Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pernil Pork Party - Chapter 1

Ok. So what better way to christen munchedia but by making my first post about one of my absolute favorite dishes on the planet earth....Pernil. Garlicy, salty, porky goodness that has been the ham of choice in my family (both the Puerto Rican and Irish side) since I can remember. A part of me believes that when i was a baby my mother must of pureed this dish and spoon fed it to me as simply the smell and the taste of this dish makes me feel like I was wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold day. YUM is all I can say.

For this recipe I look to the Mother Superior of Puerto Rican cuisine Carmen Ahoy Valldejuli, author of Cocina Criolla and Puerto Rican Cookery. If you don't have her book then you need to take the following steps RIGHT NOW.

  1. Step away from the computer
  2. Dress yourself
  3. Run to the nearest book store

For those who are pre-occuppied right now who can not run off to get it I have left you with a link on amazon to both of her books.

Pernil is the holiday ham on the island and more importantly in my family! Every Christmas and Thankgiving the pork gods decend from the heavens and bless my plate with deliciousness. However this year is different...this year I must begin to embrace the tradition by becoming the vehicle by which his swinyness executes his blessing to my family....I must make the holiday ham.

My mission is to make the most savory delicious Pernil for my family Thanksgiving celebration so I can continue the tradition that I cherish and promote the heritage of the Puerto Rican culture.

I will be documenting my journey to porky goodness and will be sharing my story of taking on this tradition.

A wise man once said "How does one get to Carnegie hall? Practice, Practice, Practice." and I believe in this words. Therefore I am spending the weeks up until thanksgiving perfecting my Pernil so I can make my family proud through my pork.

My base recipe is from Carmen's cookbook and is as follows:

Roast Leg of Pork A la Criolla
Pernil al Horno

I Preparation of the meat day before roasting:

  1. Remove skin and excess fat.
  2. Weight meat and jot down its exact weight, since both quantity of seasoning and time required for roasting depends upon its weight
  3. Wash meat rapidly under running water, drain and wipe dry with absorbent paper
  4. Place meat in roasting pan, fat side up. Score top of the roast in diamonds.
  5. Prepare seasoning according to weight of trimmed roast, following recipe for seasoning that will be listed below. Season roast and set in refrigerator.

Seasoning for 4 to 5-pound trimmed roast

6 peppercorns - whole black pepper
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon while dried oregano
1.5 tablespoons of olive oil
1.5 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon salt for each pound of roast

Crush and mix seasoning ingredients in a mortar

*I have chosen to leave the seasoning for other sizes of meat out.

II Roasting:

  1. Remove meat from the refrigerator 30 mins prior to roasting
  2. Drain off any liquid that may have seeped form the meat and pour liquid over meat before putting it in the oven
  3. Preheat oven and roast meat at 350 degrees for 35 minutes per pound. The internal temperature should be 185 degrees

Now based on watching my abuelita, mom, and titis I know I am going to call a few audibles here.

First off you need to season your meat for more than a day. When I was growing up my mother used to season her meat 4 days in advance. Back then the smell of garlic overtook our entire house. We would drink milk in the morning and it had the essence of garlic in it because the garlic smell got into everything! This tactic allows the meat to really absorb the savory seasoning.

They also used to stab the meat with a knife cutting deep holes all over the ham. They would then make an additional bunch of seasoning and push the seasoning into the dagger wounds with their fingers. This tactic made it so delish.

I made one last week to ready myself for the journey with a private practice session. I made two errors that made the meat less tasty then my abuelita's.....I did not marinate the meat long enough and I did not cut the holes deep enough. So this time I am going to season the meat this coming monday and let it sit in the refrigerator until saturday when I cook it. In addition when shank the pig i am going to shank the !@#$ pig like it was my mortal enemy.

I also added an additional tactic last time that I saw Micheal Symon on Cooking Channel use. He seared the meat before hand in order to plus up the flavor before roasting. I am going to put about an 1/8" on oil in the pan and crispy up the skin and fat before I put it in the to roast. Crispy pig skin is NEVER a bad thing :) Write that down.

Anyway my adventures in meat will start on monday when I pick up my pig. Till then...

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