Here in the USA, we typically celebrate our big holiday with turkey. In most Latin American countries, folks celebrate with pernil – roasted pork shoulder, stuffed with garlic and sofrito seasoning. There are about a thousand different recipes for pernil out there. A few months ago I had a lot of fun roasting a whole pork shoulder in a cast iron dutch oven, and I loved how it turned out. Doing research for that video introduced me to Pernil. So, this gave me an urge to try my hand at making a Puerto Rican style pernil.
Preparing this recipe was a learning experience. Some people prepare the pernil by cutting slits and poking holes in the skin and pressing seasoning through the skin. And I found that If the pork is roasted uncovered, the seasonings can burn. Others separate the skin from the meat and then cover the prepared pernil with the skin. The choice of method depends on whether the meat will be roasted in a covered or uncovered pan. If the pernil is cooked in a covered pan, the skin can be coated and penetrated with seasonings. If the pork is roasted uncovered, the seasonings can burn. So, the skin is separated from the meat, and the meat underneath is prepared with seasoning. Then, the skin is used to cover the pernil and shield it from the direct heat. This allows the seasonings to cook without burning.
Crush red and green pepper, onion, garlic and fennel with mortar and pestle, mix in salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato paste and mix in. Add wine, stir it all together. Mix in cilantro and parsley.
With a large knife, separate the skin from the pork. Leave the skin attached at one end. Cut slits in the pork shoulder, top and bottom. Cut each slit in a cross or X, rather than a single slit. The top side will be the side with the fat cap. Starting on the bottom side opposite the fat cap, use a knife to poke or cut slits into the meat, about 1 to 2 inches deep. Into each slit, press in sofrito mixture, then press in a slice of garlic. Coat the bottom of the pernil with the adobo mixture. Flip the pork shoulder over onto its top side and repeat: make holes with the knife, and stuff with sofrito and garlic cloves. Coat the top of the pernil with the adobo mixture. Drape the skin over the top side of the pernil. You can either place the pernil into a sealed container, or wrap it in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight, or about 12 to 24 hours.
The next day, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare a rub of salt, pepper and baking powder for the skin. Uncover the pernil, and place it into the dutch oven, with the skin side up and covering the pernil. Rub the outer skin with the rub, generously coating the skin. This will help dry the skin and make it crisp as it roasts. Insert a probe thermometer into the meat, underneath the fat cap.
Place the dutch oven with the pernil into the oven, uncovered. Roast at 250 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Many recipes say to add liquid to the pan to keep the pork from drying out. This is actually not necessary: slow-cooking at a lower temperature actually retains more internal juices and keeps the roast from drying out. Furthermore, the skin covering the top of the roast will also help to cook it internally and retain the juices.
When the temperature of the meat reaches 180 degrees, remove the pot from the oven. Cover the pot with a lid. Let the pernil rest, while the temperature of the oven is raised to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the oven temperature reaches 500 degees Fahrenheit, remove the cover from the pot, and place it into the hot oven, uncovered. Roast the pernil at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.
After roasting 25 minutes, remove the pot from the oven, and cover it once again. Wait 15 minutes for the meat to rest. The pernil can then be served.