Poor Girl Gourmet’s Braised Pork Shoulder

At home, we don’t eat a lot of meat. This happens naturally, not because of personal beliefs or meatless trends. For a very long time, I was disdainful of manipulating raw meat (especially bone-in cuts), so I only bought prepared, cleaned meat cuts that required as little touching or cutting as possible. Yes, I’m now ashamed to admit, that included those pre-cut chicken strips I used to make fajitas once in a while. I didn’t buy pre-cut chicken strips to save time; I bought them just because I didn’t want to touch raw chicken.

Because I so rarely cooked meat, I became wary of cooking it at all; afraid I would botch good cuts or serve tough steaks. We are far from being vegetarians, though, and I continued incorporating easy, prepared cuts of meat into dishes like pasta, curries or stews. We chose meat-centric dishes when we went out to restaurants and enjoyed the fabulous slowly cooked or barbecued meats some of our friends turned out. I have always eaten meat with appetite and admiration, wishing I could serve such finger-licking meat dishes as well.

Who doesn’t like a good ol’ pulled pork sandwich?
Poor Girl Gourmet’s Braised Pork Shoulder

A couple of months ago, I decided I would learn to handle meat like a normal person should, and get rid of my childish disdain for anything raw. I truly believe in the “know where your food comes from” principle, and although it’s unlikely that I will ever want to witness an animal being slaughtered, learning more about all the meat cuts and cooking from them is a first step for me.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I went to Austin, Texas. Hello, meat paradise! For 6 days straight, I feasted on brisket, ribs, pulled pork and other barbecued meats. Although by the end of the trip, I felt a little overwhelmed by having such a large amount of protein to digest every day, I loved it and came back home determined to learn to make some of those classic Southern dishes at home.

Classic Texan cuisine: brisket, ribs and corn bread.
Classic Texas Cuisine: Brisket, Ribs and Corn Bread

In Austin, I also had the chance to chat with author and blogger Amy McCoy again. I met her for the first time last year at a conference in Seattle. It was my first blogger conference, and Amy was one of the kind people responsible for making me feel included and welcome. She is such a warm person that she instantly makes you feel like a close friend.

Amy was not only in Austin to attend the IACP conference, like me, but also to present her book, Poor Girl Gourmet, at the book fair. I had been wanting to buy her book for a long time, and I took advantage of seeing her again to buy two copies of her book – one for me and one to giveaway to a lucky reader! (Giveaway details below.) {Note: This giveaway is now closed} Her book is about learning to cook in style on a “bare-bones budget”. A gourmet by blood (her Italian grandmother owned a restaurant when she was growing up and her Mom always cooked from scratch), she became a fancy eater, splurging on expensive foods sold by upscale markets. When her professional life changed, she decided she would apply the Italian cucina povera (“poor kitchen”) principles she knew and loved all along to make more sensible choices when she cooked.

Win a signed copy of Poor Girl Gourmet! Details below. {Note: This giveaway is now closed}
Win a signed copy of Poor Girl Gourmet!

In Poor Girl Gourmet, Amy is inspired by her Italian roots and shares soup, salad, pasta, meat, vegetable, side and dessert recipes with costs detailed to the penny. She also gives simple and friendly practical tips on saving and well as basic techniques advice. There is a whole chapter on value wines (which I loved), and one on special “splurge-worthy” dishes for those special nights. The book is concluded with four pages of handy menu suggestions (with total costs calculated for you). With the majority of recipes feeding 4 people for $15 or less, Poor Girl Gourmet is the perfect book for students and young adults – but it’s also great for anyone who loves to cook. I believe loving food does not necessarily mean spending a lot on food; in fact, one of the best advantages of cooking from scratch is saving money!

It’s in Amy’s book that I found a delicious and easy recipe to make Braised Pork Shoulder. I find pulled pork utterly irresistible, and I thought this recipe would be the perfect dip into the barbecued meat world. The recipe was lightning quick to assemble – I just needed patience to wait for the slow-cooked meat to come out of the Dutch oven to enjoy it. I jumped right to her leftover suggestion, and whipped up a batch of her Tangy Barbecue Sauce to serve pulled pork sandwiches. They were finger-licking good, just like in Texas.

A pulled pork sandwich served on a grilled roll with homemade barbecue sauce, butter lettuce, green onions and coriander.
A pulled pork sandwich served on a grilled roll with homemade barbecue sauce, butter lettuce, green onions and coriander.

Poor Girl Gourmet’s Braised Pork Shoulder

According to Amy’s calculations, you’ll serve this scrumptious Southern dish to four happy diners for a mere $7.97. If the recipe’s low cost isn’t enough to convince you to make it, think of the amazing barbecued pulled pork sandwiches you’ll enjoy from the leftovers. Just mix some of the meat with your favorite barbecue sauce (homemade is best!) and serve on toasted dinner rolls. Now you see it, don’t you? If you skip straight to the sandwiches, I won’t judge.

Poor Girl Gourmet's Braised Pork Shoulder

Serves 4

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (4- to 5-pound) pork shoulder
2 medium yellow onions, cut crosswise into ¼-inch rounds
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh
4 cups apple cider

Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper. Brown the pork shoulder on all long sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove the pork shoulder from the pot – with a friend’s help if necessary – and transfer it to a plate. Reduce heat to medium. Place the onions in the pot and cook until they are softened and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mustard and the thyme, stirring to combine. Return the pork shoulder and accumulated juices to the pan, and add the apple cider. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, cover and cook at a gentle simmer until the meat falls off the bone. At that point, meat is also fork-tender, meaning it doesn’t require a knife to be cut. Pull yourself some pork from the pot, put it on a plate, top with a bit of the cooking liquid, and start thinking about pulled pork sandwiches, even as you enjoy the braised pork.

Juicy fork-tender braised pork shoulder.
Juicy Braised Pork Shoulder.

Amy’s note about the meat cut: I prefer a shoulder that is cut flat, rather than with a protruding leg bone. You want as small a bone as you can get your butcher to rustle up. Pork butt, also called Boston butt, would also work here.

A pulled pork sandwich made with Poor Girl Gourmet's Braised Pork Shoulder.

GIVEAWAY: Win a signed copy of Amy McCoy’s Poor Girl Gourmet

*** NOTE: This giveaway is now closed. ***

The chance I had to meet my favorite authors in person at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Annual Conference in Austin inspired me to allow four lucky readers to benefit from it as well. The third giveaway is a signed copy of Amy McCoy’s clever Poor Girl Gourmet.

To enter the giveaway:

I will randomly draw one lucky winner on Tuesday July 5th, 2011 at 12PM EST.

Good luck to all!

What do you think of this recipe? Got any questions? Let's chat!

41 Responses to Poor Girl Gourmet’s Braised Pork Shoulder

  1. i am full from dinner, but that pork is mouthwateringly gorgeous! that sounds like a great cookbook!

  2. I love cookbooks and have collected them for over 30 years, and yes I do cook out of them!!!! lol

    • I am as well! They are such an infinite source of inspiration. I’m not ready to turn to electronic books yet! Amy’s Poor Girl Gourmet could become a favorite of yours, I’m sure.

  3. that pork looks delicious and your photos are gorgeous … they make we want to make some pork right now!!

    • Thank you! Such a luscious dish makes great pictures indeed. I think it’s one of the best pork dishes I’ve ever made!

  4. Made the pulled pork w/ black beans, romaine & ciabatta – loved it – so did my dad!

  5. Marie, What a lovely post! I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you at these conferences, and am looking forward to seeing you again in NYC. Or, with luck, even sooner! I have to tell you, too, that I love your photos! Thank you so much for sharing Poor Girl Gourmet with your readers!

    • Thanks to you Amy for allowing me to make a happy winner this week. I personally will cook from your book all through summer and I hope we meet again very soon.

  6. Okay- seriously, how have I not heard of this book before?! I LOVE the idea! That sandwich looks amazing!

  7. mmm…i try not to purchase meat very often, but this post is sure tempting me. it looks so yummy, and budget friendly too!! i’m feeling especially inspired to make up some homemade bbq sauce. thanks!

  8. I love pulled pork. I actually go to school in Austin! I love it here and hope you did too :D

  9. yum yum..i think i just found the perfect recipe for the pork shoulder i have stashed in the freezer. thanks : )

    • Good for you that you have a pork shoulder in stock! I think this can make a great summer dish when turned into pulled pork sandwiches and tacos.

  10. I’m trying to learn how to cook more different kinds of meat since the bf is a meat-o-holic. This recipe looks delicious and simple. Win!

  11. This book looks great. Its certainly a philosophy I agree with. The more I make at home, the better we eat and the less we pay.

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