The Beer Lover’s Table: Shredded Cuban-Style Pork Shoulder And Brick Brewery X 1251 Jerk Stout

Most beers aren’t explicitly created with food in mind, but this Jerk Stout — a collaboration between Brick Brewery and Chef James Cochran’s new restaurant, 1251 — is an exception.

Designed to pair with 1251’s famed jerk-spiced fried chicken, the beer was brewed with Cochran’s secret spice mix (plus malt that Cochran hand-smoked himself over applewood chips). The result is richly sweet, dark as engine oil, whiffy with smoke, and laced with a chilli heat that accumulates at the back of the throat.

While it was indeed excellent alongside the fried chicken, I wanted to explore further pairing possibilities. Serendipitously, I recently found myself flipping through Melissa Clark’s 2017 cookbook, Dinner in an Instant, and spotted a recipe for Cuban-style pork that looked like an ideal candidate. Clark’s recipe was designed for an electric pressure cooker — I’ve recently joined the legions of Instant Pot evangelicals; seriously, it’s a life-changing piece of gadgetry — but you could just as easily leave the pork simmering in a slow cooker during the day.

Marinated in grapefruit and lime juice, seasoned with fresh oregano and copious amounts of garlic, the pork stews until it falls to pieces. Once shredded, it cooks down further in its juices. The result is pork at its most decadent, ideal scooped into tortillas or served atop rice.

As I hoped, it’s also exceptional alongside the Jerk Stout, and manages to draw out the beer’s roasty character, sweetness, and smokiness. When the weather is frightful, when you only want to hunker down and hide away, this is the kind of meal you could happily hibernate with.

Shredded Cuban-Style Pork Shoulder
Adapted from Melissa Clark
Serves 6

For the pork shoulder:
8 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of 1 ruby grapefruit
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons kosher or fine sea salt
1 2-kilo (4.4-pound) boneless pork shoulder
2 fresh bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

To serve
Large handful coriander
2-3 limes
Rice or tortillas

1. Roughly one hour before you plan to cook the pork shoulder, make the marinade. Add the garlic, grapefruit juice, lime zest and juice, olive oil, brown sugar, oregano, cumin and salt to a food processor, and blend on high until uniform.

2. Using a very sharp knife, remove the rind from the pork, if attached, and save to make chicharrones (or discard). Cut the pork shoulder into four pieces. Add to a large bowl and top with the marinade. Cover and chill for one hour.

3. After one hour, remove the pork from the fridge. Add the vegetable oil to a large frying pan, and place over high heat. Once hot, remove two pork pieces from the marinade, and allow any excess to drip off. Add to the frying pan and brown on all sides before transferring to your pressure cooker or slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining two pork pieces; do not discard the marinade. (Note that, if you are using an Instant Pot, you can also brown your pork in the pressure cooker on Sauté mode.)

4. Add the reserved marinade to your pork pieces, as well as the two bay leaves. If using a pressure cooker, seal and cook on high pressure for 80 minutes; afterwards, allow the cooker to depressurise naturally. If using a slow cooker, cook on low heat for roughly 7 hours, stopping to flip the pork pieces halfway through, or until the pork can be easily shredded.

5. When cooking is done, transfer the pork pieces to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat, and discard any gristly or fatty bits, as well as the bay leaves. If using a pressure cooker, return the shredded pork to the cooking liquid. Cook on Sauté mode for approximately 15 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the excess liquid has mostly evaporated. If using a slow cooker, return the shredded pork to the cooking liquid and cook on low for 1 hour more. If there is still excess liquid after cooking, strain off and discard.

6. Season the shredded pork to taste. Serve alongside rice or tortillas, plus coriander and lime wedges.