Once this pork shoulder is seared with five-spice seasoning and tucked into a bath with pineapple, it cooks in the oven on low heat for up to six hours. With a final blast in high heat to sizzle the crackling, it comes out fork-tender and ready to be slathered with a nicely thickened sweet and tangy pineapple sauce. —laura
boneless pork shoulder with fat cap (also called pork butt), tied with kitchen twine in 2 or 3 parallel lines for uniform cooking
salt & pepper
Chinese five spice powder
small red onion or medium shallot, minced
clove garlic, minced
freshly grated ginger
can of pineapple chunks (1 large can, with juices)
Preheat oven to 225 F. Pat the shoulder dry and score the fat cap in a cross-hatch pattern in each space between the kitchen twine. Season all sides with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, and then coat liberally with the five-spice powder, rubbing it in with your hands.
Heat a Dutch oven slowly on medium heat; when warm, add the oils and swirl to coat, then increase heat. Sear the pork with the fat cap down first, then rotate and continue searing all sides. Remove the pork carefully and set aside.
Turn the heat to low and add the minced onion to soften; use a wooden spoon to break up the browned bits on the bottom of pot. When onions are softened, add the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook another 1 minute, or until aromatic.
Add the remaining ingredients (pineapple and all its juices through sambal oelek) and stir, then turn heat up to medium-high. Return the pork carefully to pot (the liquid should come up to almost half the side of the pork, no higher). Bring to a just a simmer, cover, and transfer to oven.
After five to six hours of braising, check the internal temp of the pork to ensure it is above 145 F and the edges tear easily when prodded with a fork. Remove from oven and carefully transfer the pork to a separate shallow roasting dish and tent with aluminum foil for 15 minutes. Crank the oven temp up to 500 F to preheat.
Let the sauce cool and settle, then skim the top with a spoon and discard excess fat. Scoop out up to half the pineapple chunks and a little sauce and blend (I use an immersion blender), then return to the pot and heat on the stovetop to a simmer. Stir frequently while reducing the sauce to half its volume, or to desired consistency (about 20 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasoning: add more sambal oelek for spiciness, more hoisin for sweetness, more ginger for zing, more rice vinegar for tanginess, etc.)
Return pork to oven, uncovered, in its separate roasting dish, with the fat cap on top for a final blast of heat to sizzle the top and further tenderize, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and tent once more for at least 15 minutes.
When cool enough, shred the pork with forks and/or hands, discarding the fat. Slice up the sizzled crackling if desired. Add the pineapple sauce and serve. Can be served with rice or slaw, on lettuce wraps or in buns, or just as a hearty bowl on its own.