Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar

I made it back from my trip to the East Coast safe and sound and will share my experience after it settles and I’ve had time to savor it all.   In the meantime, I have many recipes to share and ideas for more.  I guess there’s nothing quite like time away to clear my mind and realize again that inspiration lies in unexpected places.  I need time to process that as well which makes me envious of those of you who can seize an idea in no time and move to the next while I’m still mulling over the inkling of my first.  It’s a good thing I enjoy process, I suppose.  What is it they say about the sum of parts being greater than the whole?

That would be me.

Speaking of parts, today a book caught my eye that comes as close to my philosophy about food as I’ve seen.  It’s called Culinary Intelligence:  The Art of Eating Healthy and Really Well.  And no, this isn’t a review, because I haven’t read it yet.  But Barry Esterbrook’s review provides me enough information to agree that flavor above all else is what helped me lose weight earlier this year.  Good, fresh ingredients with excellent flavor always work for me.  Long after I’ve enjoyed something tasty, I think about it and realize the satisfaction of a good meal without having to ingest portions well beyond what someone of my age and size should — or anyone for that matter — is perfect.  Cost comes up in this matter, and it should.  My family roots are meager at best, and so the cost of anything will never be taken lightly.  But I’ve learned that when something is just right, when it satisfies without over indulgence, the memory lingers without having to deal with a full stomach.

It sounds like I’m selling something and that isn’t the case.  I just love it when I find a perspective that makes me feel as if I’m not alone.  Doesn’t everyone?

With that in mind, this recipe for Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar is so very good.  It’s not a challenge to prepare if you spend some time ahead to prepare the pork — but that’s the best kind of recipe.  Do a bit ahead of time for enjoyment later.

And if you’re not familiar with radicchio, then know that it has a lovely bitter taste to it.  I enjoy bitter “greens” quite a bit, but understand that others don’t.  I usually enjoy radicchio in salads — it adds a different flavor and color.  But if you’re not sure, then use red cabbage instead.  The flavor will not disappoint.

Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar

Rub Ingredients

1 T kosher salt

1 T brown sugar

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cayenne

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Braise Ingredients

3-1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder

3 T olive oil

4 c. onions, sliced

1-1/2 c. Pinot Grigio

2 c. vegetable broth

4 T extra virgin olive oil

1 head radicchio, cut into quarters

2 T balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients

2 handfuls arugula

1 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed


  1. To prepare the pork shoulder, mix the dry ingredients for the rub in a small bowl, then sprinkle over a large plate — l or to simplify, pour into a gallon size seal-able plastic bag.
  2. Blot the pork shoulder with paper towels, then place on the spice mixture, turning to get each side coated with the spices.  If necessary, rub additional spices over all surfaces of the pork shoulder.
  3. Cover the pork shoulder with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight making sure to occasionally toss or turn the meat.
  4. Heat 2 T of the olive oil in a large skillet and brown the pork shoulder on all sides making sure the meat is golden brown before turning.  Don’t forget the sides as well –you’ll have to hold it with tongs to get the sides browned.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and place the pork shoulder on a plate to set aside.
  6.  Pour the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet and add the sliced onions.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure all are softened and just beginning to caramelize.
  7. Add the wine and stir, making sure to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Allow to cook about 2 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about half.
  8. Add the vegetable broth then return the pork shoulder to the pot.  Place a lid on the pot and cook over low heat for about two hours or until pork is tender.
  9. Measure about 1 cup of the pork braising liquid and set aside.  Remove the pork from the heat.
  10. To prepare the radicchio, heat 1 T of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Place two wedges of the radicchio in the skillet at a time, cooking on each side about two minutes before turning to the next.
  11. When finished browning all the radicchio, return it to the skillet and pour in the 1 cup of pork shoulder braising liquid set aside.  Cover the pan and allow to cook about three minutes.
  12. Add 2 T vinegar to the ban and continue to cook uncovered until slightly thickened, about one minute.
  13. Taste to correct seasoning.
  14. To prepare the arugula, toss with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.  Lightly salt and pepper to taste.
  15. To serve, slice pork and divide among plates including juices from the braise.  Include a wedge of the radicchio and arugula salad.
  16. Drizzle the arugula with a bit of balsamic vinegar to finish.

<img alt="Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder"/>

<img alt="Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder"/>

<img alt="Onions for Pork Shoulder"/>

<img alt="Sauteed Onions for Pork Shoulder"/>

<img alt="Pinot Grigio for Pork Shoulder Braise"/>

<img alt="Pork Shoulder Braise"/>

<img alt="Sauteeing Radicchio"/>

<img alt="Arugula"/>

<alt img="Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar"/>

Recipe Notes

  • I just had to make this recipe from Bon Appetit when I saw it in the “R.S.V.P.” section.  It features recipes from restaurants readers have written about to request the recipe and this one is from Lupa in Manhattan.  We love pork shoulder and it’s fun to try different versions — especially with a great rub like this recipe has.  The balsamic vinegar goes in right at the end, so don’t forget it like I almost did!  It adds such a perfect touch to the flavors in this recipe — a mix of sweet, spicy, pungent that really pleases.
  • The only adaptations made to this recipe were the type of radicchio and wine.  I do use a very nice aged balsamic vinegar, but know it is most likely not the same brand as what is used in the restaurant.  My decision to not cube the pork and then apply the rub was also a deviation from the original recipe.  Ultimately, this is about as close as I get to following a recipe — very close in this case.
  • If you’re not someone who has tried radicchio, give it a shot.  I think I first tried it shaved in a green salad.  If you’re not accustomed to bitter greens then a little goes a long way — but I love it.  It wasn’t until I began to see recipes that required grilling or sauteeing that I tried doing the same and once I did, I was hooked.  It mellows the flavor of the radicchio which is perfect for the sweetness of the onions in this recipe and the spiciness of the pork shoulder.
  • The original recipe calls for treviso radicchio but I only see it occasionally at the market.  If you picture Belgian endive, then make it magenta, and you’ve got it right.  I’ve only had it a few times, so would not do a taste comparison to the globe radicchio justice.  I still say give it a go if you can find it.
  •  I decided not to cube the pork shoulder before I marinated it.  I know.  I get it.  But I was in a hurry and to my satisfaction, the overnight sit time in the fridge did just fine to make the pork flavorful with all the spices in the rub.   I should cube and then season — next time.  Also — I usually put something like this in a large sealable bag, but didn’t have any so decided to wrap it to refrigerate it like that.  The bag is much less messy!  But you knew that, right?
  • People often want to know whether a recipe will work in a slow cooker and I think this one would — but it’s important to brown the meat over the stove first.  I’d also brown the onions as well taking the recipe thru step 7 and then pour everything into the slow cooker from there.  As much as I can say I like a nice slow cooked pot of food, I miss the flavor that comes only from the first steps of a recipe like this.  It’s worth the time spent.
  •  With respect to the wine — if you’re not into that, then try apple cider instead — it will work nicely with the flavor of the pork.  But I love the effect white wine has on a recipe.  It’s wonderful.
  • For not a lot of effort, this turns out a beautifully plated meal of comfort food — truly excellent flavors that mingle quite well.
  • This recipe made far too much for the two of us, but I saved the pork and onions separately from the radicchio and we enjoyed it reheated and poured over brown rice the next night and I froze the rest for another night.