I texted Lily when I saw a $9 pork shoulder at Fairway: what do I need to make pernil? Pernil, or roasted pork shoulder, is a Latin dish served as part of a feast, usually with rice and beans. I grew up in Washington Heights with my Dominican friends and have always eaten pernil at their birthday parties. Years have passed and they’ve all moved out of their parents’ houses and I haven’t had a decent pernil since.
Thankfully for Lily’s birthday this past summer, she decided to keep it low-key and invited us to her mother’s house. I thought I ate the best pernil there. Her mother even wrapped some leftovers for me to take home because I couldn’t stop picking from it even after dinner was over. My friends’ parents are all too familiar with the Asian friend who raves about the roasted pork.
This is in preparation for Christmas Eve dinner. My first try didn’t come out as tender as I would have liked: Lily’s version melts in your mouth and it’s impossible to slice the meat because everything just falls off the bone. I’ve revised this recipe and made some corrections. I’ll be ready to try it again for my birthday dinner and I’ll make Lily proud.
1 pork shoulder, no more than 5 pounds
1 head of garlic, peeled, crushed
4 tbsps cumin, grounded
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
1. Marinate the pork shoulder. Score the pork with a sharp knife and insert garlic cloves in every nook. Splash Worcestershire sauce all over the pork. Using your hands, liberally rub the pork with cumin, salt and pepper. Put in a large container and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 300º. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature until oven is ready. Roast pork for 3 hours on a rack in an aluminum foil-lined roasting pan filled halfway with water, turning every hour until meat is tender. Add water to the pan as necessary.
3. Remove pork from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before cutting it up.