Over the years, I’ve made mental notes of interesting recipes I’ve read for pork shoulder rubbed with various combinations. Since our wedding where we served a beautiful mole negro, I’ve been craving various kinds of moles and thinking of different ways to enjoy it. In this recipe, I wanted the pulled pork to have a hint or “inspiration” from the spices of a traditional mole without the overpowering thick mole sauce.
A sale of pork shoulder at my local market inspired me to finally experiment with the idea. I rubbed the pork in a seasoning mix with the warm flavors of mole sauce in mind — ancho chile, cinnamon, and clove — and roasted it slowly in a crock pot. The pork was succulent, well-seasoned, and utterly satisfying.
This recipe is perfect for a casual dinner party or gathering because it’s hardly any work, you can make it ahead, and you can’t overcook it. We piled the tender meat on top of refried beans on a tostada. It was so filling and we had plenty of leftovers for sandwiches, quesadillas and even a sope filled with the pork.
3-4 tablespoons Mole-Inspired Seasoning with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4-5 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, tied to make a compact Roast (bone-in is preferable, though boned is fine)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1. Season the meat. In a small bowl, combine the mole seasoning, salt, and sugar. Rub all over the pork shoulder and place on a plate. Marinate for 1 hour unrefrigerated, or 2 to 24 hours refrigerated.
2. Prepare the meat for roasting. Preheat the oven to 275 F or turn on your crock pot on low. Place the pork in a Dutch oven or deep-lidded roaster just big enough to hold the roast snugly. Scatter the garlic cloves around the roast. Place a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot, then press the lid down securely. Alternatively, wrap the meat in a tightly sealed foil package (make sure the seam is at the top so the juices don’t leak out) and place the package in an ovenproof skillet or casserole.
3. Roast the meat. Roast the pork until very tender and practically falling apart, 3-3/4 to 4 hours in the oven or six to eight hours in the crock pot. Transfer the roast to a platter and cover with foil.
4. Serve the meat. Pull the meat apart or slice it across the grain and arrange on a platter. Pour some of the juices over and pass the rest. Save any remaining juices for heating up leftovers.
Mole-Inspired Seasoning with Ancho, Cinnamon, and Cocoa
Makes about 1/3 cup
This mix evokes the flavors of moles, the complex chile-based Mexican sauces. It is especially delicious on pork—roasts, chops, or tenderloin.
In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder, 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1-1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.
For each pound of meat, combine 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic, and 1 to 2 teaspoons spice mixture.