Day Nine: Milk Braised Pork

8 Nov

Yesterday was nasty. Normally, I’d be happy about falling back and gaining an extra hour, but when it happens on a freezing, snowy day where you are stuck inside, it isn’t that great. It was the longest day ever – it just wouldn’t end. It was a good thing that I planned on making a super comforting dish that would take nearly all afternoon to cook. I had nothing else to do.

Sunday dinner was pork shoulder braised in milk and tomatoes. I used this recipe I found on Epicurious and tweaked it a bit. Mainly, I reduced the amount of liquid because it just seemed like way too much (which it still was even with the reduction) and added some fresh herbs towards the end. When I tasted it mid-cooking, it seemed to be lacking some flavor, hence the addition of the herbs. I also served it over broiled polenta squares instead of the semolina gnocchi associated with the recipe. This was mostly because of the flour thing, but also because their gnocchi recipe seems pretty much like polenta to me.

I really think the alterations were worth it – Christian gave it 4 stars (out of 4) after the first bite. His comment was “Now THIS is the kind of food I like. It has a good, rich sauce”. He’s right, the sauce is rich, but not too rich. It was so good that I occasionally caught Christian eating the extra sauce I brought to the table as if it were soup (I would have too if I hadn’t done the same while I was cooking – thought I’d share the wealth). As a whole, the sauce didn’t overpower the super tender pork, and the firm polenta gave the dish another texture, and sort of acted like a canvas for the other flavors to stand out. Having a fork full of the three components was just plain tasty, and delivered that perfect comfort food feeling we needed.

The consensus was that this was the best dish to date (the shepherd’s pie is a very close second). Now, only 91 more opportunities to make something even better.

The only downside to the dish? It isn’t the prettiest, in my opinion, but I cook to eat the food, not to look at it. It was sort of a light pink sauce, like when you make tomato soup and use milk instead of water, and had the small pieces of onion, carrot and celery. None of the pictures turned out very well, which can largely be attributed to my lack of plating and photographic skills. At one point during dinner, I finally thought maybe a picture would turn out, but the camera acted up and wouldn’t shoot. As a result, no pictures. Sorry.

You’ll have to start the dish the night before, since you “marinate” the pork overnight. I would imagine, however, that you wouldn’t really need that much time to get the flavors right, given what the rub is. The original recipe also says to let the cooked braise sit overnight and reheat the following day. While I’m sure the flavors would develop more, it was fantastic when we ate it right away.

Milk Braised Pork

(adapted from Epicurious)

  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 of a stick)
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used Pamela’s GF Bread mix flour blend)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 slices of pancetta, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 14-oz can whole tomatoes, pureed with juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary and sage
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Mix the pork with the salt and cinnamon. Put in refrigerator and let stand overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, until thickened.  Set aside.

Add the carrots, celery and onion to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Cook the pancetta in a dutch oven until browned, over medium heat, about 6 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook until beginning to brown, another 6 minutes. Transfer pancetta and vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Add the pork to the pot and brown, about 7 minutes. Add the wine, scraping up the browned bits. Return the vegetables to the pot and add the milk, stirring; bring to a simmer. Add the tomato puree, then whisk in the roux. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Cover the pot and place in the oven. After about 1 hour, stir in the fresh herbs. Braise for another hour, until the pork is fork tender.

While the pork is cooking, boil the water in a saucepan. Add the polenta, whisking constantly until it begins to thicken. Cook the polenta, stirring constantly, until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Add the shredded cheese. Brush a baking pan with olive oil and pour in the polenta. Let cool. When the polenta is set, turn it out onto a cutting board and slice into squares, then triangles. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.

Take the pork out of the oven and skim off any fat that has accumulated on top. Cover and let sit. Meanwhile, broil the polenta squares. When one side has brown, flip over and cook until browned and crispy.

Place 2 polenta triangles on each plate, and top with the pork and sauce.

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One Response to “Day Nine: Milk Braised Pork”

  1. Cory November 8, 2010 at 2:37 PM #

    Yummm! Definitely something I’ve never tried before, but sounds really good…

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