Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Still hungry? Not for long: Catalan Braised Pork Shoulder!

I told you next post would be about the accompaniment to that pile of spinach you've been staring at for the last several weeks. So finally, with a fair bit of embarrassment and apologies if your spinach with raisins and pine nuts has been sitting out getting colder and slimier for the last 31 days waiting for the followup, here it is!
Falling under the category of all good things are worth waiting for and yet another hit from Anya von Bremzen's "New Spanish Table" cookbook, where all has been delicious and...so far...not one disappoint on our plates. This also only confirms what I've been saying ad nauseum that I have come to the conclusions that pork shoulder is easily the best bang-for-the-buck chunk of animal flesh going. Actually, leaving price out of it, it is one of the best cooking/eating experiences at ANY price! This particular dish is amazing, another "restaurant quality" plate of food that is thrills your palate with that perfect savory and sweet combination of flavors allied with fork tender chunks of pork shoulder. So easy, and with a luscious sauce and perfectly delectable leftover potential should you and your guests somehow not finish every bite! Oh, and don't forget some crusty bread for this most sop-worthy of sauces.
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Catalan Braised Pork Shoulder With Dried Fruit
(Porc Guisata Amb Fruita Seca)
"Moist slow cooking brings out the best in a humble cut like pork shoulder,
making it fit for the most festive occasions. The sauce, enhanced with dried
fruit and a whiff of cinnamon, is classically Catalan. Try to get
best-quality organic dried cherries and apricots, ones that have some
tartness. If you're using ordinary dried fruit, you might want to reduce the
amount slightly, so the dish doesn't come out overly sweet. Alternatively,
you can add a splash of red wine vinegar to the sauce at the end. The dish
is best made ahead; cool the pork in the sauce and slowly reheat it."- AvB


1 boneless pork shoulder, such as Boston Butt (about 4 pounds, trimmed of
excess fat)
salt & freshly ground black pepper (kosher or sea)
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
2 to 3 tablespoons light olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 cup peeled white pearl onion, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup kirsch (or brandy)
2 cups full-bodied dry red wine (with a lively acidity)
1 cup stock (beef or chicken or both)
3/4 cup pitted dried sour cherries
1/2 cup dried apricot (preferably Californian, halved or quartered if large)
1 large bay leaf
1 small piece cinnamon stick
2 fresh rosemary sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 325º.

2. Using kitchen string, tie the pork shoulder crosswise, spacing the ties 1
inch apart. Rub the pork generously with salt and pepper and the garlic.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 5 to 6 quart flameproof
casserole or Dutch oven over high heat until almost smoking. Add the pork
and cook until richly browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Add the
remaining oil while the pork browns, if the casserole looks too dry.
Transfer the pork to a bowl. Add the chopped onion, carrot, and pearl onions
to the casserole and brown well, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the kirsch and cook
over high heat until it is reduced to about 1 tablespoon, about 1 minute.
Add the wine, beef stock, cherries, apricots, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and
rosemary sprigs and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the casserole to
dislodge the brown bits. Season the sauce with salt to taste.

4. Return the pork to the casserole. Cover the casserole tightly and
transfer it to the oven. Bake the pork, turning it once or twice, until it
is very tender and an instant-read thermometer registers 165º, about 1 1/2

5. Transfer the pork to a plate and cover it with foil to keep warm. Remove
and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and rosemary sprigs. Transfer the
casserole to the stove top and cook the sauce over high heat until it is
slightly syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes.

6. Remove the string from the pork and discard it. Cut the pork into slices
and arrange on a serving platter. Pour the sauce over the pork and serve.

Cooks note: I picked up the dried fruit for the usual extremely reasonable prices at Trader Joe's. And if you're not using frozen peeled pearl onions then you are a prep masochist who needs counseling!- bb