Recipe of the Week

The Best Way to Roast Pork? Overnight.

December 1, 2016

Using your oven as a slow cooker makes for tender meat and crispy bark. Photo: James Ransom

As someone who develops recipes and writes about food for a living, I often get people saying to me, “I bet you cook all the time at home.” I’m always ashamed to admit I don’t. With a full-time freelance schedule, a baby, and a not-so-fabulous kitchen, my weeknight dinners consist mostly of salad kits and grocery store rotisserie chickens, peppered with the occasional cut of meat my husband throws on the grill when he doesn’t have to work late.

Food52’s founders, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs—also busy working mothers—get it. Their latest cookbook, A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead (Ten Speed Press), opens with a confession similar to mine. “As parents and as partners running a growing business, we have very little time to cook during the week,” they write in the introduction. “If we want to eat well, we need to plan our shopping and cooking for the weekends, and to come up with ways to do it so that family dinners don’t become monotonous.”

Their weekend strategy is one even I could manage, and it’s the basis for the book.

“For people who enjoy cooking and care about eating well, the big headache isn’t the time in the kitchen—it’s the time spent planning, making shopping lists, etc.,” Stubbs told me over email. “We wanted to remove the drudgery of planning so people can get down to the fun stuff!”

To help with just that, the authors offer practical tips for using Saturday and Sunday to shop, prep, and store food to get you through the workweek with little weeknight effort and almost no waste. They also include a list of staples to always keep on hand (eggs, hunk of Parmesan, good chocolate) that’s the best I’ve seen in print.

Hesser and Stubbs provide 16 full weeks of dinners (including desserts and a handful of brown bag lunches with leftovers), but the one that has me gearing up to cook again is Stubbs’s Overnight Roast Pork. The recipe turns your oven into a literal slow cooker—with the pork slowly roasting for up to 10 hours at 200ºF.

If the idea of leaving something in the oven overnight makes you anxious, you’re not alone. But as long as your oven is in good working order, you shouldn’t worry, as this is a tried-and-true method.

“It’s totally understandable to feel a little nervous about leaving your oven on overnight,” Stubbs told me. “The first time you do it, you might want to put the pork in an hour or so before you go to bed; that way you can check on it once to make sure everything is humming along fine.”

What you’ll wake up to, according to Stubbs, is “a cloud of garlic, sugar, and pork aroma—like bacon on steroids.” Even better, this technique produces something you can’t get from a Crock-Pot: crispy, crackly bark from the spiced sugars. Game, changed.

Serves 4 for 2 dinners, with lots of leftovers

1 (5-pound/2.3-kg) boneless pork butt
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup (75 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 large cloves garlic, minced
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle (or use chili powder in a pinch)

1. Tie the pork with twine in several places so that it’s nice and compact. Place it on a plate or small baking sheet and season liberally with salt. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.

2. Combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, thyme, garlic, and ground chipotle in a small bowl. Add a couple pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Set aside.

3. Heat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Smear the sugar, mustard, and garlic mixture all over the pork, concentrating a good amount on the top of the roast, where the fat is. Nestle the pork (fat side up) into a roasting pan or cast iron baking dish just big enough to hold it. Put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until you start to smell garlic and sugar. Remove the pork from the oven and cover the pan tightly with foil. Return the pork to the oven and turn the heat down to 200°F (95°C).

4. Leave the pork in the oven overnight to cook for at least 8 hours and up to 10 hours. When you wake up, your house will smell amazing and the pork will be tender. Cover the roast with foil and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days.

5. The day of: Slice or shred what you think you’ll need, put it in a covered baking dish, and reheat in a 200°F to 250°F (95°C to 120°C) oven.

Authors’ Note on Buying Pork: Pork has changed a lot over the years. Commercial pork is leaner than it used to be, making it less flavorful and prone to dryness. I typically don’t buy it a lot, except for the occasional sausage. Instead, I seek out local pork from small farms whenever possible. It may be a bit more expensive, but the taste is far superior. When you’re buying pork shoulder, look for a piece of meat with good marbling and a generous fat cap. You’ll taste the difference.

Tip from Amanda Hesser: “I make this pork shoulder as often as possible, and when I do, I sometimes change up the seasoning. I capitalize the spices and lowercase the sweetness by adding a tablespoon of smoked paprika in place of the chipotle and a large pinch of red pepper flakes, and omitting the maple syrup and brown sugar.”

Read the Recipe From the Book: Merrill Stubbs’s Overnight Roast Pork

Recipe excerpted from A New Way to Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, copyright © 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright © 2016 by James Ransom.

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Food52 A New Way to Dinner

A smart, inspiring cookbook showing how to plan, shop, and cook for dinners (and lunches and desserts) all through the week. The secret? Cooking… Read more »

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