4 hrs 30 mins, plus chilling time
Makes:6 to 8 servings
Pork shoulder, also known as Boston butt, is a flavorful, often-underused cut that’s perfectly suited to braising—long, slow cooking. In this recipe, the braising liquid contains ingredients reminiscent of Chinese roasted pork. What you end up with is a tender, juicy dish that needs only some simple steamed rice and stir-fried string beans to round it out.
What to buy: Shaoxing is a Chinese rice wine that can be found in Asian markets and in the Asian section of some high-end grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can substitute dry sake or fino sherry.
Game plan: This dish is even better when it’s made a day or two in advance.
Combine water, soy sauce, wine or sherry, brown sugar, white parts of the scallions, ginger, garlic, cilantro stems, zest strips, and star anise in a large, heavy pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add pork and return to a simmer. Simmer gently, turning pork over about every 30 minutes, until meat is very tender, about 4 to 4 1/2 hours.
Cool pork in its cooking liquid, uncovered, about 1 hour, then chill, covered, at least 8 hours or overnight. (You can make this dish up to this point and hold until ready to serve if you like.)
Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Skim fat layer off the top of the braising liquid and discard. Transfer chilled pork to a clean cutting board.
Remove string and cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange pork slices in overlapping rows in a 13-by-9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
Strain braising liquid through a sieve into a large bowl. Measure 2 cups of the cooking liquid and place in a small saucepan. (Reserve the remaining liquid for another use or discard. If you like, you may freeze it and use it the next time you make this dish.) Bring to a simmer and then pour over pork.
Cover dish tightly with foil and place in the oven until thoroughly heated, about 30 minutes.
Cut reserved green parts of scallions on the bias into thin slices. Carefully pour hot broth from the baking dish into a bowl and stir in scallion greens and grated zest. Serve pork with broth, topped with reserved cilantro leaves.
Beverage pairing: A light, spicy red wine is called for to match the star anise, cilantro, orange, and pork, something a little exotic and bright like a Sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany. A Chianti might be too big, so go next door for a Morellino di Scansano (same grapes) from Moris Farms, 2005.