Pernil, which is a pork roast, is a classic Puerto Rican dish. The smell of one reminds me of Christmas. We do the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving but Christmas Eve dinner usually consists of Pernil and Arroz con Gandules, along with a millon other things. We like to eat in our family! Let me warn you that this is not my mom's recipe. She has yet to provide that to me although I'm certain she's willing. I came across this Puerto Rican Pork Roast recipe on Allrecipes a few years back and have used it a couple of different times with only slight changes. When I pulled up the recipe again, I read my review and saw that I used minced garlic at the time... JARRED minced garlic. Yeah, I don't do that anymore. It's TOTALLY worth that tiny extra bit of effort to use fresh garlic. Fair warning, this recipe has a lot of steps mainly because I like to reduce the fat count as much as possible and a pork roast is VERY fatty. That being said, you will completely melt into a puddle of happy after your first bite of this roast.
First I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F and started gathering all of the ingredients. I pulled out all the garlic cloves I could find along with Adobo, pepper, oregano, white vinegar, the pork roast and olive oil.
First thing I wanted to do was get the seasoning mix ready to go. I bashed the garlic to easily remove the skin. Take a look at that fresh garlic! *double entendre alert* You see what I saw?? Put some pants on garlic clove!!! I'm sorry... I couldn't help it. I promise to keep my dirty mind in check for the remainder of this post.
As I gazed longingly at my pilon and wondered where the masher part was, I knew I wanted to mash the garlic as best as I could. I finely diced it and then went all MacGuyver. A bit of parchment paper and a mallet worked like a charm. By the way, want to feel real old? Ask a kid if they know who MacGuyver is.
After I mashed up my garlic, I started throwing together the rest of the ingredients and realized I was COMPLETELY out of black pepper in that little canister. Here's the problem. If you've read this blog you might have noticed several references to "freshly ground pepper". I use my pepper grinder ALL.THE.TIME. So I just had no idea I was out of the pre-ground stuff. Can I just say that having to hand grind 3 tablespoons of pepper takes a good minute?? Yeah totally sucked. I can't even pretend that was fun.
Once that task was done, I combined all of the remaining ingredients: 3 tbsp FRESHLY ground black pepper, 1 tsp of oregano, 3 tbsps of Adobo, just under 1 tbsp of white vinegar, 2 tbsp of olive oil and the minced garlic.
Next I removed the pork roast from the wrapping and trimmed some of the fat. Just a bit of the fat off the skin side and all of the fattiness on the side with no skin. I left the skin intact for the most part because I was going to use a different cooking technique that would create a crispy skin. A lot of people LOVE the crispy skin off of a pernil but I just wanted to see if I could do it more than anything. After trimming the roast, I stabbed it a bunch of times. I think women will really enjoy this, ESPECIALLY during the holiday season. Releasing a bit of pent up anger can't be a bad thing right?? What you want to do is create a bunch of incisions in the roast. These pockets (try to go about an inch or two deep) will hold the seasoning paste so you'll want to space them out all over the roast. I only did the sides that didn't have skin. The skin was so thick it was hard to cut through and I knew if I tried too hard, I'd probably end up accidentally slicing my hand. You'll want to do twice as many inciscions as what's shown below.
With the remaining bit of paste or really even with just what's on your hands and already on the roast, you'll want to rub the paste all over the outside of the roast. I HIGHLY recommend using plastic gloves. Although I used a small spoon to put the paste into the inciscions, I still use my fingers to help it along. The smell of the paste is strong and stays on your hands for hours even after a couple of good scrubs with soapy, hot water. I'm sure someone out there has some miracle smell remover (lemon juice??) but just to give everyone fair warning.
I don't have a roasting pan yet. I know! Terrible. So I shoved that roast into my cast iron pot. It wasn't easy cause of that dang bone but I got that roast as snug as a bug in a rug. I roasted it skin side down for 2 hours COVERED.
After two hours (of sleeping in since I put that sucker in at 6am), I flipped the roast to cook for 2 more hours. Pre-flip you can see how the skin has already shrunken back quite a bit to expose the bone.
For the last two hours of roasting, I kept it uncovered to produce that crispy skin I mentioned earlier.
Look at how crispy the skin is!! Can you even tell in pictures? It was super crispy. I tasted a tiny bit and it was nummy.
At this point, after the roast had cooled and while it was still in the pot, I set it in the refrigerator and went off for a couple of hours. The advantage to having to shove that roast into the pot was that it was a bit suspended over the bottom so it hovered over the fat for the most part. When I returned home, I got to work on breaking the roast down.
By breaking it into chunks I was able to remove most of the fat, gristle, bones and pretty much anything that wasn't meat. As I broke it down, I added it back to the pot which had the juices from the roast sans the congealed fat I'd already skimmed off.
As I was cutting the roast up, while already DELICIOUS, I felt it needed to cook a bit more. Plus I had time since I still had to start the rice and let the beans finish cooking. I set it to medium low, added about a cup of water and simmered for about 20 minutes. I added the extra water because I knew the additional cook time would concentrate the juices more. Without that extra water, the flavor of the roast juices would have been too strong. After everything was ready, I turned the heat off and waited 20 minutes to eat. That way we could enjoy dinner without singeing our mouths. :)
This dinner totally hit the spot. The meat was super tender (I cut into bite-sized pieces using a spoon!) and of course with the rice and beans, a little went a long way. I'm totally having leftovers for lunch... and a repeat for dinner. AND leftover meat can be used for carnitas or pork tacos or toasted sandwiches. Oh how I love a tasty roast. Yes this took time but again, it was totally worth it!
(Adapted from Puerto Rican Pork Roast)
8 lb pork picnic roast
6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp Adobo
3 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp of dried oregano
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mash the garlic cloves or add to a food processor.
- Add to the mashed garlic Adobo, pepper, oregano, olive oil and the white vinegar. Thoroughly mix until a smooth paste.
- Using a knife, make numerous incisions all over the roast. With a small spoon, insert the paste into each incision.
- Place the roast skin side down and covered in the oven for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, flip the roast and leave it uncovered. Cook for an additional 2 hours.
- Let roast cool. Skim fat off juices and cut roast into chunks, removing excess fat from the meat.
- Place the roast chunks back into the pot with the roast juices.
- Add one cup of water and simmer on medium low for 20 more minutes or until tender.
My four-legged canine babies TOTALLY got in on the action. Both got to enjoy a hefty pork bone AND a chunk of crispy pork skin. Remember kids, NO CHICKEN BONES, but pork bones are safe.