Every now and then, you find a food story that puts you smack-dab in the childhood kitchen of the author. You can almost smell and taste the food, and the memories. That’s the treat you’re getting today as Sili of My Mamihood shares a special dish. If you love pork shoulder recipes, get ready! She’s teaching us how to make pernil – pork roast or pork shoulder – just as her Papi did – with a side of love.
How to Make Pernil
Ever since I can remember, there were simple rules in my house. One of them was pernil = party. Pernil is pork roast or pork shoulder. During my childhood days in New York, every time I was climbing the stairs to the apartment and smelled the mixture of garlic and cilantro baking in the oven, I knew something special was going on. It’s a plate that my father cooked mainly during the holidays or special occasions – Christmas Eve, a christening, birthday parties, you name it. It goes great with chick peas and rice (coconut rice is best), potato salad and a fresh green salad.
The second rule in my house: food = love. And let me tell you, there’s been enough love in my family to fill a state-of-the-art football stadium! My papi, the self-proclaimed cook (a title my mami gladly conceded) always said that he could stand to see many things in life but the one thing he couldn’t bear was to see someone hungry. So, in my home there’s always enough food to feed at least 2 greedy people (or 4 modest ones).
As I’ve grown in this environment I have learned many of my life lessons in the kitchen. I learned not to stereotype as my papi, a proud Dominican man, has never had a problem throwing on an apron and getting down and dirty in the kitchen (while getting the kitchen down and dirty at the same time!). I learned that rice pudding is the best way to say I’m sorry. That I didn’t have to learn how to cook as long as I found someone like papi!
But, inevitably, although I’ve fought it most of my life (refusing to cook for my male cousins and uncles even as they harassed me about not knowing how to cook when I knew better) cooking is in my blood. It calms me down on those days when nothing else seems to do the trick. Because behind it all is the rule: food equals love. One day I’ll write a book and give it the title: Todo Lo Que Necesito Saber Lo Aprendi en La Cocina de Papi (Everything I Need to Learn I Learned In My Father’s Kitchen).
I hope that my love of cooking and of family comes through in this recipe, as I sit at my desk after eyeing a leftover plate of pernil and chick peas and rice in the fridge (I call it my muse). May you cook up as much love for your family as we’ve cooked up in mine.
- 1 small head of garlic
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons of Adobo
- 1 green pepper
- 2 limes
- 1 pork roast or pork shoulder (sometimes called picnic shoulder)
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Peel the garlic (I find it easier to peel garlic if you let the head sit in water for an hour or so) and cut the cloves in two. Cut up the green pepper into slices. Place in a blender. Add the cilantro, the vegetable oil, the Adobo and blend on slow. This will make a pasty substance.
Take the roast and wash. Use one lime to scrub the roast while washing. Then, take a sharp knife and “stab” the roast making approximately 1 to 1.5 inch cuts (about 6-8 of them, depending on the size of the roast). Take your pasty seasoning (sazon) and fill the holes with it. You’ll also want to use the seasoning to later the roast with (the roast will have a green tint to it due to the seasoning, don’t worry about that). If you like a tangy taste, you should use the 2nd lime over the roast now (or you can opt to use the lime once it has cooked and each person can add it to taste).
Place the roast in a deep pan, cover it with aluminum foil and put it in the oven. The roast will take approximately 2 hours to cook (slightly more if it’s larger). You can use a meat thermometer to ensure that the roast has cooked thoroughly (this takes the guess work out of it).
Once the roast cooks, take off the aluminum foil, increase the temperature to 400 degrees and let it brown. Once it’s reached the level of browning that you like, take out and enjoy. I personally prefer the skin to be crunchy but not too dry so be careful. I tend to give it about 25 minutes (10-15 if you set it to broil). You can take it out of the pan once it has cooled down, put it on a plate, garnish it with some parsley and serve y ¡A buen tiempo! (this means, at a good time! And it’s what people that aren’t eating tell those that are. The sentiment behind it is: this is good timing!).
I hope this recipe works out for you. If it doesn’t, I’m totally blaming papi!
About the Author:
I am a Mami. To say I love that job is an understatement. I am also: daughter to the most wonderful woman that ever walked the earth who I sadly don’t have with me as of February 2nd, 2011, a sister to some pretty cool people, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., an unemployed writer, a lactivist, an opinionated woman, terrific friend (just ask me) and generally a good person as long as you catch me after my coffee and a bite to eat.
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