A little change in plans for New Years. I was going to make prime rib, but the more I thought about it the more it felt like it was one of those been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt meals.
Don’t get me wrong – I love prime rib, but I decided it was time to cross something new off of my culinary bucket list.
1 whole pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt), 8 to 10 pounds
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons brown sugar
I made a dry cure by mixing the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together. I poured half of the cure into a large zip-top bag, put the pork shoulder in on top of it, and covered it with the rest of the cure. Then I worked the cure in with my hands so it covered all of the shoulder as evenly as possible. I squeezed the air out of the bag, sealed it, set the bag in a 9×13 pan, and stashed it in the fridge overnight.
As the cure started to work, it pulls water out of the meat and forms a brining solution. I turned the bag every so often to evenly distribute the liquid.
The next day, I removed the shoulder from the brine and rinsed off any remaining cure. I patted it dry and arranged the shoulder with the fat cap up on a rack set in a roasting pan. I scored the fat cap with a paring knife and hit it with a bit of Dizzy Pig’s Tsunami Spin rub just to bump up the flavor/crispiness a little.
I set the BGE up for a 8-hour indirect cook at 300°F. I filled the firebox all the way up with lump and used the inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat.
When the grill was up to temp, I added some guava wood for smoke, and when the smoke changed from white (bad) to blue (good), I loaded the grill with the rack full of pig.
While the shoulder was cooking, I made up the sauces and put together the accompaniments.
Ginger Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
1/2 cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (grape seed in this case)
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
I combined the scallion, ginger, oil, soy sauce, and vinegar in a food processor and gave everything a whirl to combine. Then I saved it off in the fridge.
2 tablespoons ssamjang (Korean fermented bean-and-chili paste, I used gluten-free red miso instead.)
2 tablespoons kochujang (Korean chili paste)
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup neutral-tasting oil (grape seed in this case)
I tried just mixing the chili paste and miso into the vinegar and oil, but they didn’t want to dissolve. I ended up pouring everything into a pint canning jar, warming it in the microwave for a minute or so, and then putting the lid on and shaking it to get it to combine.
2 cups plain white rice, cooked
3 heads bibb or butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
After 5 hours on the grill, I checked the shoulder for doneness with a thermometer. I knew it wouldn’t be falling apart at this stage, but I wanted to make sure it was getting a nice smoke ring and that the fat had started to crisp up. My shoulder ended up taking 7 hours to hit 160°F internal.
I moved the shoulder inside and wrapped it in a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, set it in a clean roast pan in the oven, and cooked it at 350°F until it hit 190°F internal – about another 3 hours.
I checked the shoulder for doneness again. This time by carefully unwrapping it and poking at it with a fork to see if the meat would yield and pull apart. It wasn’t ready to completely collapse, but it was tender enough that I could remove it from the foil and move it into a heat-proof serving dish (I used the base of my tagine) and put it back into the oven set on low and went out to enjoy our guests.
When we were ready to eat, I covered the shoulder with a mix of the remaining tablespoon of salt and the brown sugar and turned the oven up to 500°F. I turned on the exhaust fan, cracked open a window, and blasted the shoulder until the sugar melted into the meat and started to caramelize (about 10 minutes). I basted it once with the pan juices to melt all the sugar and gave it another 5 minutes in the oven to finish.
When everything was a lovely, piggy, smoky, caramel crispy mass, I moved the shoulder to the center of the table and served with the sauces and fixings.
You assemble the bo ssam by first taking a lettuce leaf and then placing a bit of the pork, rice, kimchi, and sauces on it, then curl everything up together and enjoy.
Oh, wow! I’d give this 10 stars if I could. Not just good, but crazy good. Each little bundle had the perfect mix of sweet, salty, smoky, tangy, and spicy.
I was worried that the sugar would overwhelm everything, but the vinegary chile sauce took care or that and the kimchi and ginger cut right through the richness of the meat.
I was also really nice to have a dish that was tasty and impressive without being fussy. It took some time to prepare, but it mostly took care of itself. The only real hands time-sensitive, hands-on part was the last 15 minutes. So I got to spend New Year’s Eve having fun, and that is a huge plus in my book.
Happy New Year!