Cookbooks

The Cult 'New York Times' Dish I Make for Friends (& Myself!) Week After Week

This slow-roasted, crispy-chewy pork shoulder gives and gives and gives.

by:
March  2, 2020
Photo by David Malosh

I came across this bo ssäm recipe while testing hundreds of others for our co-founder Amanda Hesser’s forthcoming 10th-anniversary update to The Essential New York Times Cookbook. The process is straightforward, if not requiring a little patience: Coat pork shoulder in a one-to-one mixture of sugar and salt. Let rest overnight. Stick into an oven. Twiddle thumbs as pork-scented air wafts around you for six hours. Baste hourly, if you want, but really just let the roast baste itself until shreddy and covered in a glossy bark.

A few days after I tested the dish for the first time, Amanda texted, asking if I could remake the bo ssäm for a dinner party, and then a few weeks after that dinner party, the request got truncated to: Dinner, 6, Friday, the pork again?

Now, “dinner party” and "Sifton’s Momofuku bo ssäm" are so synonymous for me that all anyone needs to do is throw up the bat pork signal, and I’m there with an eight-pound pork shoulder, a box of Diamond Crystal, and a bag of granulated sugar. Needless to say, the recipe did make it into the revised cookbook.

This is not to say, however, that the low-and-slow pork shoulder only comes out to play at these dinner parties. There have been many Sunday afternoons when I’ve been uninspired, faced with meal prep for the week, and after staring at fridge condiments for a long while, biked straight to the butcher shop in search of what’s fresh (and on sale). I’ve substituted in a lamb shoulder. A lamb neck. A forgotten nub of pork belly. All this to say: The recipe is very forgiving. Any slow-cooking meat will take to it well—and each iteration will emerge so very unctuous, encased by a chewy-crisp bark.

Because the sugar-salt cure is so simple, the meat—whether you go pork or not—ends up tasting like nothing but the best version of itself. How you dress her up is up to you. The New York Times Food Editor Sam Sifton goes the way of bo ssäm (literally “wrapped”) with watery-crisp lettuces, kimchi, scallion-ginger sauce, and ssämjang (a funky, salty-sweet paste of fermented peppers and soybeans). With the pork belly, I went the al-desko-carnitas-tacos route with some chopped onion and cilantro; with the lamb shoulder, I made Christmas breakfast sisig. (The lamb neck, my partner Trevor and I ate straight from the pan.)

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Top Comment:
“Could you suggest a smaller cut of pork? I'm thinking something around a pound or two.”
— FrugalCat
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This recipe is just one of many other ingenious recipes (First-Night Pasta! Trini-Chinese Chicken! Pasta with Parsnips and Bacon!) you can’t—but will try to—take credit for, from Sam Sifton’s new book, See You on Sunday.

Sifton reminds us to entertain, to do it often, and to not take it too seriously. "The purpose of cooking regularly for friends and family is simply to do it," he writes, "and to make better the lives of all involved in the process of eating the meal.” The resultant recipes are decidedly unfancy, come together effortlessly, and are meant to be shared.


More viral hits from the book

What are your go-to recipes for entertaining? Share them with us in the comments!

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  • Rob McLear
    Rob McLear
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    FrugalCat
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    Eric Kim
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    boulangere
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    Coral Lee
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Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga. When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.

12 Comments

Rob M. March 15, 2020
Viral? Might want to use a different word these days…
 
FrugalCat March 5, 2020
Could you suggest a smaller cut of pork? I'm thinking something around a pound or two.
 
Author Comment
Coral L. March 5, 2020
Hi FrugalCat! You actually can just go ahead and try this with, well, a smaller cut of pork—a 2 pound piece of pork shoulder will work just as well. Just be sure to adjust the sugar/salt cure amount accordingly (~2 tablespoons salt + 2 tablespoons sugar for a 2 pound cut), and maybe start checking for shreddability at the 3 hour mark.
 
Jenn E. March 6, 2020
I can’t find bone-in pork shoulder. Does boneless pork shoulder work just as well?
 
Author Comment
Coral L. March 6, 2020
Yes!
 
jeanmarieok March 6, 2020
I've used bone pork shoulder for this - comes out just fine.
 
Eric K. March 2, 2020
I love your idea of "bo-ssaming" other meats, like lamb. It's interesting because traditional Korean bo ssam is actually boiled/braised, not roasted. But love that Americans now know what it is thanks to Momofuku and Sifton; makes sense, as well, to achieve a similar result with the oven, which requires less maintenance than the stovetop.
 
boulangere March 2, 2020
Nice method, but seriously, who wants to eat the same anything in various guises night after night? Takes me back to my university days, and not necessarily in a good way.
 
Travis B. March 4, 2020
Wait, what? This recipe would seem to opposite of that to me. With a change of rice/tortillas/salad/bread/whatever and the accompaniments you would have very different meals.
 
Mettygirl2 March 4, 2020
Night after night? I thought it said week after week... and I for one have been known to make a pot of meatballs on a Sunday and eat meatballs for the next three nites for dinner and LOVE them and the fact that I can come home from work and don't have to cook!
 
nratt March 15, 2020
Portion out leftover pork into plastic freezer bags and freeze. Whenever the mood/need strikes. Thaw (defrost in microwave) a bag of pork. Reheat pork in microwave as desired. Slam! Bam! Almost-instant lunch/dinner whenever you wish. You’re welcome. :)
 
Author Comment
Coral L. March 15, 2020
Into it!