Slow-cooked Pork with Spicy Coleslaw and Sweet Potatoes

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Father’s Day afforded me the perfect opportunity to flick through some of my old Olive magazines on the hunt for an easy but tasty recipe to serve up to the in-laws. An impulse buy pork shoulder was still in the freezer from before I left for California, no doubt because my husband thought it was too much for one person. Had it been me, I would not have had any hang ups about cooking and eating the whole thing – obviously not in one sitting, probably. I found a recipe for slow-cooked pork shoulder with coleslaw and sweet potato fries. It sounded good and southern to me, which is not a cuisine my British in-laws have enjoyed very often, so I decided to go with it.

The recipe feeds 12 and, needless to say, would have been too much for four of us – no matter how greedy I am. The pork shoulder I had was about one third of the size the recipe called for, so I assumed it would take one third of the six-hour cooking time. I dry-brined the shoulder in salt and sugar overnight – at least I think it was salt and sugar, but at 2am after a day out in London and a never-ending train journey home, it really could have been anything. We’ve all lived to tell the tale though, so let’s assume it was salt and sugar. The next morning, I wiped off the brine and threw the pork in a low oven for its two hours of cooking.

Some of those who follow me on Twitter may have seen what happened next. After an hour, and with the in-laws due imminently, the pork looked – if this is possible – less cooked than when I put it in. I panicked. I sent out an urgent tweet imploring anyone for some reassurance that two hours would be enough time to cook this pork shoulder. The answer I got was resounding: ‘No’. I was, however, told that three hours should probably be enough time and that the best way to get around this delay with the guest of honor was to, “Distract him with beer.” Wise words, indeed.

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A bottle of Sattui Gamay Rouge later and everyone was merrily chatting away, munching on bread and herb-infused olive oil I had put out to stave off the worst of the hunger pangs, and the pork was ready. The crackling came off at this point and was put back in later to crisp and puff up and then I happily enjoyed it all myself. When it comes to crackling, I don’t share well.

Earlier in the day I had made the fantastic coleslaw with fennel, red and orange peppers, red onion, cabbage, carrots and a dill sriracha mayo dressing which was out of this world. I forgot to reduce that recipe, so we had enough for 12 people but it was delicious enough that we didn’t mind eating it for lunch for the next few days. The sweet potato fries, as always, were nearly a disaster. They are never as crispy as I want them to be and, because the ends are skinnier than the middle, they always get a bit charred. Darn their oblong shape!

Anyway, the meal came together at last and we all enjoyed it. But what do you do for a typical southern dessert which is low stress and not too heavy – I know, a southern dessert that’s not too heavy is kind of an oxymoron – but I looked through my mental recipe book and remembered a Barefoot Contessa classic that I had always wanted to try. There’s a picture in this post which gives you a clue, so stay tuned for my next post to find out what this super easy, fresh and summery dessert is!

Bon appetit!

Recipe from Olive magazine July 2012

Serves 12

Pork Shoulder
4-5 kg pork shoulder, boned, rolled and tied
1 teacup caster sugar
1 teacup coarse sea salt

Sweet Potato Wedges
2kg sweet potatoes, cut into thin wedges
olive oil

Spicy coleslaw
800g fennel (approx 5 small), cores removed and shredded
15g dill, finely chopped
1 small red cabbage, shredded
1 red onion, finely diced
2 red peppers, shredded
3 lemons, zested and juiced
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
250ml mayonnaise

1. Put the meat in a large ceramic dish the night before. Cover with the sugar and salt and toss well. Chill covered overnight, turning a couple of times.
2. The next day, heat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2. Take the pork out of the fridge and wipe the mixture off. Put in a roasting tin and pour 200ml water in the bottom. Cover with foil and roast for 5-6 hours until the meat is falling apart. Remove the foil halfway through the cooking. If it gets too dark on one side, turn over. Remove from the oven 1 hour before serving to rest (keep warm under foil). Turn the oven up to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.
3. Mix together the fennel, dill, red cabbage, onion, peppers and lemon zest. Put the lemon juice, mayo, sugar, Tabasco and some seasoning in a small bowl and whisk. Pour over the salad and toss well. This can be made a day before and will stay crisp.
4. Toss the sweet potato wedges with 3 tbsp olive oil and some seasoning. Spread on 2 baking trays and bake for 30-40 minutes until crisp and browned. Slice or pull apart the meat, and serve on its own or in buns with the potatoes and coleslaw.

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