This dish is incredibly simple and quick to throw together, but it does take three hours, albeit completely hands-free, to cook in the oven. If you want to make this dish but don’t have that amount of time to commit, make it in a slow cooker instead. Sear the pork and deglaze with the liquids as instructed in steps 2 and 3, but then place everything in a slow cooker before you head out for work in the morning. Set the cooker to low for eight hours and you’ll have dinner waiting for you when you get home, with only a few minutes needed to throw together the pineapple salad before serving. If so inclined, search out palm vinegar at any Asian grocery store. Made from coconut palm fruit, it has coconut’s unmistakable sweet funk, but white wine vinegar works just as well.
On a cutting board, cut off the peel from the pineapple and quarter it lengthwise, then remove the core pieces; you should have about 1½ pounds of cleaned pineapple. Cut two quarters of the pineapple into ¼-inch-thick slices and cut the remaining two quarters on a bias into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place the bias-sliced pineapple in a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate while you cook the pork. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Rub the pork all over with the pepper and season liberally with salt. Add the meat to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until browned all over, 16 to 18 minutes. Using tongs, remove the pork and pour off the fat in the pot, leaving only what naturally sticks to the inside.
Return the pot to the heat and add the thickly sliced pineapple, garlic and bay leaves. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 seconds, then lightly crush pineapple with a spoon and stir it around to pick up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until the pineapple, garlic and bay leaves are well caramelized in spots, about 2 minutes more. Pour in 2 cups vinegar, the soy sauce and 1 cup water and scrape the bottom of the pot while stirring to pick up the browned bits. Return the meat to the pot and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot, place it in the oven and cook for 3 hours, or until the pork is falling-apart tender and the sauce is reduced by about half.
While the pork cooks, remove the bias-sliced pineapple from the refrigerator and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, the mint, honey and chile. Season with salt and ground pepper, cover again and refrigerate until the pork is done.
To serve, remove the pot from the oven and let the pork rest for 10 minutes. Using tongs, twist and break apart the meat into large chunks; remove and discard the interior bone. Gently stir the meat to coax chunks of pineapple and garlic on top of the pork, making sure it’s well-coated in the sauce. Serve the pork straight from the pot with the pickled pineapple salad and rice on the side, or transfer the pork and aromatics to a large platter and serve the pan juices in a bowl for spooning over each serving.
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