Now that we’ve mastered rolls with beer and salad with bacon, let’s move on to the evening’s main course. For a dish that consistently delivers without a lot of work, I always turn to a slow-roasted meat. In this instance, beer-braised pork shoulder with roast vegetables.
I love using pork shoulder for a couple of reasons. First, it’s always satisfying to work with a big hunk of meat. Either bone-in or boneless shoulder works just fine, but if you have to option to buy boneless, do it. Second, pork shoulder is an incredibly forgiving piece of meat, provided you cook it correctly. Fortunately, that simply means putting it in a low heat oven for a couple hours until the meat falls apart.
To carry our beer theme throughout the meal, I took inspiration for this recipe from a seasonal brew. Many specialty fall and winter beers use some combination of spices. In particular, the Samuel Adams Winter Lager is brewed with cinnamon, ginger and orange peel. I used that beer, plus more of those same seasonings, in the spice rub and braising sauce.
3-4 lb pork shoulder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, sectioned into eighths
4 garlic cloves, smashed
12 ounces seasonal lager, like Sam Adams Winter
1 medium orange, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Take a look at the pork shoulder. There will be a thick layer of fat on one side. Trim that off with a sharp knife.
Combine the spices—pepper, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, mustard and salt—in a small bowl.
Rub the mixture into the pork well, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes. At this time, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
A key to this dish is to have a heavy-bottomed oven-proof pot that can hold the pork shoulder. We’re going to be transferring the pot from the stove to the oven. First, pour the oil into the pot and warm it over medium heat. Sear the shoulder on all sides, at least 5 minutes a side. This browns the meat and creates a crust with the spice rub.
Transfer the pork to a plate to rest. Drain the oil, then add the onion, garlic, beer, orange juice, orange zest and vinegar to the pot. Bring to a boil, then return the pork to the pot. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook between two-and-a-half and three hours. With my boneless pork shoulder the meat was done in the shorter amount of time. With a bone-in roast you’ll need slightly more.
When done, transfer the pork to a cutting board to rest. Pour the braising liquid into a fat-separating device (shown here) or a simple measuring cup. Discard the onions and garlic. Separate the fat using the device, or simply skim the fat from the top of the cup with a spoon.
Once the pork has rested for 15 minutes, it’s ready to serve. Cut it into slices and pour some gravy on top. Boom. Now, assuming you want some veggies with your meat, click next page.
Making delicious roast vegetables is easy. Simply select your favorites, dice them into even cubes, and roast until tender. It gets more interesting when you work with more unique veggies. For this dish, I roasted a combination of yams, fennel, parsnips and celery root.
Parsnips are like sweeter carrots, and celery root tastes like a combination of a potato and a celery stalk. There’s a great trick to perfect roasted veggies: a dash of sugar.
1 yam, peeled
1 fennel bulb, quartered and cored
2 parsnips, peeled
1 celery root, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Prep the vegetables by peeling and dicing them. The most difficult to prepare are the celery root and the fennel. Peel all of the fibrous exterior from the celery root. Cut the fennel bulb in half and remove the solid core. Then cut the fennel bulb into quarters and separate the layers. For the remaining vegetables, cut them into cubes about the size of the first joint of your thumb.
Combine the vegetables in a large bowl and toss them with the olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar. Spread them out onto a flat baking sheet.
If cooking the veggies along with the pork shoulder, add them to the 300 degree F oven 45 minutes before the pork is done. Once the pork is removed, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and cook for another 15 minutes.
If cooking separately, bake in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes. Serving on a fancy dish? Optional.