Brined Pork Roast with Mushroom Sage Polenta and Collards


Everyone’s been waxing prolifically about the onset of Fall weather, and although I can say that maybe…but only a slight maybe…the air in the early morning has a slight chill, there’s no way it’s Fall here yet.  Of course the calendar swears it’s October.  And yes, magazines have arrived sporting all things orange, brown, and sage green.  Grocery stores have displays of apples in every size and color, and yes, oddly shaped squash and pumpkin are everywhere.  So I pretend, and I indulge myself by fixing a braised piece of meat and some vegetables knowing that the resident hunkster will smile when he sits down with his plate to yell at the television and one of his many fantasy football players’ latest indiscretions on the field.  That’s how I really know that Fall has arrived, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, whether the sun is shining and the palms are swaying in the breeze or not.

This is a lovely and satisfying meal that takes some time to prepare since the roast needs to be brined over night.  I’d say that qualifies it for being slow, wouldn’t you?  The cooking time isn’t all that long, however, so the pay off is big.  Plus, there’s a Low and Slow event being held at The Constable’s Larder I’d like to send this off to.  Today’s the last day, and true to form, here I am late even though I prepared this meal well in advance and specifically for the event.  In fact I prepared two.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Brined Pork Roast with Mushroom Polenta and Collard Greens

16 c. water, divided
1 c. kosher salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 onion, quartered
1 head garlic, unpeeled, halved crosswise
few sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. whole mixed peppercorns
1-4 lb. pork shoulder roast
1 c. chicken broth
2 tsp. red wine vinegar


In a very large pot, mix 8 c. water, salt, sugar, onion, garlic, thyme, bay, and pepper, bringing it to a boil over high heat.  Stir occasionally until all the salt and sugar dissolve, then add an additional 8 c. water and remove from the heat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When the solution is fully chilled, add the pork making sure it is completely covered by the brine, put a lid on the pot and refrigerate over night.

The next day, approximately two hours before serving time…


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove pork from the brine and rinse and pat dry with a clean towel.  Salt and pepper all sides of the meat and in a cast iron skillet or pan that can be placed in the oven, brown on all sides until golden and beginning to crust.  Place in the oven and roast for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 145 degrees F.  After roasting time is done, remove the pork from the oven, place a loose foil tent over it and let sit for about 15 minutes.

While the pork is still in the oven, approximately 1 hour before serving time, make the collard greens.

Braised Collard Greens

2 T unsalted butter
2 T olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 lbs. collard greens
2 c. chicken broth
1 T red wine vinegar


Melt butter with olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, stirring until it softens, about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped greens and stir occasionally until they begin to wilt.  Add the broth and allow to boil.  Cover, turn down heat to low and cook until very tender, about 45 minutes.  Before serving, add the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Immediately after the collard greens are on low and simmering, make the polenta.

Mushroom Sage Polenta with Smoked Mozarella

4 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. unsalted butter
2 leaves fresh sage, sliced thinnly
2 c. shitake mushrooms, chopped coarsely
1/2 c. smoked mozarella, grated

In a large sauce pan, add the salt and boil the water.  Slowly stir in the cornmeal and continue to stir until the mixture begins to thicken.  Turn the heat down very low and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking, saute the mushrooms in a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Add the sliced sage and saute until the mushrooms have released all their moisture.  Set aside until right before serving.

When it’s time to serve, pour mushroom mixture and grated mozarella into the polenta and stir.

When it’s time to serve the meal…

Pour the chicken broth and vinegar into the pork’s roasting pan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Scrape up any browned bits from the pan and season with salt and pepper.  Slice the roast and serve with the sauce over all.


Recipe Notes:

  • The original recipes can be found in the October issue of Bon Appetit here.
  • Although we prefer to brine our turkeys, I’ve never prepared pork in this fashion and it was truly excellent.  The original recipe called for a rib roast, but I had the shoulder and it worked just fine.
  • I have a huge kettle I used for this, but you can use a couple of clean plastic bags (kitchen trash sized) just as well.  The most important aspect of brining is that the meat stays covered by the brining solution at all times.
  • For safety reasons, make sure the brining solution is completely chilled before you add the meat.  There’s nothing worse than thinking about meat sitting in a warm liquid overnight and the havoc that would wreak on your constitution.  Seriously.
  • For the collards — oh my.  I grew up eating all kinds of greens and love them.  You can substitute swiss chard if you like, and now that I’m thinking about it, probably turnip greens as well.  But the collards are amazing.  That touch of vinegar at the end is fabulous.
  • I know it says polenta, but I used cornmeal.  Polenta costs more, is more fine, and I just didn’t have any.  My polenta usually looks more like grits.  No creamy anything.  I like it that way.  I should probably try to make it beautiful and creamy, but it tastes great, and it’s all rib-sticking food anyway, so what difference does it make, right?
  • When you serve this meal,  make sure you pour some of that pan jus from the pork over everything.  It’s quite the treat, I promise.