Nomad’s Roast Pork Shoulder with Ajo Blanco

Serves: 6 – 8

Goodness gracious, this is an extraordinary pork by Jacque Challinor of Nomad (a great Sydney restaurant) fame.

One of the best porks I have had and even better than the pork shoulder in milk my kids ask me to cook at least once a month.

No question, the brining over night plays a big role here. Ditto the spice rub and Ajo Blanco which just adds another layer of special.

Brining.
And twining.

Though I served it warm on wonderful, light and crunchy bread rolls, French butter, a good dollop of the Ajo Blanco, rocket and a good piece of crackling.

The whole thing is a bit of a labour of love, though everyone at the picnic where I served this up agreed: it was the best they had ever had.

Let’s agree that this is the new gold standard.

Ingredients

375ml sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns, toasted
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 head garlic, halved
1 bunch parsley stalks (reserved from the spice rub)
4 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
1 boneless pork shoulder (about 3.75kg), skin on and scored
250gm flat pancetta, thinly sliced

Ajo Blanco

25gm crustless sourdough bread
90gm blanched almonds
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tsp sherry vinegar

Spice Rub

1 tbsp celery seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
5 black peppercorns
6 garlic cloves
1/2 c (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 c (loosely packed) sage
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Method

  1. Stir salt in 3.75 litres water oil a large saucepan over a high heat until it dissolves (15 – 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, add the spices, garlic, parsley, bay leaves and thyme, cool and then refrigerate until chilled. Transfer to a large non-reactive container, submerge pork in the brine (keeping the skin above the brine) and refrigerate over night.
  2. For Ajo Blanco, soak bread in 125ml water for 2 – 3 minutes, then squeeze out excess. Process almonds in a food processor until finely ground, add bread, garlic and oil and blend to a paste. With motor runnings, slowly add 250ml cold water and process until smooth. Add vinegar, season, strain and chill. Make this a day ahead.
  3. For spice rub, dry-roast spices until fragrant. Crush with a mortar and pestle, add garlic and herbs, crush to a paste and stir in the olive oil and lemon rind.
  4. Preheat oven to 180c. Rinse the pork (not the skin) under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Pull out the flesh ready to truss and rub the spice all over. Roll in a cylinder, ready to truss and wrap and flesh in the pancetta. Tie at intervals with kitchen string, place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 3 – 3 1/2 hours.
  5. Increase oven to 225c and roast until skin crackles. Remove from the oven, rest for 30 minutes, then carve and serve with the Ajo Blanco.

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