Puerto Rican dishes are gathered, like the family seated around them. There's quick chatter and side conversation. The food smells delicious, and it tastes better. Some say that it's all about the adobo, but a number of the other Puerto Rican home-style cooks say that it's about the sofrito, sometimes called sazon.

Eventually, someone exclaims, "And, any Puerto Rican will tell you when it comes to good adobe or sofrito, it CANNOT be store-bought." Someone else verbally agrees, perhaps an aunt, chiming in, "No, no, no...it has to be the homemade. And, when you cut up all that garlic, make sure you rub your hands on the faucet to get rid of the smell." There are nods from all around the table, agreeing.

The Puerto Rican abuelos, mothers, sons, daughters and countless cousins sit with the delicious dishes, which are brimming with flavor and hunger-soothing substance; they discuss their approach to their very own signature sofrito, and whisper remarks about how they cook the principle dish, Pernil, when preparing it in their homes.

Pernil derives from the Spanish word "pierna," which means leg in English. It's also the Catalan word for ham, because the recipe traditionally called for fresh ham, however, pork shoulder is more readily available and more affordable. The fattiness of the shoulder benefits the long slow roasting process, which takes about ten hours. The pork shoulder roast is preferred by many, as it is more flavorful, though there are some who prefer the fresh ham.

Pernil al Horno, a baked roasted pork shoulder seasoned with adobo mojado (marinade made from paprika, oregano, salt, garlic and vinegar), makes frequent appearances at Puerto Rican feasts and celebrations, such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays or large party events. When the dish is made well, the taste of garlic is apparent, the brightness of cilantro is seen, and slight crunch of the skin is felt. And, while the marinades and seasoning take a bit of time and elbow grease, the roast itself is rather easy to make, because the oven does a great deal of the work.


6 -7 lbs pork shoulder (bone in pernil)
4 limes, juiced
15 garlic cloves, mashed in a mortar and pestle (add a tsp. salt to help mash garlic)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
5 tablespoons goya light adobo seasoning
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup vinegar


1. Make the marinade:.
2. In medium bowl, combine garlic, lime juice, oregano, 3 tbs. adobo, soy sauce, olive oil and black pepper. Set aside.
3. Wash the pernil in vinegar and water, pat dry with paper towel.
4. Place on a cutting board fat side up.
5. Leaving the fat in a single piece and attached at one end, use a knife to remove the layer of fat from the shoulder, opening it like a book to reveal the meat. Then, use the knife to poke 1-inch deep holes into the meat on all sides (about 20 holes).
6. Place pernil in roasting pan fat side up. Rub the marinade all over the pernil, making sure you work it into to the holes. Return the fat back to its original position. Score the fat with diagonal cuts and sprinkle the remaining adobo over the fat.
7. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

On day of Cooking:

8. Remove pernil from refrigerator 45 minutes before roasting.
9. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
10. Add a little water to the roasting pan so that it comes up about 1/2 inch up the sides.
11. Cook pernil uncovered for 1 hour. Turn oven temperature down to 225 degrees F, tent pernil loosely with aluminum foil, and cook for 8 hours. Remove foil and cook for 1 hour.
12. Let pernil rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
13. Enjoy!

Checkout http://www.alwaysorderdessert.com for an additional pernil recipe.