Month: April 2019

How to Make Spaghetti con la Colatura di Alici

How to Make Spaghetti con la Colatura di Alici

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] If you took my recent advice, and picked up a bottle of colatura di alici, then this pasta primer is for you. For those who are still on the fence about Italy’s aged fish sauce, hopefully this guide to one of the […]

Spaghetti con la Colatura di Alici (Pasta with Colatura)

Spaghetti con la Colatura di Alici (Pasta with Colatura)

Colatura is another umami bomb to add to your pantry, and plays an essential role in this easy and delicious weeknight pasta dish. Get Recipe! Source link

23 Tasty Taco Recipes to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

23 Tasty Taco Recipes to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo


Collage of photographs of taco recipes: fried-fish tacos, Jamaican beef tacos, bacon-wrapped-pineapple tacos, and sweet potato, sage, and fried-egg tacos

[Collage photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt, Morgan Eisenberg]

If you’re going to be breaking out the tequila come Cinco de Mayo, it’s only responsible to make sure you have plenty of food on hand. All sorts of Tex-Mex and Mexican recipes are appropriate for the holiday, but for my money, nothing beats tacos.

Not only are tacos the most iconic Mexican dish in America, there are plenty of taco variations out there to please every palate. Whether you favor tender and juicy carnitas, crispy beer-battered fried fish, or a vegetarian version with fried avocado, we’ve got 23 taco recipes to help you celebrate a delicious Cinco de Mayo. For more recipe recommendations, including drinks, dips, and non-taco main courses, see our full guide to Cinco de Mayo.

Pork

No-Waste Tacos de Carnitas With Salsa Verde

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Traditional carnitas are made by cooking pork butt in a couple gallons of lard, which is not something I tend to have around the house. But by packing the pork tightly in a small container, you can cook moist, rich, unbelievably tender carnitas using a much more reasonable amount of fat. If you have an immersion circulator, sous vide carnitas are an even easier option.

No-Waste Tacos de Carnitas With Salsa Verde Recipe »

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Real Tacos al Pastor

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Typically made by stacking sliced marinated pork shoulder on a huge spit, tacos al pastor are even more challenging than carnitas to re-create at home. Rather than trying to build our own miniature spit, we pack the meat into a loaf pan, roast it until tender, then crisp it up in a skillet. Rubbing the accompanying pineapple with rendered pork fat before broiling it gives the fruit extra flavor. The result may not match traditional al pastor in process, but the flavors and textures are spot-on.

Real Tacos al Pastor Recipe »

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Slow-Roasted Bacon-Wrapped-Pineapple Tacos

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This recipe flips the script on tacos al pastor, elevating the pineapple to a starring role and relegating the pork to a supporting part. We cut the pineapple up into chunks, rub it with a savory adobo-style marinade, then roast it in the oven under strips of bacon, which baste the pineapple with their rendered fat. Pile both up into a double layer of corn tortillas; add cilantro, chilies, Cotija, and salsa verde; and you’ve got a reimagining of al pastor that feels both new and familiar at the same time.

Slow-Roasted Bacon-Wrapped-Pineapple Tacos Recipe »

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Tacos Árabes (Pita-Wrapped, Cumin-Marinated-Pork Tacos)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Tacos al pastor bear more than a passing resemblance to Middle Eastern shawarma and, in fact, likely have roots that can be traced to Arab immigrants. Tacos árabes are the missing link between the two: cumin-marinated meat, wrapped in pita bread. Here, we thinly slice and pound the pork to keep it tender; marinate it in a mixture of onion, lime juice, and spices; and serve the tacos with both chipotle and yogurt sauces, in a nod to the dish’s dual origins in Mexico and the Middle East.

Tacos Árabes (Pita-Wrapped, Cumin-Marinated-Pork Tacos) Recipe »

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Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

These tacos start with fresh Mexican chorizo, cooked down until the fat is well rendered and the meat is nicely browned. Once the chorizo is done, we remove it and cook diced russet potatoes (parboiled first in vinegar-spiked water, to ensure they fry up extra crispy) in the rendered fat. For those who like the idea but don’t eat pork, the recipe works just as well with our homemade vegan chorizo.

Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos Recipe »

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Yucatecan Pork Belly and Cheese Tacos (Tacos de Castacán Con Queso)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

There’s nothing wrong with sprinkling shredded cheese onto a taco just before eating, but there is a better way: Crisp up the meat on a griddle, then add the cheese there so that it melts onto the meat and starts to crisp up. You can use this technique with any taco filling, but here we choose classic Yucatecan-style pork belly, or castacán.

Yucatecan Pork Belly and Cheese Tacos (Tacos de Castacán Con Queso) Recipe »

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Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-Style Barbecued Pork)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

To make real-deal cochinita pibil, you’ll need a whole pig and a stone-lined fire pit. Don’t have either of those kicking around? This recipe will provide a close and pretty tasty approximation, using slabs of pork shoulder, banana leaves, and a smoker. What really sets this pork apart is its sweet, earthy marinade, made with bitter Seville oranges, achiote, and charred garlic.

Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-Style Barbecued Pork) Recipe »

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Beef

Better Than Chipotle’s Beef Barbacoa

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Like cochinita pibil, traditional barbacoa is made by cooking a whole animal, often a sheep, in a pit oven. This recipe produces a simpler, distinctly Americanized take on the dish: braised beef flavored with chilies and cumin. To get a deep, seared flavor without overcooking the meat, we add well-browned oxtails for flavor and skip the sear for the meat that will actually make it into the tortillas.

Better Than Chipotle’s Beef Barbacoa Recipe »

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The Best Carne Asada

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Carne asada translates to “grilled beef,” so it should come as no surprise that there are virtually infinite ways to make the dish. Our version is made with skirt steak, marinated with a whole host of flavorful ingredients—rehydrated dried chilies, orange and lime juice, olive oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, cumin seed, coriander seed, and brown sugar—before it’s cooked over a blisteringly hot grill.

The Best Carne Asada Recipe »

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San Antonio–Style Puffy Tacos With Ground Beef Filling

[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

You already know what you get when you fry a cooked tortilla: a hard-shell taco. Fry up uncooked masa, though, and it balloons into the kind of puffy taco shell that’s popular in San Antonio. Though shredded meat is the more typical filling, here we use ground beef, flavored with onion, garlic, jalapeño, and an earthy spice blend.

San Antonio–Style Puffy Tacos With Ground Beef Filling Recipe »

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Jamaican Beef Tacos With Tropical Slaw

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

Inspired by classic Jamaican beef patties, these tacos are made by piling ground beef, seasoned with onion, garlic, and hot Scotch bonnet pepper, onto golden turmeric- and curry-rubbed tortillas. To balance out the heat of the tacos, we spoon on a refreshing, fruity slaw made with mango, pineapple, radish, red onion, and cabbage.

Jamaican Beef Tacos With Tropical Slaw Recipe »

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Chicken

Easy One-Pot Chicken Tinga (Spicy Mexican Shredded Chicken)

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

While chicken tinga usually gets a boost of flavor from Mexican chorizo, this quick and easy version omits that sometimes-tough-to-find ingredient in favor of more widely available ones. The result is a delicious taco filling of shredded chicken doused in a sauce made from tomatoes, tomatillos, and onion, flavored with smoky chipotles, tart apple cider vinegar, and a bit of fish sauce. The kicker? It all comes together in one pot for easy cleanup.

Easy One-Pot Chicken Tinga (Spicy Mexican Shredded Chicken) Recipe »

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Chicken Green Chili Tacos

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This recipe is best made with fresh Hatch chilies, the green peppers that residents of New Mexico are rightly proud of. But they’re elusive outside that state, so if you can’t get them, use a Poblano and a wax pepper instead. To make the chicken, first char the peppers, tomatillos, onion, and garlic under the broiler, then purée them all into a flavorful sauce, in which you’ll finish cooking browned chicken thighs. Shred the chicken, stuff it in a taco, and top it with a mixture of minced raw white onion and cilantro, pickled onions, and a sprinkling of Cotija cheese.

Chicken Green Chili Tacos Recipe »

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Lamb

Braised Lamb Shoulder With Dried Chilies and Dates

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Inspired by the desire to eat a meal that tastes like it took a lot of effort, but in fact requires no effort at all, this braised lamb shoulder is perfect as a taco filling. We deeply score the fat cap on the lamb, allowing the fat to render out gently and baste the meat while it cooks. The roast is smothered with a flavor-packed paste made from smoky dried morita chilies, fruity guajillos, sweet and sticky dates, and a few tart tomatillos. Place the lamb in a Dutch oven, cover it, put it in a low oven, and five hours later (we said it was easy; we didn’t say it was fast), you’ve got a taco filling fit for a queen.

Braised Lamb Shoulder With Dried Chilies and Dates Recipe »

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Fish

Crunchy Fried-Fish Tacos

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

One of the biggest perks of moving from NYC to LA is the accessibility of terrific fish tacos. If you’re not so lucky, consider taking matters into your own hands. The secret to making extra-crispy fish tacos that keep their crunch until the last bite is a two-stage battering process, dipping the fish in a beer batter before coating it in extra flour.

Crunchy Fried-Fish Tacos Recipe »

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Whole Grilled Fish Tacos

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

When it comes to grilled-fish tacos, whole fish is a great choice, since it’s more flavorful and tends to hold up better and cook more evenly than fillets. Here, we stuff the fish cavity with lime slices and cilantro and season it with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder, cumin, lime juice, and olive oil before grilling it. Serve the fish whole with lime vinaigrette, fresh veggies, and, of course, a stack of warm tortillas.

Whole Grilled Fish Tacos Recipe »

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Chili-Rubbed Mahimahi Tacos With Grilled-Mango Salsa

[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

If you’re going to grill fish fillets, a firmer fish like mahimahi is your best bet. For these grilled-fish tacos, we rub the mahimahi with an earthy blend of chili powder, paprika, cumin, and other spices. A grilled-mango salsa provides some brightness to cut through the hearty fish and intense spices.

Chili-Rubbed Mahimahi Tacos With Grilled-Mango Salsa Recipe »

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Vegetarian

Fried-Avocado Tacos With Chipotle Cream, Cabbage, and Pickled Red Onions

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

A vegetarian alternative to fried-fish tacos, this recipe instead calls for battering and frying slices of rich, creamy avocado. Avocado by itself is a little on the bland side, though, so we season it generously with salt and pepper and assemble the tacos with lots of flavorful toppings: salsa verde, pickled red onions, serrano chilies, and chipotle cream.

Fried-Avocado Tacos With Chipotle Cream, Cabbage, and Pickled Red Onions Recipe »

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Sweet Potato, Sage, and Fried-Egg Tacos

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Don’t let the fried egg fool you—these sweet potato tacos are as good for dinner as they are for brunch. Sage and sweet potatoes are a classic pair, so a handful of chopped sage goes into the potatoes as they’re sautéing. Rather than spending our valuable time preparing a salsa, we just let the liquid egg yolk mix with hot sauce and crema to make an easy sauce.

Sweet Potato, Sage, and Fried-Egg Tacos Recipe »

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Tex-Mex Migas With Scrambled Eggs, Tortilla Chips, and Chilies

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

My Texan friends would kill me if I left migas—tacos filled with scrambled eggs, chili peppers, onion, and tortilla chips—off this list. Freshly fried Homemade Tortilla Chips work best here, but I won’t blame you for substituting store-bought ones. Better yet, ditch plain tortilla chips in favor of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

Tex-Mex Migas With Scrambled Eggs, Tortilla Chips, and Chilies Recipe »

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Vegan Migas

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

As far as scrambled-egg dishes go, migas is one of the easiest to turn vegan. Not only is the soft texture of the eggs easily mimicked by silken tofu, with all the intense ingredients in the mix (onion, cumin, paprika, serrano chilies, and Poblanos), you’ll barely miss the flavor of the eggs. Serve these “vigas” with Spicy Vegan Refried Beans and charred tortillas.

Vegan Migas Recipe »

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Tacos de Canasta (Basket Tacos for a Party or Potluck)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This potluck-friendly dish, sold by street vendors in Mexico City, features corn tortillas stuffed with any sort of filling, layered with onions and hot chili oil, and wrapped up in a basket to steam. It’s important to use fillings that aren’t too wet—refried beans and potatoes are good options that happen to be vegetarian-friendly, but drier meats, like barbacoa and chorizo, work as well.

Tacos de Canasta (Basket Tacos for a Party or Potluck) Recipe »

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Korean-Inspired Crispy-Tofu Tacos With Cabbage-Lime Slaw

[Photograph: Morgan Eisenberg]

These tacos aren’t exactly traditional, but they are entirely delicious. They seamlessly combine Mexican and Korean flavors and ingredients, pairing soft flour tortillas with crispy sweet-and-spicy tofu, tangy quick-pickled cucumbers, and a fresh, crunchy slaw. Crumbling the tofu before cooking it gives it more surface area to crisp up and for sauce to cling to.

Korean-Inspired Crispy-Tofu Tacos With Cabbage-Lime Slaw Recipe »

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Sous Vide Pork Shoulder Chashu Recipe

Sous Vide Pork Shoulder Chashu Recipe

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik] Chashu, the roasted or braised pork typically used to top bowls of ramen, is just as delicious when made from pork shoulder as when it’s made from belly. In fact, many people prefer chashu that’s made from pork shoulder, since it’s a […]

Reverse-Seared Roast Pork Shoulder Chashu Recipe

Reverse-Seared Roast Pork Shoulder Chashu Recipe

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik] Though chashu, the sliced roasted or braised pork used as a topping for ramen, is most often associated with pork belly in the United States, you can make an equally tasty version from pork shoulder, which has the added benefits of being […]

How to Make Pork Shoulder Chashu for Ramen

How to Make Pork Shoulder Chashu for Ramen


Cross section of reverse-seared pork shoulder chashu for ramen

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

It sometimes feels like everyone who loves ramen is obsessed with chashu, the roasted or braised slices of pork that seem to adorn almost every bowl. What’s curious to me is that chashu in the United States seems to most often consist of slices of braised pork belly so soft that they fall apart in your mouth, while in Japan, chashu made from roasted or braised pork shoulder is far more prevalent.

Chashu in Japan is also, generally speaking, cooked to have some texture, some bite. I interviewed the talented butchers Jocelyn Guest and Erika Nakamura a while back, and whenever I think of the soft meat and softer fat of the belly chashu that appears to be standard here, I think of Guest saying, “I like to chew my meat.” Well, I do, too.

With that in mind, I set out to devise a recipe for those of us who prefer to chew the meat that comes in our bowls of ramen. Kenji long ago developed an excellent braised-belly recipe for those who like meltingly soft pork—it even has an added bit of texture because he calls for leaving the belly’s skin on—so I thought I could do one for pork shoulder, hitting two of my preferences for chashu in one go.

Funnily enough, though, Kenji’s recipe works just as well for pork shoulder as it does for belly, and it’s flexible enough to accommodate a range of preferences with respect to the softness of the meat. The process is identical: Tie up the meat, put it in a Dutch oven with flavorful liquid, cover it partially, and place it in a low oven for a couple of hours. If you prefer chewier pork, cook it for less time; if you prefer softer pork, cook it longer.

But even with these options, braising still locks us into a fairly narrow range of results. More specifically, the pork is always cooked well-done, even on the short end of the cooking-length spectrum.

Hop on a plane to Japan, and, after visiting enough ramen restaurants, you’ll likely discover that a well-done piece of braised pork, whether shoulder or belly, is only one of the forms chashu takes there. Rare pork shoulder chashu, for instance, is now something of a fad in Japan, where the aversion to eating pink pork isn’t as widespread as it is in the United States (from a food-safety perspective, there’s not much risk to eating rare pork).

Rare pork may not sound appealing (or maybe it does?), but if we turn to other techniques besides braising—like sous vide, or roasting using the reverse sear—we can take advantage of more precise temperature control, opening up the possibility of many different doneness levels and textures.

You could cook the pork medium-rare or medium or medium-well, or anywhere in between, depending on your preference. You may not like all the possible results—I’m not a huge fan of medium-rare sous vide pork; more on that below—but almost certainly, these techniques offer something for everyone. The challenge for me was working out the details of each approach, so I spent some time experimenting with cooking pork shoulder to a variety of temperatures, using a variety of methods, to figure out which were best.

The Benefits and Challenges of Using Pork Shoulder for Chashu

Overhead view of bowl of shio ramen with rolled shoulder chashu

Before we get into the experiments, I want to go into a little more detail on why pork shoulder is so desirable for chashu. There are some obvious reasons, including the fact that it’s a widely available cut and it’s relatively cheap. But beyond cost and convenience, the shoulder has something else going for it: It’s a complex cut made up of many smaller muscles interspersed with striations of fat and connective tissue, which can result in slices of chashu that are both visually and texturally appealing.

There’s just one catch. Since there’s a fair amount of tough collagenous connective tissue in the shoulder, it tends to respond better to longer cooking, such as the braising method Kenji uses in his recipe. With enough heat and time, the collagen breaks down into tender gelatin, making the cooked pork seem very juicy and unctuous when you eat it. Shoulder chashu that’s rare or medium—the way I sometimes want to serve it—risks ending up unpleasantly tough, given the briefer cooking time. Unless a cook turns to more modern techniques, that is.

How to Prepare a Pork Shoulder Chashu Roast

No matter what cooking method you choose, you’ll need a piece of boneless pork shoulder that you can tie up into a uniformly cylindrical roll. You might be able to get a butcher to cut a perfectly sized piece of shoulder for you (more on that below), but if not, you can prepare the chashu yourself by buying a whole boneless pork shoulder at the supermarket. (It may be labeled “pork butt” or “Boston butt.”)

You won’t need the whole shoulder for chashu, though, only a part of it. The rest you can cut up for a pork stew (such as Kenji’s excellent pressure cooker chile verde), or grind for meatballs, or use however else you like.

Overhead view of boneless skinless pork shoulder

Whole boneless, skinless pork shoulder, with boned-out section on the right.

The picture above is of a boneless pork shoulder that I bought at my local supermarket. If you could reach into the screen and grab this slab of meat, flip it around, and examine it, you’d notice that there’s a cavity passing through a section of the shoulder where the bones used to be. In this photo, that cavity runs vertically through the right half of the cut, though you can only see one small opening near the bottom where a bone used to be.

I prefer to make my chashu from the other side, a nice block of solid meat where there was no bone. (Again, if you were able to examine this cut in person, it’d be easier to see the holes left by the bones, and note where they aren’t.)

Overhead view of boneless skinless pork shoulder separated into two

Left: section of pork shoulder roast that is solid muscle. Right: section of pork shoulder that has been boned out.

Technically, you could use every part of the shoulder for chashu, including the part hollowed out from deboning, but that’s more effort than I’m willing to expend—the deboned portion is too unruly to easily tie up into a neat bundle. As I mentioned above, it’s easier to save that part for another use.

The first step, then, is to remove the deboned portion of the shoulder from the rest of it. There’s a natural seam to cut along, though it runs at an angle. If you start with the shoulder’s fat-cap side up and the deboned portion on the right (exactly how I have it positioned in the photos), you’ll make a shallow vertical cut along this seam, then follow the thin bands of muscle deeper into the shoulder while edging the knife more and more to the right—ending up closer to where the deboned hollows are. You are, in essence, trying to maximize the size of the solid slab, while trimming off the deboned part.

Overhead view of boneless skinless pork shoulder cut into roasts

Once you’ve cut away the boned-out side of the shoulder (the piece on the far right in the photo above) and reserved it for another use, you have the option of tying up what remains as it is, or cutting it roughly in half vertically, yielding the center and left pieces in the above photo. I generally like to do this, since it makes the chashu a more manageable size.

Side view of muscle groups that make up pork shoulder roast

When the shoulder is divided in this way, what you end up with are two large, oblong cuts, each with a mix of different muscle groups, plus a nice band of fat and connective tissue running through it. The photo above is a side view of one of those oblong cuts, showing more clearly that band of fat running through it.

Pork roast being tied with twine at 1/2-inch intervals

Once you have your roasts, all you have to do is tie them up with butcher’s twine at about half-inch intervals to give the roasts a tighter, more uniform cylindrical shape. In addition to making nice slices for presentation, this encourages more even cooking.

Side view of muscle groups in kurobuta pork shoulder roast

A note on pork quality here: In the photo immediately above, you’ll see a Kurobuta pork shoulder roast bought from Japan Premium Beef, a high-end Japanese butcher. Notice that not only is it much redder than my grocery-store cut—pork is a red meat, after all, despite the efforts of the commodity pork industry to brand it otherwise—it has far more intramuscular fat, which translates to a juicier piece of meat.

You’ll also notice that the muscle groups look a bit different, and that’s because this cut, called katarosu, is a boneless pork collar roast cut by a professional butcher according to some pretty specific criteria,* while the ones I cut myself were…not.

* “Muscular set corresponding to the dorsal area of the palette, located between the first cervical vertebra to the third or fourth dorsal and between the butt bone and bone palette.”

I bring that up because a good butcher, if you have access to one, can and will cut a shoulder roast for you, giving you what is perhaps the most ideal assemblage of shoulder muscles and connective tissue for chashu. Some will know what a katarosu is, but you can also say you’d like a pork collar roast, or a pork butt roast from the “money muscle,” which is what that muscle grouping is known as in barbecue circles.

Sous Vide Pork Shoulder Chashu

Sous vide is one of the best ways to tenderize tough cuts while cooking them at relatively low temperatures. Chewy collagen converts into supple gelatin very slowly at the temperatures that yield medium-rare and medium meat. What this means is that, while a pork shoulder cooked to 135°F (57°C) and then served will be relatively tough, that same shoulder brought to 135°F and held there for an extended period of time will yield exceedingly soft meat, all while retaining a rosy, medium-rare color. It’s a combination of doneness and tenderness that isn’t easily obtained using more traditional methods.

I cooked a number of pork shoulder roasts for various amounts of time at various temperatures, ranging from 135°F (medium-rare) to 150°F/66°C (medium-well), with and without a flavorful liquid similar to the kind used in Kenji’s braised-belly chashu recipe. I also did side-by-side comparisons with pork shoulder roasts that were cured overnight before going into the sous vide bath, to gauge the effects on the chashu’s final texture.

I have to admit that I find medium-rare shoulder chashu not just unappealing but a little mystifying. It seems to be something ramen shops offer more for aesthetics than for taste. I love a bit of rare or near-raw beef, but I can’t say the same for pork. As a topping for a bowl of ramen, it makes less sense still—the soup in ramen is meant to be served piping-hot, and a medium-rare slice of pork plopped on top will cook through pretty much as soon as it’s submerged in the broth. But in the interest of leaving no stone unturned, I gave it a try.

I also found that pork purchased at the supermarket or places like Costco isn’t particularly appetizing when cooked sous vide at lower temperatures. The inherent flavor of the meat is more pronounced when it’s cooked this way, as opposed to when it’s braised in flavorful liquid, and the flavor of commodity meat isn’t that great. But I did discover some useful information for further tests.

First, I found that my preference for pork cooked at lower temperatures lies squarely at 145°F (63°C). (Obviously, you may have a different preference.) Second, I found that cooking the pork with a flavorful mixture of soy sauce and mirin in the bag was preferable to cooking the pork with only salt as the seasoning.

Side by side comparison of sous vide rolled shoulder chashu cooked for different lengths of time

Side-by-side comparisons of cured and uncured pork shoulder, cooked sous vide at 145°F (63°C) for varying amounts of time.

I also found that curing the pork roast overnight with a 50/50 mixture of salt and sugar (by weight) produced chashu with a better final texture. The uncured roasts had a grainy texture, while the meat from the cured roasts retained a supple consistency—admittedly closer to ham than a freshly cooked piece of meat, but much more pleasurable to eat.

Finally, I determined that, at 145°F, the pork’s texture was best when I cooked it for about 20 hours: soft and yielding, but still with some bite. (This is very similar to what Kenji found when testing sous vide pork shoulder for pulled pork—145°F for 18 to 24 hours produced moist, sliceable meat.) The roasts cooked for 18 hours or less were still unappealingly tough, particularly the large bands of fat, and the roasts cooked for 24 hours or longer were off-puttingly soft and mushy.

Of course, here, again, there’s a lot of room for personal preference. If you find the idea of meat so soft you can cut it with a spoon—or, to put it in a less appetizing way, meat so soft you can push your thumb right through it—then cooking chashu sous vide for 24 hours is probably what you want. Otherwise, you want to stay well inside the 18-to-24-hour range.

Once the bagged roasts were cooked, I dunked them in an ice bath to chill completely, then removed them, blotted off any congealed juices, and either broiled or charred them with a handheld torch. At this point, the pork can be sliced and served (see our rundown of the best carving and slicing knives for our recommended tools for the job), or wrapped up tightly in plastic for storage.

In the end, I did discover one way in which pork cooked sous vide at 145°F is inarguably superior to braised: When cut into individual serving slices and frozen, the sous vide pork keeps in the freezer better than the braised pork. This, I suppose, has to do with the fact that it’s as soft as braised meat, but cooked to a lower temperature, and as a result, its muscle fibers have not been forced to contract as dramatically.

Reverse-Searing Pork Shoulder Chashu

Pork shoulder roast next to slices carved off roast

Reverse-searing roasts and steaks doesn’t offer the same level of temperature control as sous vide, nor the ability to hold the meat at a precise temperature for a long time, but it does allow us to slowly dial in on a specific internal temperature using any old home oven. I did a series of reverse-sear tests with medium-rare and medium rolled shoulder roasts, and I found, again, that I preferred the medium roast over the medium-rare one.

The problem with slow-roasting the shoulder, as opposed to using sous vide for hours and hours, is that the meat ends up much tougher, since there’s very little chance for connective tissue to break down into gelatin. The best way to counteract that toughness, other than maintaining that low temperature for hours, is to treat the meat like a ham: cure it for a longer period of time, and slice the meat quite thinly.

Collage showing how to cure pork shoulder roast

I chose a two-step curing/marinating process, which gives the cure time to penetrate further into the roast and lets the exterior soak up some extra flavor. I use the same 50/50 (by weight) salt-sugar cure, then calculate 3% of the roast’s weight and weigh out exactly that much of the curing mixture. I put the untied shoulder roast in a zip-top bag and dump the cure mixture in, massaging it all over the meat to ensure even distribution. Then I seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping the bag occasionally to redistribute the cure and any brine that accumulates in the bag.

After 24 hours, I add a small amount of soy sauce and mirin—to season the exterior of the roast and add a touch of sugar, for better browning—then seal the bag again, letting it sit in the fridge for another 24 hours. (Again, I flip the bag occasionally to keep the distribution of liquid even.)

Side view of pork shoulder roast placed on rack set in rimmed baking sheet with temperature probe

The following day, I pat the roast dry and tie it up into a neat cylinder, then place it on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. I then place it in a low 200–250°F oven (90–120°C) for about three to four hours, until it registers 145°F on a probe thermometer.

I remove the roast and either use a handheld torch to char the exterior or fire up the broiler and position an oven rack so that the roast, still sitting on the rack in a rimmed baking sheet, is about an inch from the broiler element. I turn the roast frequently as it broils, until a deep, evenly browned exterior develops.

Handheld torch charring exterior of pork shoulder chashu roast

The roast can be sliced and served immediately, but it’s far easier to slice it thinly when it’s completely chilled—and because this method produces slightly tougher meat, thin slices are critical to tenderizing it. You can chill it overnight, but you can also take a page from the sous vide playbook and bag it up using the water-displacement method, after which you can turn the water bath into an ice bath that will quickly and efficiently chill the roast.

(If some of you out there are looking at this piece of meat and thinking, “Hey, that’s a tasso ham!”, you’re basically right, since tasso ham is pork shoulder that’s cured briefly, then hot-smoked. The primary differences between the two are that the cure for tasso ham typically contains nitrites, and the smoking temperature is a fair bit higher than 145°F.)

Alterations and Improvements

Side view of bowl of shio ramen topped with rolled shoulder chashu

Whether you go the sous vide or the reverse-sear route, the basic technique is the same: Get yourself a pork shoulder roast, tie it in a cylinder, cure it at least overnight in salt and sugar, and cook it to your desired temperature using the method of your choice. Since the exact results you’re after depend on personal preferences, you can alter these recipes in any way you think you might enjoy—cooking the roasts to higher or lower temperatures, changing the cooking times, or adding different flavors to the marinade/liquid cooking medium.

Since these roasts are designed for slicing and eating with ramen, I would urge caution when experimenting with flavor combinations. I’ve tried spiking the marinade/liquid cooking medium with herbs like rosemary and thyme; the result can be distracting in a classic bowl of shoyu ramen, but welcome in a milder bowl of shio ramen. Sticking with traditional Japanese ramen flavor combinations is a pretty safe bet, but feel free to play around. Perhaps your ideal combination of texture and flavor is hidden among the endless possibilities.

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Special Sauce: Kwame Onwuachi’s Journey From Setbacks to Success Story

Special Sauce: Kwame Onwuachi’s Journey From Setbacks to Success Story

[Kwame Onwuachi photograph: Rey Lopez. Gumbo photograph: Jennifer Olvera] When we last left chef and memoirist Kwame Onwuachi, he had dived back into his catering business in New York City. Business was decent, but he’d begun to see holes in his game. “The food tasted […]

Get 30% Off All-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware Sets

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt] By now, you’ve probably learned that we don’t often recommend cookware sets. Spend hundreds on a big box of pots and pans, and you’ll likely end up overpaying for items you won’t use and underpaying for the true essentials. But there […]

10 Custard, Mousse, and Pudding Recipes for Rich and Creamy Desserts

10 Custard, Mousse, and Pudding Recipes for Rich and Creamy Desserts


Collage of photos of custard desserts: tiramisu, double-caramel flan, banana crémeux, and banana pudding

[Collage photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Rich puddings, velvety mousses, and creamy custards have a double personality: They can easily serve as either comfort food or a silky, luxurious dessert that’s fully worthy of company. Even if you’re not intent on sharing, it requires hardly any extra effort to turn a simple custard into something complexly flavorful. Whether you’re planning a fancy dinner party or just a binge-watching marathon, one (or more) of these 10 puddings, mousses, and custards will do the trick.

Creamy Banana-Infused Pudding

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This probably isn’t the dessert that comes to mind when someone mentions “banana pudding.” No instant vanilla pudding, no sliced bananas mixed in, no Nilla wafers—instead, we steep banana and vanilla bean in milk for several hours to extract maximum flavor from the fruit, then whisk the milk with eggs to make a custard. The result is a dessert that’s smooth, glossy, and intensely banana-flavored.

Creamy Banana Pudding Recipe »

Classic Banana Pudding

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Craving the iconic, wafer-loaded banana pudding instead? This recipe, adapted from Magnolia Bakery’s famous take on the classic, incorporates sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream for a particularly rich vanilla pudding. Alternating layers of vanilla pudding, ripe bananas, and Nilla wafers produces a nice interplay between the creaminess of the pudding and the soft bite of the cookies and sliced banana.

Banana Pudding Recipe »

Light and Silky Banana Crémeux

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Don’t be intimidated by the name. Crémeux is just a fancy word used by pastry chefs to describe any dessert that falls somewhere in the no-man’s-land between mousse and pudding—a bit denser and creamier than mousse, but nowhere near as heavy as pudding. This banana crémeux is a perfect example of the balancing of textures—it’s rich, creamy, and thick, yet simultaneously light and soft. Simmering the milk and banana low and slow ensures the deepest fruit flavor; as in the banana pudding recipe at the top, we also add a pinch of clove to the custard, which amplifies the banana flavor even further.

Light and Silky Banana Crémeux Recipe »

Eggless Chocolate Mousse

[Video: Vicky Wasik]

This eggless chocolate mousse manages to be both lighter and more flavorful than a classic mousse made with eggs, in part thanks to the creamy toffee notes of a homemade condensed milk. Before serving, we fold airy whipped cream—gently, so as not to deflate it—into the intensely chocolaty custard, leaving it perfectly light and creamy.

Eggless Chocolate Mousse Recipe »

Double-Caramel Flan

[Video: Natalie Holt]

This rich, nutty, caramel-drenched flan is the ultimate treat for custard lovers. A higher-than-usual quantity of both cream and egg yolks yields an especially rich dessert. If you want to go the extra mile, take the optional (but highly recommended) step of toasting the dairy before making the custard, adding pleasantly nutty notes of toffee and toast to the final product. We also recommend baking this flan in a shallow dish, which helps ensure the perfect ratio of saucy caramel to creamy custard.

Double-Caramel Flan Recipe »

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Though panna cotta is a timeless dessert that’s hard to mess up, it can still definitely be improved upon. We keep our recipe nice and simple, but make sure to use a high-quality Tahitian vanilla bean, and give it a long steep in the milk and cream so that they absorb as much vanilla flavor as possible. Try adding to or replacing the vanilla with other aromatics as well—cinnamon stick, dried lavender, lemon zest, and fresh ginger are just a few possibilities.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Recipe »

Stovetop Butterscotch Pudding

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This butterscotch pudding is exactly what you want to eat when you’re snuggled up on the couch in your PJs, watching endless episodes of your favorite show. Pairing the softer sweetness of toasted sugar with malted milk powder and white chocolate, it also comes together in just 15 minutes on the stovetop. Though it’s best eaten warm, we’re not opposed to having a few cold spoonfuls straight from the fridge, either.

Stovetop Butterscotch Pudding Recipe »

Roasted-Buckwheat Custards (Soba-Cha Puddings)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

The nutty, toasted, chestnut-like flavor in this rich, silky custard comes from Japanese roasted-buckwheat tea (soba-cha), which we steep briefly in the heavy cream. We temper the eggs here by adding the hot cream to them while whisking constantly, so they won’t scramble, and fine-strain the custard base to ensure the smoothest possible texture.

Roasted-Buckwheat Custards (Soba-Cha Puddings) Recipe »

Rich and Creamy Tiramisu

[Video: Natalie Holt]

A perfect tiramisu balances the mild creaminess of the mascarpone filling and the slightly bitter kick brought by cocoa powder, espresso, and dark liqueur. Our version is less eggy than typical recipes, putting the creamy mascarpone front and center. For a truly knockout tiramisu, assemble it with Homemade Ladyfingers, and spring for quality booze—we favor a mixture of good crème de cacao and Cardamaro.

Rich and Creamy Tiramisu Recipe »

Fresh Basil Mousse

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This airy, egg-free mousse gets richness and body from white chocolate, but fresh basil is the real star. It adds a lovely herbal note that’s a strong complement to creamy dairy, and it tints the mousse a natural, mellow shade of green. A topping of fresh seasonal fruit, macerated with sugar if you like, makes this an ideal warm-weather dessert.

Fresh Basil Mousse Recipe »

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.



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Colatura di Alici: What It Is, Why It’s Worth It, and How to Use It

Colatura di Alici: What It Is, Why It’s Worth It, and How to Use It

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] You may have noticed that we have been on a bit of a seafood umami pantry ingredient kick of late, starting with Sho’s deep dive on “the Parmesan of the sea,” bottarga, followed by my tribute to one of the greatest condiments […]