“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
2 to 4, depending on hunger
boneless pork shoulder (butt), cut into 1-inch cubes
fine sea salt
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
peanut oil (make sure it's refined for high heat), or grapeseed or safflower oil
flaky sea salt, like Maldon
soft herbs, such as cilantro, mint, chives, and/or basil
small jalapeño or other chile, seeded and sliced or chopped
Crisp lettuce leaves, torn and/or sliced cucumbers, for serving
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.
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.)
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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