Pork shanks are a perfect choice for braising, but you may need to ask your butcher to get them for you. Wrapping them in foil before roasting is a great way to slow-cook the meat while producing a delicious, intense sauce. If you can't find shanks, the recipe works just as well with chunks or Boston butt or blade-end pork loin roasts.
This recipe is adapted from Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork.
* Start to finish: 4 hours 15 minutes (30 minutes active). Makes 8 servings
* What you'll need:
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons Asian black bean sauce
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon sugar, plus extra for sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar, plus extra for sauce
2 large pork shanks (about 4 pounds total)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 teaspoon soy sauce, plus extra for sauce
* How to do it:
In a small bowl, cover the mushrooms with the boiling water. Let soak for at least 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain the mushrooms and reserve 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid. Cut off and discard the mushroom stems, then thinly slice the caps. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ginger, garlic, cilantro, black bean sauce, peanut oil, 1 teaspoon sugar and the vinegar. Process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.
Heat the oven to 325 F. Cut 6 to 8 deep, equally spaced, gashes in the meaty part along the length of each shank. Fill the gashes with the bean and cilantro paste, then rub any remaining paste over the rest of each shank. Place the shanks in a large bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the sherry, reserved mushroom soaking liquid and chicken broth. Boil the mixture over medium-high until reduced to 4 tablespoons, about 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce and set aside.
Measure two 18-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Place half of the scallions and half of the sliced mushrooms into the center of each sheet. Spoon half of the reduced sherry mixture over the vegetables.
Place one pork shank on top of each mound of vegetables with the bone vertical. Loosely pull the foil around the shank, taking care not to let any of the liquid spill out. Pull the foil tightly up around the shank to seal in the liquid (the bone can be exposed).
Place the shanks vertically in a deep casserole or roasting pan. Roast for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is almost falling from the bone.
Remove from oven. Over a bowl, carefully remove the foil so as not to lose any of the braising juices. Pour the juices into a saucepan, skim away any fat, then season with sugar, vinegar and soy sauce.
Remove the meat from the bones, then drizzle them with the sauce. Meat can be served as is, or with bread or buns.