There are as many versions of this hong shao rou dish as there are families because recipes for Chinese red-cooked pork vary by region and often are passed down within generations. The up-shot though, is succulent pork coated in savory spiced caramel. And the verdict? In a word, FANTASTIC!!
Dark soy sauce develops a crimson tint with long-cooking, lending hong shao rou its characteristic hue. This Instant Pot iteration from Milk Street omits the condiment, which can be tricky to source, resulting in a dish that’s less red but no less delicious. The pork shoulder is braised with ginger, garlic and warm spices, rounded out by sugar, soy sauce and dry sherry, an easier-to-find alternative to Shaoxing, the rice wine traditionally used in the dish. (We had some Shaoxing on hand.)
Whether pressure- or slow-cooked until fork-tender, the meat is reserved and its aromatic braising liquid is reduced into a sticky-sweet sauce. Assertive and robust in flavor, hong shao rou is best served with plain rice and simple steamed or stir-fried vegetables. So we paired ours with steamed jasmine rice and baby bok choy sautéed with ginger, garlic, Shaoxing rice wine—many of the same ingredients as the pork.
NOTE: Don’t add liquid to the pot other than the ⅓ cup of dry sherry. Allowing the pork to braise in its own juices yields rich, meaty flavor and results in less liquid to reduce to a glaze at the end.
3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens reserved separately
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise pods
1/3 cup dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
2 Tbsp. soy sauce, preferably dark soy sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
On a 6-quart Instant Pot, select Normal Sauté. Add the sugar and 1 tablespoon water, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has liquified and is golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the pork and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is no longer pink and has rendered some fat, 7 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the scallion whites, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, star anise, sherry and soy sauce. Press Cancel, then distribute the mixture in an even layer.
FAST: Lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 25 minutes. When pressure cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then release the remaining steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot. OR
SLOW: Select More/High Sauté and bring the mixture to a boil. Press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Venting. Select Slow Cook and set the temperature to More/High. Set the cooking time for 4½ to 5½ hours; the pork is done when a skewer inserted into a piece meets no resistance. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
Transfer the pork to a medium bowl, leaving the cooking liquid in the pot. If necessary, using a large spoon, skim off and discard the fat from the surface of the liquid.
Select More/High Sauté, bring the liquid to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to the consistency of honey, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon and star anise.
Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pot and cook, stirring, until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Press Cancel to turn off the pot.
Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the scallion greens.
Pork shoulder is a classic for braising. The meat turns nearly spoonable but still slices nicely, and leftovers are great for sandwiches. In this recipe the pork is combined with dried cherries and sweet potatoes, balancing their sweetness with the slightly bitter taste of Guinness stout and molasses. Odd combination? I thought so too, but OMG, it was fantastic!
It hailed from renowned Chef Daniel Boulud’s cookbook “Braise, A Journey Through International Cuisine” where all of his recipes are influenced with a global perspective. We know that braising transforms inexpensive, tough cuts of meat into succulent soft morsels. And as Daniel writes “In fact, the cheaper, more sinewy, and more chewy the meat is to begin with, the more delectable it’s texture and the thicker the sauce after cooking.”
The original recipe, which is depicted below, calls for a 5-1/2 pound shoulder roast. We happened to have a 3-1/2 pound pork roast on hand, so that’s what we used and adjusted the other ingredients to follow suit. Then we completed the meal with roasted cauliflower and carrots.
Don’t forget to make the Guinness stout and cherry sauce ahead of time. It needs to sit for at least an hour or be refrigerated overnight for the flavors to meld.
Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries and Sweet Potato
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large red onions, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
5 whole allspice, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
3 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
2 lbs. sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and roughly chopped
Bring the stout, cherries, and vinegar to a simmer in a saucepan. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F.
Warm the oil in a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Season the pork shoulder with salt and ground black pepper and sear on all sides until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pork shoulder to a platter. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pot.
Add the onion and the crushed black pepper to the pot and sauté for 7 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Add the pork shoulder, the marinated cherries and liquid, allspice, bay leaves, molasses, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and braise for 1 hour, turning the pork once during cooking. Add the sweet potatoes and continue to braise for 2 more hours, turning two more times. If the sauce is too thin or is not flavored intensely enough, ladle most of it off into another pot and simmer it until it thickens and intensifies. Then add it back to the first pot.
Seven hours may seem like a long time to make dinner, but much of it is hands off, and it is soooo worth it! Pork Roast with Mushroom Gravy might possibly be “the meal” that I would choose if it was going to be my last. Keep in mind, it needs to cook slowly so that the fat melts and the tough connective tissue softens. The original recipe came from Cook’s Country and it was a great starting point for this long, lazy Sunday afternoon braise.
To build a hearty gravy, start with chicken broth and add water. To maximize the mushroom flavor, toss the mushrooms directly into the roasting pan. This not only imbues the broth with deep, woodsy flavor but also allows the mushrooms to soften and caramelize. We even upped the quantity of the funghi by 20% to a full pound-and-a-half (noted in the list of ingredients).
Sometimes not even grocery stores label pork roasts properly. Were you ever confused between a pork shoulder and pork butt? These two cuts of pork are often mixed up. Both come from the shoulder of the pig, but pork butt is higher on the foreleg, while pork shoulder is farther down—confusing to start with, I know. As relatively tough and fatty cuts, both benefit from long, slow cooking methods such as roasting, stewing, and braising.
To begin with, we doubled the seasonings for the rub, wrapped the pork in plastic wrap, and let it get happy in the fridge overnight. Since we love a good gravy, we also increased by 50%, the amount of liquid (broth and water) that went into the roasting pan. Finally, because we did increase the liquid, we needed to balance the amount of flour to make a roux for the gravy. All of our changes are noted below.
1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, fat trimmed to 1/8 inch thick
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried sage
1 Tbsp.. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 onion, peeled and halved
24 oz. cremini or white mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
PREP PORK Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub all over with 2 teaspoon thyme, 2 teaspoon sage, salt, and pepper. Tie roast at 1-inch intervals with kitchen twine. The roast can be seasoned and refrigerated overnight until ready to cook.
ROAST PORK Arrange roast, fat side up, in roasting pan and cook until beginning to brown, about 3 hours. Add onion, mushrooms, broth, 1 cup water, bay leaf, remaining thyme, and remaining sage to pan and continue to roast until meat is well browned and skewer inserted in center meets no resistance, about 3 hours. Transfer roast to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 30 minutes.
STRAIN JUICES Discard onion and bay leaf. Strain contents of roasting pan through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator; reserve mushrooms. Let liquid settle, then pour defatted pan juices (you should have about 2 cups) into measuring cup and add another 1/2 cup water to yield 2½ cups.
MAKE GRAVY Transfer 4 tablespoons of fat from separator (we did not have enough fat so we added butter too) to large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in pan juices and bring to boil. Add reserved mushrooms and simmer over medium-low heat until gravy is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove twine from pork. Cut pork into 1-inch slices. Serve with gravy.