Monday, November 24, 2014

Pork-and-Cider Stew

When the butter, olive oil, and rendered fat has covered the bottom of the large pot before you added the broth or cream, you know you have a winning stew.

While we are at it, I just want to clarify this is not a stew in my book. This is soup. While there is not black and white definition I know of, I generally go with the liquid to solids ratio. More liquid: soup. More solids: stew. Aside: if you food is in gaseous form, I am pretty sure you screwed up.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder (see commentary), cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt
10 ounces skinless, meaty slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
(2) 12 ounce bottle dry apple cider (see commentary)
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage leaves

In a large pot (I used a Dutch oven), melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Add one-third of the pork to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to a baking sheet or plate. Repeat in 2 more batches with the remaining butter, oil and pork.

Add the bacon to the pot and cook until golden; add to the pork. Add the onion and garlic to the pot; cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden and softened, 5 minutes. Add the pork with accumulated juices, bacon, cider, stock and bay leaves; bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently until the pork is tender, 2½ hours.

Discard the bay leaves.
 In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water. Add the cornstarch mixture and the cream to the stew and simmer until the liquid is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard and sage and season with salt and pepper.

The results

This is a more or less unmodified Food & Wine recipe. The only changes I made are those to clarify the parts that confused me. The picture on their website shows potatoes with it. I think that would have been a nice addition.

The mustard flavor did not come through as much as I hoped. This mostly tasted like cream and pork, which is not a bad thing in my book.

I used Angry Orchard Dry for the cider. Now it is story time, I had originally intended to use non-alcoholic sparkling cider because I had it in my head that is what the recipe said. Nothing at the grocery. Nothing at the wine shop. So after running around and doing lots of Googling, I could not find anything dry. Luckily that is the point I realized the recipe does not say anything about alcohol free. So I go to the beer store and there is plenty of hard ciders. The only dry hard cider I knew off the top of my head was Crispin, which of course they did not  have. After staring at the shelves for five minutes and doing two or three Google searches, I noticed the word dry on one package. At that point I grabbed it (and another beer for good measure) and ran. Long story short, plan ahead.

Part of planning ahead: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING!

Have I told you cornstarch is my nemesis? Well it is. Damn thing never wants to move well. I totally got an oversized bowl so I could whisk the ever living shit out of it this time around. I may be loosing the war, but I won this battle by shear determination.

In regards to the pork shoulder, do not worry much. I trimmed some fat, but not much. Fat does have a bit of an odd texture after simmer for hours, so you might want to be aggressive. Trim more or less based on your taste is the point. I did leave some of the big pieces of fat when cooking but the pork, but took it out before the simmer. And my shoulder did have a bone. I just trimmed around it. No big deal.

Look at all that meat.

Do not be afraid to salt this soup. This one requires a fair bit of salt.


Really good, but not amazing. It made for really filling lunches for four days.

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