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The Butcher

Ethnic Dishes From Versatile Pork Butt

May 16, 1985|MERLE ELLIS

Pork shoulder butt, or Boston butt as it often is called, is one of the most versatile cuts of pork. It also is one of the least expensive. It was on special in my area for 89 cents a pound recently--if you bought the whole shoulder. I bought two.

There are so many things that can be done with a pork butt that whenever I see it on special I stock up. It is the perfect cut for making all kinds of sausage products, with just about the perfect ratio of lean to fat. It contains only a portion of the shoulder blade bone, and that is easily removed so you can cut the meat into slices, cubes, steaks, strips for stir-fry or whatever. It also is the cut called for in some of the wonderful regional specialties in this country such as Char Siu.

Char Siu is that aromatic, rich, mahogany-colored barbecued pork that you see hanging in the windows of Chinese markets. It is used in dishes from simple pork noodle soup and stir-fried vegetables to Char Siu Bow and Char Siu Kock, the hamburgers and pasties (meat pies) of Chinese cuisine.

Char Siu may be made at home. I made some last week with my pork butts, and they were both a lot better than not bad. Perhaps my Char Siu was not quite as good as the best I've bought in Chinatown, but for 89 cents a pound I was pleased with my results and I had a lot of fun in the process. CHAR SIU

2 pounds boneless pork butt, cut with grain in strips about 1 inch thick

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons catsup

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons dry Sherry or white wine

3 tablespoons honey

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon saltpeter (optional)

Place pork strips in large bowl. Add soy sauce, catsup, hoisin sauce, Sherry, honey, garlic, 5-spice powder and saltpeter. Mix well. Marinate at room temperature 2 to 4 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Arrange 1 oven rack at highest level and another at lowest level in oven. Fill roasting pan with about 1 inch water and place on lower shelf.

Run bamboo skewer through one end of each strip of pork and suspend from top rack so pork hangs down over pan with water.

Roast pork at 350 degrees 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting occasionally with marinade.

Let pork cool and slice thinly across grain. Serve warm or cold with mustard as appetizer, or use in soup, stir-fry with vegetables or use in Char Siu Bow. Makes about 8 servings. CHAR SIU BOW

1/2 cup chopped Char Siu or 1/4 cup chopped Char Siu mixed with 1/4 cup cooked shrimp

1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped

1/4 cup bamboo shoots, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons chopped green onions

1 tablespoon oil

2 (10-ounce) packages refrigerated biscuits

Combine Char Siu, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, soy sauce, green onions and oil in bowl.

Press or roll each biscuit into 3- to 4-inch circle. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons mixture in center of each circle. Pinch edges of biscuit together to form bun and place, seam side down, on 2-inch square of wax paper. Place on steamer rack lined with pieces of parchment paper over simmering water. Cover and steam 10 minutes. To bake, place on greased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 20 biscuits.

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