This is a really easy dish, but like the name says, it’s
not fast: you need to start at least one night ahead
of time. If you don’t have any brine hanging around
in your freezer, you’ll need to make that two nights
before you plan on serving the pork. You marinate
the meat overnight, and then on the day you’re going
to serve it, it’s all about slow cooking. The advance
work is worth it, though: the meat comes out soft
and succulent, with a crispy edge and a smoky-sweet
The crucial secret ingredient in this dish, believe it or
not, is fish sauce. You don’t taste it in the dish (don’t
worry—this isn’t fishy pork), but the natural glutamates
in the sauce (the same stuff you find in MSG in
chemical form) really bumps up the flavor.
You can serve the pork as it is, or you can top it with
barbecue sauce (see the one on page 300) or a vinegar
sauce. I like it as a sandwich on a soft roll. It’s
good no matter what.
Pork butt varies in size from 6 to 9 pounds, so your
weight measure may not be exact here, but that’s
OK: you’ll have plenty of paste and rub.
SERVES THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD
FOR THE BRINE AND THE PORK
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
One 7-pound boneless pork butt
FOR THE MUSTARD PASTE MARINADE
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup whiskey or bourbon
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fish sauce
FOR THE SPICE RUB
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
TO MAKE THE BRINE AND BRINE THE MEAT
Bring the salt, sugar, and 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium-sized pot.
Pour the brine into a container with a lid, and cool it down in the fridge overnight before you use it. The brine should be completely cool before you start working with it.
Put the pork in a deep container, and pour the brine over it, so the meat is well covered. Cover the container and brine the pork in the fridge for 4 to 5 hours, to soften up the proteins in the meat. (If you leave it for too long, the pork will be salty.)
TO MAKE THE MUSTARD PASTE MARINADE AND
MARINATE THE MEAT
Put the garlic, whiskey, Dijon mustard, and fi sh sauce in a blender, and blend on medium speed for 20 to 30
seconds, until you’ve got a smooth paste. Pull the pork butt out of the brine, rinse it to get rid of the excess salt, and pat it dry with a paper towel. Move the pork butt to a baking dish or other container, and spread the mustard paste over it, making sure you’ve coated it on all sides. Use your hands to smooth the paste on evenly: you don’t want any naked meat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and marinate the meat in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
TO MAKE THE RUB AND COOK THE MEAT
Take the pork butt out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature on the countertop, about half an
hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 225°F. Combine all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl
and mix them together well. Use your hands to sprinkle the rub generously all over the pork butt. Pat the rub down so it sticks, and turn the pork butt to make sure you cover all of the meat. Lay the pork on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, put it on the middle oven rack, and bake it for about 7 1/2 hours, until it’s dark and crisped up on the outside, and the meat pulls apart really easily. (If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 200°F).
Take the pork out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes, or until it’s cool enough to handle.
Pull the pork: use a spoon to dig into the meat and pull pieces of it away. This is a messy process, the opposite of slicing, but you end up with big, delicious chunks of meat. Mix the charred bits, the skin, and the meat all together so you end up with a really great texture. Season the pork with a little bit of salt, if you’re feeling it. You can serve it right away.