Melissa Clark's Crispy Salt & Pepper Pork

March 7, 2017


Author Notes: “The thing is to manage expectations,” Melissa Clark writes. “With pork butt, you think soft, spoonable meat that's been roasted or braised for hours until it practically collapses. This is different. It's a celebration of crisp and chewy textures.“ But shifting expectations isn’t the only thing that makes this recipe such a success. Clark packs a lot of smart moves in here, to play up best sides this wily cut of meat didn’t know it had—and it all happens within about 30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice, or on its own. Cold beer is recommended. Adapted slightly from Dinner: Changing the Game (Clarkson Potter, 2017).Genius Recipes

Serves: 2 to 4, depending on hunger

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder (butt), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (or more black pepper if you can't find them—it just won't be as tongue-tingling)
  • Pinch of red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (make sure it's refined for high heat), or grapeseed or safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, like Maldon
  • 1/2 cup soft herbs, such as cilantro, mint, chives, and/or basil
  • 1 small jalapeño or other chile, seeded and sliced or chopped
  • Crisp lettuce leaves, torn and/or sliced cucumbers, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, toss the pork cubes with the fine sea salt. Using a spice mill or a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind together the black peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns, and the red chile flakes. If you’ve gone electric, be careful not to overdo it; you want some texture here. Add the spices to the pork, tossing well. Let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron or stainless steel, not nonstick) over high heat until it is very hot. Add the oil and let it heat until it is shimmering. Then add the pork and sprinkle it with the flaky sea salt. Stir-fry until the pork cubes are golden brown all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Do this in a couple batches if needed to be sure not to crowd the meat in the pan, or it will steam, rather than brown. (To get a good sear on the meat and avoid sticking, it helps to leave it alone in the pan for a minute or two before stirring, then leave it alone again, repeat. It should be nice and brown on the bottom each time you do this.)
  3. Transfer the pork to a platter and top it with the herbs and chile. Serve with the lettuce and/or cucumbers, with lime wedges on the side.

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Reviews (26) Questions (0)

26 Reviews

juliunruly October 2, 2017
It was fun to cook pork shoulder this way, but I won't be making this particular recipe again. The Sichuan peppercorn was dominated the entire dish to an unpleasant degree (and I am a fan of Sichuan peppercorn, generally speaking), and it seemed like a disjointed pairing with the herbs and lime. I'm caucasian, so I don't claim to be an authority on Asian cooking, but the herbs and lime had my brain expecting/craving the tastes of fish sauce and brown sugar. I would totally cook and serve pork butt like like this again, but just with different seasoning on the meat. Also agree with other reviewers that it should be cubed slightly smaller than 1".
 
Anna F. September 16, 2017
So surprising the texture of this pork! I never would have guessed that pork butt cooked this way could be so tender. It's not melt in your mouth as if it were braised, but it's still more tender than even a pork chop. Great flavor too. Just make sure your fans are running if you have a small kitchen; the peppercorn aroma got a little spicy to inhale.
 
Rhonda35 August 23, 2017
Melissa Clark hits it out of the park with this recipe - so delicious!
 
Amanda H. May 30, 2017
This was excellent. I was initially worried that the pork butt would be too tough to cook this way, but it was perfectly crispy. I cut the piece smaller than 1 inch so there would be greater surface area for frying. I will definitely be making this again!
 
Dori April 1, 2017
Yummy, but thought there would be more kick.. maybe swap out Thai chilies for jalapeño.... also thought some sliced onion thrown in at the end of cooking, or green onions mixed with the herbs would have been a nice touch. Next time There will be a next time!
 
Burnt O. March 29, 2017
served with soba noodles with all the herbs, chiles, and Nuoc Cham - that gave it the little bit of sweetness it needed.
 
tamater S. April 2, 2017
LOVE that handle!
 
Mallory March 27, 2017
Made this for dinner over the weekend and we all loved it. Wasn't able to get my hands on any sichuan peppercorns, but it was still great without it. Some folks went that taco route and used the pork as a filling in a tortilla piled with the herbs, chopped lettuce, jalapeno, and lime juice. Can't wait to make this again with perhaps different spice/flavor variations.
 
Kendra March 21, 2017
I just came on here to say the same as Kevin. I made this tonight, and one inch pork pieces is too big and makes it hard to chew. It was delicious! If you flip through the pictures above, that is about the right size.
 
Kevin March 20, 2017
Quite delicious. I would actually suggest cutting the pork into even slightly smaller than one-inch pieces, to get a better surface-area to volume ratio. I used chopped up cucumbers for the salad with some tomatoes I had and added a little olive oil, vinegar and salt.
 
Kevin March 20, 2017
Quite delicious. I would actually suggest cutting the pork into even slightly smaller than one-inch pieces, to get a better surface-area to volume ratio. I used chopped up cucumbers for the salad with some tomatoes I had and added a little olive oil, vinegar and salt.
 
tamater S. March 20, 2017
Instead of oil, I'm thinking of using rendered fat that I usually have on hand refrigerated.
 
tamater S. March 20, 2017
Woah, it was posted on Mr 5th - I almost missed it...oh well, it's saved now!
 
AntoniaJames March 14, 2017
Pork shoulder, well marinated (cut into chunks), also can be skewered and grilled on a super hot grill. Get it on, get it off, pop it into roti wraps or tortillas with cucumbers and lettuce and salsa verde / chimichurri / mint+cilantro chutney / chermoula, whatever. Same principle at work here. So delicious, and convincing proof that fat carries flavor. ;o)
 
Morsal March 13, 2017
Could one use pork loin rather than shoulder?
 
Fred R. March 13, 2017
You probably could, but as with stir-frying chicken breast, because of the lean nature of a loin, the pan/wok should be really hot or you will have dry pellets in the end. Maybe if you brine the loin first it would be easier.
 
Kristen M. March 13, 2017
I've actually done this with a nicely marbled piece of loin when my butcher was out of shoulder and it worked great. Tenderloin would be leaner than I'd want to go, though.
 
Morsal March 14, 2017
Thanks.
 
Morsal March 14, 2017
Thanks.
 
C March 12, 2017
Made this for dinner, easy & delicious. Worth the clean up afterwards. <br />Changed it with spices I like..sprinkled Adobo, Paprika ,salt and the resting process ; only used black peppercorns from original recipe. Delicious. Made it with boneless country ribs, worked out fine, but must have some fat on them for flavor. Would and will make again.
 
Fred R. March 12, 2017
Sorry, but where's the "genius?" Cubed meat, with a few, common heat spices, is stir-fried. Not much imagination in this one.
 
tamater S. March 20, 2017
I can see why you ask that question, Fred - but gee, I don't know why I never thought of it before! Only pork I ever cut small before cooking was stir-fry.
 
Brian April 10, 2017
The genius is in the amount of pepper, and then the combination with the "green" ingredients (chives, basil, lettuce, and especially the lime juice). I would never in a million years have thought of using that much pepper, and I was sure it was going to be a disaster, but once you add the lettuce and other ingredients, it's a revelation. So Fred is off base with his criticism of something he didn't even seem to have tried.
 
Amanda H. May 30, 2017
The genius is using pork butt, which is traditionally slow braised, in a stir fry. There is a separate article on why this recipe is genius.
 
hardlikearmour March 11, 2017
Made this for supper, and my husband and I loved it. Served with a combination of lettuce and cucumber, with a mix of mint and cilantro as the herb. Used boneless country style pork ribs which worked beautifully. The meat was well-seasoned, and I definitely encourage the Sichuan pepper. Will definitely make this again.
 
SarahWarn March 10, 2017
Nice idea for a dish, and love having another use for sichuan peppercorns. I felt it needed a little sugar to balance and round out the flavor.