It was a rough day overall, but a pork shoulder braised in milk and taken in the direction of carnitas turned out very well:
It started with five pounds of bone-in pork shoulder from Olivier’s butchery (at their recommendation, a cut with plenty of fat and even the skin left on one side), coated in salt and pepper, then browned in a little oil at medium-high heat on each side in a dutch oven on the stovetop.
Whole milk was added to cover it about 2/3 up the sides (most of a half-gallon container since I had some excess space around it), along with a head of sliced garlic, a bay leaf, dried sage, and thyme:
After bringing the milk and spices to a light simmer at medium heat, it went into a “300F” oven, covered, coming out every half hour to get flipped over and fill the room with a tantalizing smell.
I expected anywhere from 2 to 4 hours cooking time based on the internet. After two and a half hours you could peel the meat away from the bones with a little effort from a fork, but the body of the meat was still intact. I sliced off a small piece and was disappointed– it was fully cooked, but fairly dry and not especially flavorful. Was it under-cooked? Already over-cooked? I figured if it was over-cooked I’d already missed the boat, so I put it back in for another half hour. What a change! At three hours you could easily slide a fork half an inch into the bulk of the meat, though it still held together. I gave it another 30ish minutes, tasted a piece, and it was succulent and delicious.
I believe the expression is “falling off the bone”:
I was able to pull this apart into pieces (see the first photo) by hand, only using a knife to trim off a few pieces of fat without burning myself.
Following an online suggestion I also made a sauce by straining the liquid (which had separated into curds and whey) and pressing and then discarding everything solid. Twenty minutes on the stovetop over medium heat reduced the liquid to about half its volume, and a little time with the immersion blender emulsified it into a sweet, surprisingly-not-too-fatty sauce.
So good, even if it was about 11pm at this point.
I know what I’ll be eating the next few mornings on the fire escape…
[ edit ] Monday morning, fried into carnitas: