Pork Shoulder Braised in Salsa Verde

Perfect for cold winter days (it got down to 50F in SoCal this morning!), this dish takes very little effort and makes the house smell terrific. Don't be put off by the long cooking time - once you get the pot on the stove, it practically cooks itself.

The cooking process is backwards from "regulation" braising, where you typically brown the meat before adding liquid. In this case, the meat gets "richly browned" in the oven after it's already fork tender, resulting in some nice caramelization without the mess of browning on the stovetop.

This recipe is adapted from Sunset magazine's February 2008 issue; I added garlic and potatoes and used what my butcher calls "boneless ribs" - long, thick slices of pork shoulder - rather than a shoulder roast.

Serve over rice (yeah, I know: potatoes and rice!), with flour tortillas on the side (three starches for the price of one!) and a dark Mexican beer. Don't invite any friends on the Atkins diet.

3 1/2 lbs bone-in pork shoulder or 3 lbs "boneless pork ribs"
1 (15 ounce) bottle salsa verde
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 small potatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Trim excess pork fat. Put meat in a large casserole or Dutch oven with salsa, onion, broth, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, garlic and oregano. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Add potatoes and continue to simmer until meat is very tender when pierced, about 30 minutes more.

Preheat oven to 375°. With tongs, transfer meat and potatoes to a rimmed baking pan. Bake until richly browned, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, skim and discard fat from pan juices. Boil juices, stirring, until reduced to about a third of their original volume, 8 to 10 minutes.

With 2 forks, tear meat into large shreds. Add back to pan and stir in chopped cilantro. Season with salt to taste - you may not need any, depending on the salsa you used.

Serve with tortillas and more salsa verde. A dab of sour cream or crema on the potatoes is a nice touch.

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