she then declares her desire to bathe. However, I know better than to stick Miss Bubbles into the tub before 6pm when my husband is not around to reinforce me when it comes time to remove her from the bath water. Emma would stay in the bath all day if I let her. When I have finally had enough of watching her splash, play, drink bathwater, and practice her "swimming", I have to brace myself for the fight that normally ensues when I try to get her out. She screams, she kicks, she wails bloody murder, and her newly cleaned, naked, wet, chunky body is so slippery and difficult to hold onto that I fear dropping her onto the bathroom tile. Not only that, when I do finally wrestle her into the room to dress her, she continues her fight and I practically have to sit on her arms and legs to pin them down so I can put her diaper and clothes back on. It's a nightmare. This is why Emma only bathes when Paul is home. Then, there are two of us to wrestle with her afterwards.

Matthew, on the other hand, normally protests the bath. We practically have to threaten him with promises of "no bedtime story" or "no art supplies for a week" before he finally (and sulkily) will bathe. Once he's in, however, we have a hard time kicking him out too. He's normally easier to evict than Emma - we just drain the bathwater after Emma has been taken out and before long he gets too cold to stay put. The same trick does not work on Emma because, unlike Matthew, she has figured out how to stop the water from draining.

As mentioned above, in addition to her fastidious bathing habits, Emma would also prefer to spend the majority of her waking hours eating. She eats large, prolonged meals where she remains happily in her high chair chewing away on whatever I have placed in front of her. However, it just seems like she never actually gets full! I much prefer her eating habits to Matthew who barely eats enough to sustain a sparrow some days. Lately, he has been refusing breakfast in the mornings. What is wrong with this child?

However, one meal that both the children and the husband will happily eat is roast pork. Pork shoulder is one of the cheapest cuts of meat you can buy nowadays. Normally to get such an awesome deal on it, you have to buy a large amount. I can get pork shoulder for around 1.29/pound if I buy at least 10 pounds of it. I don't mind buying such a large quantity. I normally have the butcher divide it into 3-4 equal portions for me and then I freeze whatever I am not planning on using immediately. It's a great cut to have on hand because it is so darn tasty!

Earlier in the year, we tried a sample of this Roasted Pork Shoulder with Fennel and Oranges at Wegmans. The chefs at Wegmans are fantastic with trying to teach their clientele how to cook in new, exciting ways and experiment with different flavor combinations they might not yet have had the opportunity to experience! On this particular day, they were doing a cooking demo on pork shoulder and trying to showcase various ways it could be prepared other than your typical BBQ pulled pork. We sampled this recipe and LOVED it. So savory from garlic and pork with a mild sweetness from the oranges and fennel. Paul was especially enamored with it! We got the recipe from the chef and have had the pleasure of enjoying it at home for dinner!

This is what the roast typically looks like after coming out of the oven.

When we make it at home, the only thing we do differently is make a gravy out of the drippings. I like my sauces thick, so serving just the "jus" didn't cut it for me. To make the gravy, we defatted the drippings and then made a simple roux using equal parts butter and flour. Once golden and bubbly, we whisk in the defatted pan juices along with a touch of chicken broth and let the gravy bubble for a bit until it is thickened. Off heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Fabulous.

This is great served with roasted root vegetables (think carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips) or a comforting bowls of mashed potatoes with peas! Emma definitely approves of this meal as the perfect ending to a perfect food-filled, bath-laced day!

Then again, watching Curious George is pretty high up there too!

Roasted Pork Shoulder with Fennel and Oranges
from Wegmans Menu Magazine, Winter 2011

3 Yellow Onions, halved, peeled and sliced thinly
2 Naval Oranges, with the peel on, sliced thinly
1 (7-10 pound) Pork Shoulder (mine are always a bit smaller)
1 Tablespoon Fennel Seed
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper

The day before you want to serve, combine the onion and orange slices in the bottom of a roasting pan. Score the marbled side of the pork shoulder by cutting 3/4 inch deep marks with a very sharp knife. You should make a "diamond pattern." Do the best you can. The point is to pierce the fat layer so that the rub will penetrate the deeper into the pork.

Season the pork on both sides generously with salt and pepper. Then, rub the fennel seeds and garlic all over the surface of the pork. Place the pork, fat side up, on top of the oranges and onions in the roasting pan. Cover the entire pan tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap from the roast. Cover the roasting pan tightly with a layer of foil and place in the oven. Roast for 7-8 hours or until very tender.

Remove the roast from the oven, transfer the meat to a cutting board, and cover with foil. Let the meat rest for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, ladle the hot juices that have collected at the bottom of the roasting pan into a fat separator. Reserve the defatted juices (the au jus!) to serve with the pork. You may also reserve the onions for serving alongside the pork. Alternatively, you can make a gravy out of the pan drippings if desired.

Serve pieces of the pork alongside some mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, or turnips with a generous splash of the au jus (or gravy) over the top!

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