I promise there’s a valid reason for the slowness in posting, but I’ll leave that for later. Yesterday D and I hosted a pig (shoulder) roast to celebrate two friends’ birthdays. It really wasn’t my idea; a friend suggested it and we agreed despite my warnings that I wanted nothing to do with the pig. Cooking a whole pig just seemed like a little too much work. In the end, we decided to roast just the shoulders since we had nowhere to store a whole pig overnight. Some people reassured us that it would be fine marinating overnight on the counter, but, sanitation concerns aside, our two labs would’ve most likely feasted on the beast.
With that settled, we borrowed a caja china — a pig roasting box — and on Thursday night, the boys got the shoulders ready for Saturday. They marinated them in mojo and injected them with brine. I refrained from opening my refrigerator too much the following day to avoid being hit by the wall of garlic-scented air inside. Not that it was bad, just a little potent.
Saturday arrived and there was one thing left to do before the roast got underway. Our friend was going to stuff one of the shoulders using a winning recipe from Bobby Flay’s Cuban pork roast Throwdown. The pork is stuffed with ham, bacon, guava shells and prunes, and then rubbed with brown sugar and coated with malta.
My friend called the whole pig roasting process a rite of passage for any Cuban man. It’s definitely a man’s job, not that I couldn’t do it, but I’d rather leave the physical work to the guys. The pig was placed in the box, which was covered and then topped with 16 pounds of charcoal. The waiting began …
We waited for four long hours. At any given time, groups of guests gathered around the box as if standing there would somehow cheer on the pig to cook faster. Everyone was eager to eat but one has to admit that the wait is part of what makes the roast fun.
The pork is cooked skin down, once cooked, one has to turn it, score the skin and cook for another 30 minutes so the skin crisps up into crunchy decadence. When our friend announced that the pork was finally done, it was dark outside. Hungry guests raided the skin before the boys could even finish cutting up the pork. The stuffed pork shoulder was tender, sweet and juicy. Everything was a big hit and after seeing the process, the roast didn’t seem as complicated as it initially seemed to me. I may even host another one sometime, but I think I’ll still leave the heavy lifting to the boys.
Instructions and recipes for the mojo, brine and stuffed pork can be found at LaCajaChina.com.