When I last went to Hawaii, I made it a personal goal to eat my weight in kalua pork. Yes, that sounds disgusting, but I don’t even care. The stuff is so ridiculously good that I find myself longing for it in an almost atavistic fashion when I am not around it. I’ve known it to be a treat partially due to the complicated preparation – a whole pig is wrapped in ti leaves and banana leaves and then submerged into an underground pit called an imu and covered with coals and/or lava rocks. Sure, I could do that in my back yard. In Arizona.
Back to the drawing board, and as I’m looking through my We The Women of Hawaii cookbook, lo and behold, a recipe for kalua pork. In the oven, no less. I can do this! Apparently, after a little more research, I come to find out that the legendary Sam Choy makes his kalua pork in the same way, using mesquite liquid smoke to replace the flavors imparted by the burning banana leaves of the imu. But how the heck am I going to mimic banana leaves in my home oven?
Cue the Reynolds oven bag – the trusty device touted as the hero of dry turkeys and pork roasts everywhere. Growing up, it was the device that managed to make all of my dad’s pot roasts tender (Although the veggies inside the bag turned into meat soup after cooking inside with the accumulated juices…not my mom’s favorite to say the least. Sorry, dad. Not your best side dish.) Anyways, this MacGuyver moment with the oven bag managed to keep the pork moist and happy, ready to pull in only 2 1/2 hours time. Success! And the taste? Let’s just say that I won’t be needing a plane ticket to Hawaii a week anymore.
3-4 lb. pork shoulder
1 tbs. of pink salt or sea salt
3 tbs. of Indonesian sweet soy
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbs. of fresh ginger, minced
3-4 drops of mesquite liquid smoke
1 large oven brown-in-bag
1 tbs of flour
Rub meat with the salt, soy, garlic, ginger and liquid smoke. Sprinkle the flour into the oven bag and then add the roast. Tie and then place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until meat is extremely tender. I like to test it in the not so safe way of simply poking the roast through the bag – if it doesn’t resist the touch, you are ready to shred.
Let the roast rest for 5-10 minutes and then open the bag. Remove the roast from the liquid in the bag and place in a large bowl. Using two forks, shred the meat, incorporating a little of the fat and juices from the bag to keep moist. Taste for seasoning and add more liquid as needed. Serve.