One of my favorite cuts of pork is the shoulder. The shoulder is divided into two parts: Shoulder Butt (the upper portion), and Picnic Shoulder (the lower portion). Most markets will tell you which part you are getting, but some places don’t differentiate and label both under the generic name of Pork Shoulder. (For this recipe, either part of the shoulder will work.) Granted, this cut of meat is pretty fatty and can be more than a little messy when juggling such a large piece in the kitchen. On the bright side, it is a fairly economical option when compared to other parts of the pig. When cooked properly, the fats melt away, revealing something tender and oh so juicy. Using root beer as the base for a sauce imparts a sweetness and mellow spice flavor that is enhanced by the licorice notes of star anise and aromas of clove and ginger.
1 (3-4 pounds) boneless pork shoulder roast
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 cups root beer
1 star anise
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Pat dry the pork roast with paper towels to remove any surface moisture. Season liberally with salt and pepper, rubbing it into each side.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven until it is very hot. Sear all sides of the pork until browned, about 3 minutes each side. Remove from pot, set aside.
3. Pour out any excess fat from the Dutch oven, leaving only enough to coat the bottom. Reduce heat to medium and cook the onions until they are tender and translucent. Deglaze the pot with the root beer, then stir in the star anise, ginger, and cloves.
4. Return the pork to the pot, cover, and transfer into the oven. Roast at 325F until meat is very tender, about 2.5 – 3 hours. Carefully remove pork from pot and let rest 15 minutes before slicing. Strain the sauce and skim off excess fat before serving.
5. Wasn’t that easy? Now go eat!
* Don’t have a Dutch oven? You can do steps 1-3 in a large skillet, then transfer to a roasting pan covered tightly with foil.
* If your piece of meat is larger, just roast it longer in the oven. It will be done when it is tender.
* This recipe can easily be turned into pulled-pork: just roast it long enough until the meat easily shreds when pulled with a fork.
* Don’t have root beer? Use cola instead!