Shortage of ingredients is a wonderful thing. Don't get me wrong, it's great when I can go to the store and buy whatever is on my shopping list. But availability and creativity and inversely proportional as far as I can tell. How did the French start eating frogs, the Chinese jellyfish, and the Americans lobster? I bet it wasn't out of over-abundance of beef and chicken. It was out of necessity due to lack of other sources of protein. That's exactly how this roast came about. I went to Whole Foods, with the plan to make Osso Buco (brasied veal shanks) with my Tender at the Bone class. But that day, it was not to be. No veal shanks, and no one could tell me if they were coming in later. I was in a pinch. I needed a braising dish for the class, and I already had the rest of the ingredients for osso buco. I desperately started looking through the meat counter until I found my savior -- pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston Butt).
Just like veal shanks, the pork shoulder is made up of many different muscles joined by tons of connective tissue. After a long and slow braise (cooking in a pot with a little liquid) the connective tissue melts and you are rewarded with spoon-tender, wonderfully savory meat. The pork and veal flavor profiles are also similar, so I was hoping the final result would be true to Osso Buco concept.
Since the butt was de-boned, it had some loose pieces of meat sticking out where the bone was. I decided to tuck them all in, and truss it with string to make one large roast instead of cutting it into round pieces that mimic the shape of the shanks. I followed my Osso Buco recipe as is, increasing the braising time to 4 hours to take into account the large piece of meat I was working with. All I can say is yum! It was the most succulent, tender, and flavorful pork roast I've ever made. There also happens to be a nice side-effect of substituting pork for veal: your wallet gets a break. The veal shanks are $12/Lb (considering the fact that almost half of that weight is the bone, the real price is more like $20/Lb), and the Boston butt is only $3/Lb.
Boston butt (pork shoulder) Osso Buco style
3 Lb boneless pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt)
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
2 celery ribs, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup beef stock, plus more as needed (up to 3 cups total)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 275F.
If the pork shoulder has loose pieces of meat, tuck them in and roll the pork into a neat roast. Tie the roast with kitchen string at 2 inch intervals. This will give it a more uniform shape and help it cook more evenly.
Immediately before cooking, dry pork extremely well with paper towels and season very generously with salt and pepper. If using unsalted stock, I use about 1.5 Tbsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (= 1 Tbsp Morton's Kosher = 0.75 Tbsp table salt) . If the stock is salted, go a bit easier on the salt. Set a heavy deep over-proof pan that can later be covered on medium-high heat and add 2 Tbsp canola oil. When the pan is hot and the oil is starting to ripple, place the pork in the pan and cook until nicely browned on the first side, 2-3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Keep rotating the roast and cooking it until it's browned all over (including standing it up on the ends). Remove the pork to a plate and set aside. If the fat has burnt, clean out the pan before proceeding.
Return the pan to medium-low heat. Add the butter, onion, carrots, and celery to the pan. Season with salt and cook stirring occasionally until tender and golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens, 10-15 minutes.
Add the wine to the pan and boil on high to reduce in half, about 10 minutes. Add the stock. Bring to a simmer. Add the pork and bay leaves to the pan. Wait for the liquid to return to a simmer. Cover and put in the oven for 4 - 5 hours, flipping the roast half way through cooking time. During the end of cooking time, keep an eye on it to make sure there is still a little liquid in the pot. If all of it is evaporated, add a little more stock. The pork is done when it's fork tender or registers 210F on an instant read thermometer inserted in the center. Move the roast to a carving board and rest for 15-20 minutes. Add a little more stock or water to the pan drippings and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, scraping up all the yummy bits stuck to the bottom. Remove the string from the roast, carve, and serve with pan drippings.
As all braises, this will taste even better the next day, and will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for months. To warm up, slice into 3/4 inch pieces and simmer gently in the pan with a little extra stock or water until heated through.