Updated. First posted in 2005.
Now here’s a good one for a cold winter day. Talk about melt-in-your-mouth delicious! A hefty pork shoulder is slathered with a rub of fennel seeds, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and garlic and set to marinate for a day or two in the fridge. It is then nestled in a bed of sliced apples and onions, first browned on high heat in the oven, and then covered and allowed to cook low and slow, until it is almost falling apart. You don’t need a knife to eat this slow-roasted pork shoulder. Just a big appetite.
We first encountered this recipe by Napa chef Maria Helm Sinskey in the Wall St. Journal years ago. We’ve made just a few changes—reduced the salt rather dramatically, added some mustard, puréed and strained the gravy. I love this method of slow cooking a pork shoulder and think you will too!
The pork shoulder should be marinated in the rub overnight or up to two days.
- 4-5 pounds (1.8 to 2.2 kg) boneless pork shoulder, sinew and excess fat (beyond 1/4 inch) trimmed
- 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 Tbsp packed, fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
- 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, lightly chopped
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- Olive oil
- 4 medium good cooking apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine (can sub water)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
1 Put the fennel seeds, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a paste. Alternatively, you can pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle. Put the mixture into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
2 Rub the mixture evenly all over the pork shoulder. If the roast is tied, untie it to rub the inside with the rub mixture as well, then retie it. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap to hold the rub against the skin and marinate overnight (or up to two days).
3 Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each apple half into about 4 wedges. Peel the onions. Cut in half from tip to root. Trim the root and tip. Cut each onion half into about 12 thin wedges. Put the onions and the apples together in a bowl and toss to mix.
4 Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).
5 Toss the apples and onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Place the apples and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan or Dutch oven with a cover. Place the marinated pork shoulder on top of the apples and onions.
6 Roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the oven heat down to 325°F and add the wine. Cover the roasting pan and slow roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the pork shoulder is falling apart tender and pulls apart easily when probed with a fork.
7 Transfer the pork shoulder to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the apples and onions into a blender. Add about 1/2 cup water and the mustard and purée. Check the texture, and add water until you get the desired thickness for the gravy. Press through a sieve for a silky smooth textured gravy. Check the seasoning and correct to taste.