Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pigging Out (w/ update)

It has become increasingly apparent to me that I will never become a vegetarian. Not that I aspire to a protein deficient diet or anything, but especially in this cold weather season, nothing tastes better than slow-cooked animal flesh. My friend DOR made an amazing mustard-crusted beef tenderloin roast last weekend. Last night I was over at my other friend's Bill and Martha's where he did some incredible cold-smoked boneless pork chops (paired with a bottle of truly perfect 1998 Chateau St. Jean "Cinq Cepages"). I did my standing beef rib roast for friends a couple of weeks ago, and then last Monday I made a lusciously tender braised pork shoulder for w and me. In my meat-centric dietary hierarchy, pork is rapidly overtaking beef at the top of my carnivorous food pyramid. There are some many fun ways to play with the pig...shoulders, chops, tenderloins, ears, and of course the glory that is bacon and all of its cured cousins like pancetta and prosciuotto.

I happened to have a four pound shoulder in my freezer that needed my attention. Pork shoulder has to be the best deal at your butchers. This particular cut was only $1.20 a pound on sale at my local market. That is insane, especially when you consider that with some slow, low heat the fat and connective tissue melts away, tenderizing and flavoring the meat in a way that only confirms God's good intentions for us to be happy. I looked through various cookbooks, then went on the computer where I this particular recipe on epicurious (it had the all important 95% would make it again rating) which I tweaked ever so slightly. The meat just fell aprt when it was done (in a good way!), and the whole thing was so incredibly simple to put together. That five well placed ingredients could combine to produce this was nothing short of mind-boggling. Oh, and really, really satisfying!
UPDATE 12/19: Check the recipe below as I forgot to add that I put a sprig of rosemary and a few sprigs of thyme in with the pork before braising.
*** *** *** *** ***
Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions
adapted from epicurious
yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
active time: 30 min
total time: 3 hr

1 (3- to 4-lb) bone-in or boneless fresh pork shoulder (preferably arm picnic)
4 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lb onions (5 or 6 medium), halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1-1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
1 sprig rosemary
3 or so sprigs thyme

1-Preheat oven to 325°F.

2-Score fat and any skin on pork in a crosshatch pattern. Make slits all over meat with a small sharp knife and insert a garlic sliver in each slit. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper.
browning the pork
3-Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart ovenproof heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown meat on all sides, turning occasionally with the aid of tongs and a carving fork, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate.
onions being sautéd on their way to sweet caramelization

4-Add onions to pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in cider and return pork to pot with rosemary and thyme. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and braise pork in middle of oven until very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

5-Transfer pork to a serving dish with the aid of tongs and carving fork. Boil cooking juices with onions until mixture is reduced to about 2 cups, 2 to 3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and serve with pork.


Stephanie said...

I've made something similar to this before, in an attempt to come up with a NW version of porchetta. I also tossed in some dried apple slices and some crushed fennel seeds. Seriously delicious.

bb said...

I was thinking when I was eating it that next time I'd throw some apple slices in. The fennel seeds are a great idea, too. Tender there anything better?!

Stephanie said...

Hell to the no! Pork is the best thing to come out of the barnyard.

bb said...

No argument here!