Caspare smiles when considering the irony that he is once again cooking such a simple dish, one that was cherished by locals in Umbria precisely for its rusticity. "The cooking in Umbria is ancient, very medieval in many ways," the chef says. "Lots of meat, especially boar, as well as offal, and of course truffles." Truth be told, the experience of cooking in that part of Italy didn't translate into a broad knowledge of Italian cuisine. He didn't, for example, learn to cook risotto until back in the states. Yet, the experience of cooking in a local ristorante and small town life had a profound effect on him.
The pork shank that he serves at Pasquale Jones is virtually identical to the one that he cooked all those years ago in Umbria. The chef takes a three to four pound hind shank, removes the skin, and seasons it liberally with salt. It is then covered in a thick pâté made from whipped lardo and seasoned with fennel seed, fennel pollen, rosemary, and garlic. The shank is allowed to rest overnight, curing and absorbing the flavors of the rub.
The next day, the shank is cooked for five to six hours at a low temperature. Caspare refers to the technique as "broasting," something between roasting and braising. The pan is deglazed with white wine during the cooking process, and the meat is periodically basted. The chef wants the pork to be tender, but not fall apart, like pulled pork barbecue.
When the shank has been cooked to the right consistency, it is finished at high heat to give it a crackling crust and smoky finish.
When it emerges from the oven, it is basted one more time and seasoned with lashings of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and fennel pollen.