AND THE NAME is no joke. . . . One of my favorite pieces of meat is the pork butt, also known as a Boston butt or a pork shoulder. Whatever you call them, the roasts come packaged conveniently sealed in plastic so they can sit in the fridge for a week or two. They are also very affordably priced, making them perfect for feeding a crowd.
I haven’t gotten to the best part: This cut is so easy to cook. You can cut the meat into cubes and make a terrific stew, but that’s for another night. Tonight, it’s a roast. Unwrap and dry the butt, rub with oil, spice mixes, pastes made from herbs or ginger and garlic, place in a deep roasting pan in a 275-degree oven. Now walk away for 7 or 8 hours. You’ll know it’s done when the meat is coming away from the bone. When it’s ready, pull the browned beauty out and you have the makings of pulled pork or a tender pork pot roast with whatever flair you gave it.
You can fancy this up any way you want: marinades, rubs, spice mixes. You can make this Asian- style or Italian-style or Cuban. It’s all up to you. Even if you buy a small bone-in one, at around 8 pounds, you’ll have so much meat that unless you are feeding a Little League team, you’ll likely
have at least enough for another meal, or maybe two meals. You can repurpose the leftovers as the filling for quesadillas, tacos or to enhance a spaghetti sauce. Better still, freeze whatever’s left over of the cooked pork, sauced or unsauced, for a rainy day, which may come soon.
In any case, everyone needs a start, so here are two specific ideas. For both of these, I am assuming you have an 8-pound, bone-in butt. Roast at 275 degrees for 7 to 8 hours until the meat is pulling away from the bone.
Barbecue-spiced pulled pork: Rub the butt with oil and then liberally coat it with your favorite spice blend or a mix of salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. You can add the rub the night before and refrigerate the pork until ready to cook or you can stick it right into a deep roasting pan and into the preheated oven. When the roast is done, carefully lift it out from the accumulated fat in the pan and let rest for 30 minutes. You can then pull the meat apart by hand. Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce and rolls.
Orange-Rosemary Roast Pork: Make a paste of orange zest, chopped fresh rosemary, garlic, salt and olive oil. Rub this all over the roast; you can also make slits in the meat and push the paste into them to further flavor the roast. Lightly grease the bottom of a deep roasting pan, place a layer of onion, a layer of thinly sliced oranges and some rosemary springs. Place the seasoned roast on top of the sliced oranges and place in the preheated oven. When the roast is done, let it sit 30 minutes. Defat the drippings in the pan—there will be a lot of fat to remove—and use the remaining liquid as the basis for a jus. To make the jus, heat the cooking liquid with equal parts chicken broth and white wine. Cut chunks or slices of pork and serve moistened with the jus.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
LittleBird “Stephanie Cooks” is former recipe editor of the Washington Post Food section and originator of the weekly My Dinner With . . .column for MyLittleBird.com.