Instead, let’s talk party food. Because we’ve all been holed away at home for too long and socializing is an important part of getting through the worst of these dark months.
Start with a pork shoulder. (When is that not a good idea?)
At least, that’s how I felt mid-week last week when I started thinking about Bo Ssam, a recipe I’ve wanted to make since I first read Momofuku. the excellent and adventurous cookbook from David Chang and Peter Meehan. The recipe is available online from the New York Times, and Sam Sifton does a great job explaining why you want to make it. Once the recipe appeared there, bloggers and food writers and just about everyone on the internet made it. Except me.
Why did I wait so long? For goodness sake, take it from me. Don’t delay.
Make bo ssam
Because you eat bo ssam with your hands. And who doesn’t like to do that every once in awhile?
Because bo ssam is so delicious, you want to eat well past the time when you should stop. And so will everyone else at your table. There will be mmmm sounds.
Because you will spend a TOTAL of one hour, cumulatively, over two days for a dish that will make you a rockstar in the kitchen.
It’s dead simple. Your job is to invite some friends.
Buy an excellent, well raised pork shoulder. It should be a beautiful red with a nice fat cap. Get it with the bone-in. Mine was boneless and it worked just fine but I would have been happy with that bone for some stock.
I had a sensational Pork Butt from Whitmore Farm. Call me lucky: Whitmore comes to my tiny neighborhood farmers market (year round, Lafayette Elem. School, Saturdays 9-1) with beautiful eggs (some signed by the hens) and extraordinary meats. I buy large cuts when they are available as most of the Whitmore animals are destined for restaurants like Range and Woodberry Kitchen and to get some of that hand raised, carefully managed meat into my kitchen is a privilege.
Here’s your grocery list. One head of leaf lettuce, 2 bunches of scallions, a big knob of ginger, kimchi, kochujang (chile) paste and ssamjang (fermented bean and chile) paste. [I’m assuming you have in your pantry: soy sauce, grapeseed or other neutral oil, sugar, brown sugar, kosher salt, white rice. ]
Rub the pork with a salt and sugar mixture and let it hang out in the fridge overnight. The next morning, put the meat in the smallest roasting pan it will fit in (I used a gratin dish) and slow roast the shoulder for about six hours. I started at 10am and took the meat out at 4pm.
There are three sauces. One is easy – puree some kimchi. The second is another puree, so rinse out the blender and keep going. Ginger, lots of scallions (lots), soy, sherry vinegar and grapeseed oil. It’s a gorgeous bright green aioli of sorts. Finally, there’s the jewel in the crown – the Ssam Sauce, spicy and incredibly delicious and I want to put it on every single thing. Shake that up in a jar and be done with the sauces.
Make a lot of rice. Twice as much as you think you need.
Clean the lettuce and dry the leaves well. Pile them in a big bowl.
Gather around the table. With drinks. And big napkins.
I highly recommend the cookbook, Momofuku. Because this pork is part of a divine pork bun and the star of ramen-of-the-Gods, and oh those sauces. It’s a book full of inspiration. And David Chang is hilarious.
I am not reprinting the recipe here; it’s available online at the New York Times Cooking site.
PS Don’t despair. I thought cleaning this pan was going to be a real problem, but I poured boiling water and a squirt of dishwashing soap in and in 10 minutes, everything awful just wiped away without a whimper.