What did you do last Sunday? It was Easter, so maybe your day involved a roast of some kind, maybe a ham? Or a leg of lamb?
My day was very quiet. I recovered from accidentally-ish walking 12 miles on Saturday by laying on my couch, editing podcasts, reading, and watching TV. It was lovely, and as I went about my day, my apartment gradually filled up with the smell of a giant shoulder of pork slowly cooking and collapsing in the oven.
I mention what I did all day Sunday to prove that this, the Momofuku Bo ssam, may just be the ultimate Sunday Supper. David Chang hasn't steered us wrong here. On Saturday night, give your pork a jacket of salgar (where my Parks & Rec fans at?) and tuck it into the fridge to sleep. Then, on Sunday, about 7 hours before you want to eat, shove it in a low oven, and go about your day. Seriously, just continue to do everything you were already going to do! The original recipe says to baste with pan juices after the first hour, but I didn't really have any pan juices until hour 3 or 4, so I didn't really baste and I'm ok telling you to ignore that step.
About 6 hours later, after you've enjoyed a full Sunday, pull this baby out of the oven to rest, and assemble all your sauces and accompaniments. Snack on pieces of pork as you do this, as is the chef's right. Then, spread on a layer of brown sugar (optional if you have sensitive smoke alarms) and put it back in the oven, under the broiler, to crisp up.
Take it out, serve immediately, hopefully to a crowd, as this makes a ton. Or, you know, to yourself, and recognize that it's ok to make a massive amount of food for one. You're worth it, and you have a freezer.
Momofuku's Bo ssam
Adapted from Sam Sifton
For the meat:
- 1 bone in pork butt (shoulder), about 8 lbs
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup kosher salt, plus 1 tbs (optional)
- 7 tbs brown sugar (optional)
For the Ginger-Scallion Sauce:
- 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced green scallions
- 1/2 cup peeled, minced ginger
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce (light, if you have it, otherwise reduce the salt a bit)
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
For the Ssam sauce:
- 2 tbs ssamjang (fermented soybean and chili paste, see note)
- 1 tbs gochujang (see note)
- 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- cooked white rice
- lettuce leaves, such as bibb or butter lettuce, washed and dried
- Place the pork on a rimmed baking sheet large enough to comfortably hold it (I used a quarter sheet pan with no issues). Pat the meat dry with paper towels, then mix together your white sugar and salt. Rub it all over the meat, cover in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 6 hours, but it's better to do this overnight. If you plan on cooking this same day, you'll be up at 6 am for this step.
- About 7 hours before you want to eat, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Unwrap the pork and transfer to a roasting pan. Slide into the oven, and walk away. Just walk away. If you have pan juices and you want to baste after a couple hours, you do you, but otherwise, just let the meat cook and collapse in on itself. After 6 hours or so, remove from the oven to rest up to an hour while you make your sauces.
- Make the scallion ginger sauce: Combine all ingredients, and taste and adjust for salt if needed.
- Make the ssam sauce: Combine all ingredients and mix well. If you have trouble getting the mixture to emulsify, you can blend it, or do as I did and add about a teaspoon of mayonnaise and whisk it in.
- Prepare all your accompaniments. Make some rice, wash and dry your lettuce, get your kimchi into a bowl, sneak bites of pork.
- When you are ready to eat, heat oven to 500 degrees. Mix remaining tbs of salt and brown sugar together and rub over the cooked pork (or skip the sugar if you fear it will lead to an interview with the fire marshall or an irate neighbor). Place pork back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. If you a using the sugar, it should create a dark, caramel crust or at least a smoky inferno. Serve immediately, with windows open, while hot, with all accompaniments.
- I do love all the people in the original recipe comments who are like, "I made this except without the sauces and without the salt/sugar rub and the fat" and really, why? Don't be like them. Yes, it's salty, and yes, it's fatty, but that's the point! I found that it helped to mix the crusty bits in with the middle bits, to really even out the saltier bites. And don't skip the sauces! They are easy but most importantly, extremely tasty and are there to balance the meat. The ginger scallion sauce especially is my new love. You may want to double the amount called for, since I went through the entire batch with only half the pork.
- I probably could have cooked it longer to get that true falling apartness in the middle, so I would say you could cook this up to 7 hours, initially.
- I may use a disposable pan next time, as the sugar didn’t so much as caramelize as fall into the pan and burn, which wasn't fun to clean. If you can't tell from above, I also would skip the brown sugar step next time, as my weak apartment ventilation can't really handle it. The sugar also didn't really stay on the pork, but other recipe commenters mentioned creating more of a paste with either cider vinegar or some of the pork juices. If you have a strong stove hood or an outdoor setup, well, I'm jealous of your candied pork bark crust.
- The ssamjang and gochujang are more widely available now, and gochujang at least is fairly easy to find at most grocery stores. Ssamjang can be found online (link below) or at dedicated Asian markets. I ventured out to a Korean market in the city to find it here.