The week before Thanksgiving, my husband’s best friend stayed with us since he was attending a conference at University of New Hampshire around the corner.
Matt and his wife, Heather, are scientists, foodies, parents to two adorable girls, disgustingly disciplined in working out, and the best quality you can ask for in a friend: Giant Hearted. Matt always has food stories that he tells very casually and then you taste what he’s talking about and your mind is blown (like that time he told us how he liked to grill chicken legs that were coated in salt, sugar and Tumeric and when I tasted it, they were so yummy).
This was the case with this Korean dish, Bo Ssam. He told us about his friends marinating a pork shoulder overnight in sugar and salt, then cooking it for 6 hours low and slow. Then you stack it on lettuce, with chili oil and this scallion-ginger sauce, and if all that wasn’t enough THEN you put a raw oyster on top. We sat there with Red Hook IPA’s on tap, watching the show Down East Dickering which is the funniest show – it’s like Pawn Stars meets Duck Dynasty, but in Maine – and as he described this culinary event and the history it has in Korea in a variety of forms. He had me at yummy and easy to make, but then he threw out the raw oyster on top? Super curious.
We have to make that this week, I said.
Ok, said Matt.
So when he texts me how to make it, it is a link to this New York Times article. At this point I will encourage you to click over to this article because it’s amazing.
I love the first line of the article because it was exactly how I felt making this: “This is a recipe to win the dinner party sweepstakes, and at very low stakes: slow-roasted pork shoulder served with lettuce, rice and a raft of condiments.” How has this not already been made popular? This dish is so amazingly good and simple. Something about the ritual of the whole meal – the marinating, and the slow cooking, and the chopping of endless amounts of ginger – just builds up your anticipation of eating it, and then when you do, it totally delivers. Its simple, but has so many textures and flavors, and so much for your hands to do pulling at the falling apart pork and building your next lettuce wrap, that you just get into this really cozy place where your taste buds are so happy that your mind just gives in and sighs. Sitting around sharing this dish with friends is so much fun. It yields so much pork that it is great for a crowd, and I made pulled pork with our leftovers.
You start by getting a big bowl and mixing a cup of sugar, a cup of kosher salt, and Matt strays from the NY Times recipe and adds 1/2 cup Herbs De Provence and Garlic Powder which I will definitely do next time as well. Then you line a counter with saran wrap, place the pork shoulder on it, and cover it with the salt mixture. Wrap it up and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
Then you just pop it in the oven for 6 hours at 300 degrees. At this point you have spent less then 5 minutes on this pork shoulder (also called picnic pork). And you end up with something that looks like this:
When you do the last brown sugar glaze blast for 10-15 min at 500 degrees, you make the unbelievably flavorful condiments. So guess what happens when you mix garlic chili sauce with sherry vinegar and grape seed oil? Exploding taste buds, that is what. Ditto for mixing 1/2 cup of ginger (!), 2 1/2 cups of scallions (!!) and grape seed oil.
The article called for kimchi and a fermented bean paste, both of which I didn’t have and didn’t miss, but if you can find it I am sure your Bo Ssam fireworks will be even sparklier. And if you are lucky enough to be drinking wine in the kitchen with some friends, get them to shuck the raw oysters. (Matt did ours for his first time and they were all perfect. Show off.)
So I hope some of you reading this are lucky to have big groups of people for the holidays, and while your busy playing card games and drinking Rum & Cokes, let this slowly cook away in your oven, then gather around a table and have a totally new, totally amazing feast. I know I cannot wait to do it again.
Momofuku’s Bo Ssam (printer version here. Recipe taken from NY Times article above.)
- 1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup garlic powder
- 1/2 cup herbs de provence
- 7 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 ½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
- ½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
- ¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
- 1 ½ teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
- 1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
- ½ cup sherry vinegar
- ½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
- 2 cups plain white rice, cooked
- 3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
- 1 dozen or more fresh oysters(optional)
- Kimchi (available in many Asian markets, and online)
- Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.
- Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.
- Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.
- Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.
- When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.