This Dominican pernil is boldly flavored, overnight-marinated, and family-famous in the Arizona home of Belqui Millili-Ortiz, one of our favorite Dominican homecooks and the host of El giro de Belqui food blog. ”Pernil is a classic dish in Dominican households, says Belqui, who grew up in both the D.R. and New York’s Washington Heights, a Dominican community where she was surrounded by friends, family and lots of cooking.
The dish is also one of her forever-favorites, says Belqui. She makes this flavorful roast for special occasions, summer cookouts, and ”every couple of months, for no reason other than I love it.” To watch Belqui make this recipe step-by-step, check out her pernil master class in this video.
The secret to a great pernil, says Belqui, is marinating it in Dominican sazón, the cooking base that is a first cousin to Puerto Rican sofrito and just as essential to the cocina Dominicana. Bright-tasting and aromatic, sazon is the “the holy grail” of her country’s cuisine, explains Belqui, who makes hers with multi-colored bell peppers, a ton of garlic, onion, adobo seasoning, lime juice and soy sauce. Belqui keeps a sazon container in her fridge, freezing the rest in ice cube trays or small zip bags to make sure she is always stocked.
When she makes pernil, Belqui likes to use pork butt, which despite its name, comes from the shoulder of the pork. ”Today, I went with a 7-pound pork butt for this recipe, for its tenderness,” says Belqui, ”but you can use other parts of the pork. They will crisp up, just as well. There is no wrong cut to pick. And remember, make sure to set aside enough time for the pernil to soak in all the juices of the Dominican seasoning. Be sure to let it marinade overnight, at least, and a full 24 hours is better.”
Another bonus of this delicioso pernil: it feeds a crowd—a big one, says Belqui. ”The amount that you can render from this recipe is shocking, and the leftovers can be used in so many amazingly delicious ways.” She lists sandwiches, empanadas, casseroles, and so many more memorably good ways.
She gets it, she says. It may look like a lot of ingredients, but don’t skip making Dominican sazon from scratch, says Belqui. ”Just throw them all in the blender and you are good to go. It’s actually pretty easy,” she says. It’s worth the effort and makes all the difference in this dish.
”You are going to love, love, love this pernil,” says Belqui.