Start to finish: 4½ hours, plus marinating Servings: 6
A thick, well-marbled pork shoulder shines in pernil asado, a classic Cuban dish in which the meat marinates overnight in salt, spices, and sour orange juice before being roasted for many hours. It’s impressive, but most recipes call for repeated basting and flipping or fiddling with oven temperatures, sometimes for five hours or more. We tried low, dry heat but it took too long and our meat was drying out on the surface before it finished cooking inside. So, we ratcheted the oven up to 400ºF, put the pork on a roasting rack, and surrounded it with a loose wrapping of parchment-lined foil.
When we opened our foil packet after three and a half hours, the meat was practically falling off the bone. We sacrificed a crackly crust but didn’t miss it. That’s partly because the cooking liquid—a mix of garlic, orange and lime juices, fresh oregano, and cumin—gave the meat so much flavor. We also poked holes into the surface of the pork, then covered it with salt and paprika for at least eight hours before roasting. This tenderized the meat and promoted browning. Eight hours of seasoning was best, but one hour will suffice. Be careful when forming the packet.
Tears or openings will cause the meat to dry out. Flavorful juices pooled in the foil-parchment packet; we combined those with orange and lime juices (to replicate the taste of the sour Seville oranges typically used) and fresh cilantro to make a mojo sauce. Tossing the shredded pork with the sauce ensured every bite had a delicious, tangy flavor.
Don’t let the pork or its juices come into contact with the foil during cooking; it can cause a metallic taste and discolor the juices. Make sure the parchment fully lines the bottom of the pan and covers the pork on top.
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
4- to 5-pound bone-in pork butt, fat cap trimmed to ¼ to ½ inch
1 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus ⅔ cup orange juice (2 to 3 oranges)
1 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus ⅓ cup lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
⅓ cup fresh oregano leaves
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges, to serve
1. In a small bowl, mix together the salt and paprika. Using a paring knife and a twisting motion, make twelve 1-inch-deep cuts all over the pork. Rub with the salt mixture, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 400ºF with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a liquid measuring cup, combine both juices. In a food processor, combine both zests, the oregano, garlic, oil, cumin and pepper. Process until the garlic is finely chopped, about 1 minute. Add ¼ cup of the juice and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
3. Using 18-inch-wide heavy-duty foil, make a sling in a large roasting pan. Leaving generous overhang on either side, gently press 1 sheet of foil into the pan lengthwise. Press a second sheet over that crosswise, again leaving ample overhang. Using kitchen parchment, repeat the process, setting the parchment sling over the foil. Set a wire roasting rack over the parchment.
4. Unwrap the pork and rub all over with the herb-garlic paste. Place fat side up on the rack in the prepared pan. Pour ¼ cup of the juice into the bottom of the pan. Loosely fold the excess parchment around the pork, then fold the excess foil up over the pork. Crimp the foil to create a loose but sealed packet. Roast until the meat is tender and registers 190ºF in the thickest part, about 3½ hours.
5. Transfer the pork to a carving board, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Pour the accumulated juices from the pan into a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the remaining ½ cup of citrus juice. When hot, remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro; cover and keep warm.
6. Using tongs and a knife or carving fork, cut and shred the meat into chunks, discarding discarding the bone and any fat. Transfer to a bowl and toss with ¼ to ½ cup of the sauce. Serve with the remaining sauce and lime wedges.