I’ve mentioned that my beloved husband is a creature of habit. One of his favorite Ken-isms is, “If it ain’t broke. . . .” He knows it drives me bonkers, so he says it, looks up grinning like a madman, and lets the words trail off, leaving the platitude unfinished but the thought hanging in the air between us. Things that he likes, well, he likes them to stay the same. Which is why nearly every weekend in the summer, we are required to eat slow-cooked pork of some nature (ribs, butt, or otherwise), with fresh corn on the cob, Cheddar-buttermilk biscuits, and a tomato-something salad. This would be harder for me, someone who craves variation, except that come the dog days, I am a firm believer in keeping cooking simple. Besides the biscuits, the rest of this meal is an entirely outdoor affair that he’s happy to manage (we use our outdoor pizza oven for the pork, though an indoor oven at 325°F works just as well). He relishes firing up the pizza oven; he’s fine shucking corn on the patio; and he seems to love choosing between the boxwood basil and the scraggly tarragon, when making the salad. He even makes the signature spice rub—a concoction of brown sugar, husky cumin, smoky paprika, and fiery chili that cooks into every crevice of the succulent meat, caramelizing it with the flavor of molasses and warm spices. I suppose, in terms of marital complaints, having a husband who cooks a meal this good (regardless of the frequency) really isn’t so bad. I should probably just be quiet and eat.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, preferably dark
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3½ to 4 pounds boneless pork butt (pork shoulder), at room temperature

Method

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a small bowl, combine the paprika, brown sugar, salt, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, and pepper flakes.

Pat the pork dry with paper towels and place it in a roasting pan (with or without a rack). Rub the pork all over with the spice rub, getting it into all the little crevices. (If you have leftover rub, it will hold in an airtight container and is delicious as a simple way to perk up pork chops as well.) Transfer the pork to the oven and roast until pork can be easily “pulled” with a fork, 3 to 3½ hours. Check the pork every hour or so and baste it with any fat in the bottom of the pan.

When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred it with a fork (or your hands if it’s really cooled off). Set aside a cup or so of the meat for pizza and portion off the rest to freeze for future pizzas—or enjoy as you desire.

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