Citizens, few things are as wonderful as a well-cooked piece of pork, with melting-tender fat and juiciness, crisp skin and meat that defines the very essence of savory palatal ecstacy!
Pernil fits that bill to perfection!
Pernil is a slow-roasted marinated pork shoulder that is practically a national dish of Puerto Rico – it is commonly shared during Christmas, typically accompanied by arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas).
The pork shoulder is used as a whole piece, with skin and bone. It is marinated the day prior to roasting with sofrito (a vegetable, herb and spice blend), salt, and pepper plus possibly additional spices (such as oregano or adobo). Sofrito is usually placed deeply within the meat through small cuts.
After marination the covered meat is slowly roasted initially in the oven for several hours, and, in the final phase, at a higher temperature with the cover off to get the skin crispy. When finished, the meat “falls off the bone”, and the crispy skin (cuero) is separated, cleared of fat, and can be served separately as cueritos (skin chips).
Left-over meat from a pernil can be used to delicious and savory effect in a Cuban sandwich.
As noted on the site thenoshery.com:
There is a trick to getting a fork tender roast and crispy skin. First, score the skin to allow the fat to render and baste the meat. But, be careful only to score the skin till you just begin to see fat.
You do not want to score it all the way down to the meat. Also, roasting covered low and slow allows the meat to get fork tender. Finally, hit it with high heat to crisp the skin.
In the past, I use to separate the skin completely from the shoulder and season the meat underneath. The problem with doing this was that the skin would start to shrink and create folds. Making it harder to crisp the skin. Also, with the skin the fat would shrink back also, meaning it would no longer naturally baste the meat.
To resolve this, I started cutting long pockets under the skin and fat, stuffing them with seasoning. By keeping the skin still attached it gets more taught during the cooking process, resulting in a thinner crispier skin.
Citizens, my version of this classic recipe uses a combination of different citrus juices to replicate the hard-to-find sour orange that is a necessity in this dish. I also use my own blend of seasonings, including a touch of smoked paprika to add some live-fire goodness to this oven-baked porcine apotheosis! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo