This Roast pork shoulder with sour orange chipotle sauce is perfect for the holidays!
For many, the holidays are synonymous with turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. For me and for many Hispanic families, our food traditions have a more ethnic flavor. For quite a few years now, besides turkey or ham, I also slow roast a pork shoulder during the holidays. After enjoying a few tasty dishes of this paleta de puerco or pernil, I cook the meat down in a chile ancho sauce and freeze it in preparation for some of my holiday tamales. In Mexico, it is the leg of pork that is more often prepared during the holidays, but for a smaller family like mine, the pork shoulder is just perfect. For this recipe, I prepared a sour orange marinade infused with the smoky flavors of chipotle peppers. Sour oranges or “naranjas agrias” pair well with pork, chicken and seafood, but are not that easily found in local stores. Lucky for me, there are a few bottled brands of sour orange marinade available to me. A little help from the store is not a bad idea during the holidays.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Rinse the pork with cold water. Dry it well with paper towels. Transfer to a large cutting board. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the skin layer away from the meat. Do not slice it all the way off, just so you have a “flap” of pork skin over the meat. Using that same knife, slice a few 1-inch slits into the meat, both on the top and bottom side of pork. Season lightly with salt all over; set aside.
Slice the tops off of the bulbs of garlic. Wrap them in foil and roast in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once garlic has cooled, squeeze out all of the garlic and transfer to the blender. Also to the blender, add 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 1/2 tablespoon white pepper, 2 chipotles in adobo, 1/3 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup sour orange marinade and salt to taste. The sour orange is very sour, so don’t be shy on the salt. Blend until smooth; taste for salt.
Before adding the marinade to the pork, you may want to transfer it to a roasting pan (with metal insert), so the marinade does not spill. Take the blended marinade and pour all over the pork, making sure you get underneath the skin and into the cut areas. Cover with plastic and marinate for at least 5 hours or, even better, overnight.
Remove the pork from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking so it comes to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Add a generous amount of water seasoned with a little salt to the bottom of roasting pan. Roast the pork for 3 hours uncovered, checking the water level after the first 90 minutes. Add more hot water when needed. While the pork is roasting, prepare the sour orange sauce. Add all of the ingredients to a medium sauce pan and heat to medium. When it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, taste for salt and continue cooking for 35 to 40 minutes to reduce and concentrate the flavors. Remove from heat.
After 3 hours, reduce the oven temperature to 275ºF, cover with foil and lid and continue roasting for another 5 to 6 hours, checking the water level every few hours. The longer it cooks, the better it will be. Remove the lid and foil from pork, raise temperature to 350 degrees and roast for another 30 to 40 minutes to crisp up the outer skin. Remove from oven and let sit for 30 minutes before slicing.
My best tip for preparing this recipe would be to start the early the night before and get the pork in as early as you can in the morning. It will not hurt the pork to roast at that low temperature for up to 7 or 8 hours. Both the sauce and marinade will taste even better if made the day before.
If the sauce is too sour, you could add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar while it simmers. If you cannot find the sour orange marinade, prepare your own by mixing 2 1/2 cups orange juice with the juice of 3 limes.
For a crunchy “chicharron” pork skin, do not add any marinade to the top of skin. Dry it off with paper towels before roasting and sprinkle lightly with salt. You could also remove the skin after roasting and fry it for a super crunchy pork skin.
For a more tender, pulled pork style roast, you would roast it for up to 14 hours at 250 degrees.
And one of the best parts about slow-cooked pork? Tacos for brunch the next morning!!