Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let Us Braise

I absolutely love to braise tough cuts of meat. The connective tissue and collagen melt over low heat and turn into tender deliciousness. And I absolutely love pork shoulder; it is essential for carnitas, pulled pork, and here, braised in marsala wine. I originally found the recipe in La Cucina Italiana, a wonderful magazine which has made buying Italian cookbooks unnecessary. The recipe originally called for a pork loin roast, which I don’t like because it’s a thick, dry cut of meat. I’ve had pork loin roast which ranged from awful to just edible so I wasn’t going to go there.

You can cook the meat in one piece or cut it up into one inch chunks, as I did for a recent cooking class I taught. Regarding the chestnuts you can go one of three ways: leave them out, buy canned ones and use those, or boil and peel them as I describe below. I am going to try the canned ones next time.

This dish is delicious. I haven’t heard a single discouraging word when it is served - only happy sounds.

Marsala Braised Pork Shoulder

Serves 6

½ pound chestnuts
2 ½ pound boneless pork shoulder
Fine sea salt
2 ounces diced pancetta
4 bay leaves
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups dry Marsala wine
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 ¼ cup beef broth
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 325° with rack in middle of oven.

Bring a saucepan to a boil, add chestnuts. Boil 5 minutes, drain. Peel and set aside.

Season pork all over with ¼ teaspoon salt. Place ¼ cup flour on a baking sheet; roll pork in flour to coat.

Heat oil in a 5 to 7 quart Dutchen oven or wide heavy pot with lid over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Brown pork on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes total. Remove pork. Add pancetta and lightly brown.

In a large saucepan, whisk together remaining ¼ cup flour and wine over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking often, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add milk, broth, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Gently simmer, whisking occasionally, until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer sauce to pan with pork. Add chestnuts and bay leaves. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and lid. Roast, turning pork two separate times, replacing foil and lid, until meat is tender.

Remove pan from oven and let meat rest in pan 15 minutes before serving.