fat free opinions on a food centric life

Braised Pork Shoulder with Guinness and Dried Cherries

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A few months ago I was fortunate to have won (and I never win anything…) Daniel Boulud’s book Braise from The Constable’s Larder.  Since receiving it, I’ve read through it several times, not only savoring all the possibilities, but learning about how braised food is prepared through the myriad international recipes included in this book.  I had absolutely no idea!

Whenever I get a new cookbook, it’s always interesting to see which recipe will be made first and to consider why it, above all the others, would be selected.

Although the Ropa Vieja, or Cuban-Braised Flank Steak with Peppers, Tomatoes, and Peppers is tagged, I’ve been so busy that the idea of beginning any recipe the day before it’s to be eaten hasn’t been possible for weeks.  And then there’s the Stuffed Cabbage with Pork and Chestnuts that I’ve been drooling over since opening the book to scan the photographs, its savory layers of ground meat and vegetables nestled beautifully between perfect layers of savoy cabbage and wrapped in bacon.  Oh, my.  I even purchased the ingredients, but again, the sheer time to work on one thing wasn’t something I seemed to be able to pull off.

In the end, it was the Pork Shoulder with Guinness and Dried Cherries that actually came to fruition, and not because I had all the ingredients.  No, it was more about my tastes continuing to develop even at this point in my life, and I was intrigued by the idea of the cherries and the strong beer slowly braising with the pork.  I have not ever been one who likes to mix sweet and savory, but that is changing.

I knew it would be amazing.

The pork is beyond tender and beginning to fall apart when it’s finished, and the interesting combination of sweetness from the cherries is well-balanced by the headiness of the Guinness. This is total comfort food.

Pork Shoulder with Guinness and Dried Cherries

5 c. Guinness stout
1 c. dried cherries
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 pork shoulder roast (5 lbs.)
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
3 large onions, cut in half & sliced
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tomato paste
5 whole allspice, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 c. molasses, light
3 T brown sugar

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Bring beer, cherries, and vinegar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Pour into a bowl, cover tightly, and let sit for at least 1 hour or overnight if necessary.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a Dutch oven, or other large lidded oven-proof pan, heat the oil over high heat.  Season pork roast on all sides with salt and pepper and sear it until nicely browned, about 10-12 minutes.  Place on a platter when done and pour off all but 2-3 T of the fat in the pot.

Saute the onions in the remaining fat and season with the crushed pepper, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes longer.  Stir in the tomato paste and allow it to cook for a minute or two before adding the roast, the cherries and liquid, allspice, bay leaves, molasses, brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt and 2 c. water.  Stir the mixture to incorporate the additions and let come to a simmer.

Place the lid on the pot and put it in the oven to braise for 60 minutes, turn the roast, then return to the oven for an additional 2 hours.

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Remove the pork to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.  Place the pot on the stove and over high heat, cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Serve slices of roast with cherries and a spoon of sauce.

 

Notes:

  • The original recipe calls for the addition of 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, roughly chopped after 1 hour of cooking time.  We’d had mashed sweet potatoes the night before, so it wasn’t going to happen for this recipe.  Now I’m wondering….
  • I used a much smaller roast, so had plenty of sauce — in fact too much.  The sweet potatoes would have thickened the sauce even more.  Still wondering….
  • No fudging on the browing time on that roast.  You need all that lovely brown stuff in the bottom of the pan, remember?
  • I used a variety of onions — Maui sweet, red, and Spanish onions.  Let them get nice and soft before you add the roast.
  • Trader Joes is a great place to get dried fruit.  It always costs less and the dried cherries I purchased were fresh and very plump.
  • With all the sweet ingredients in this dish, you’d think the end product would be almost dessert like, but it wasn’t.  And it got several “Mmms” from me, which is rare.  Even though I enjoy most of the food I make, I’m a very harsh critic, and this was delicious — especially if a bite contained a cherry with a bit of meat.  We enjoyed it with some steamed spinach and red potatoes.
  • I need to make this again with the sweet potatoes and a larger roast.  Definitely worth it.  A very pleasant winter meal that you don’t have to fuss over and could be very cost effective.