Day Eighteen: Pork Stew with Olives and Fennel

25 Jan

Tahoe supermarkets leave a lot to be desired. High prices, and not that great of selection of fresh veggies and meats. So despite the 40 minute drive, I’ve been trekking over Mt. Rose highway, sunshine or snow, to go shopping in Reno at my beloved Whole Foods. They just can’t be beat in terms of selection and quality of food…..especially their meat and cheese departments. I can’t help but linger around the cheese section, sampling a little bit of this and that, and of course coming home with a few wedges.

Conveniently, their fabulous olive bar is right next to the cheeses, which I also have to patronize every visit. I think we have yet to try olives we didn’t like from there. In fact, the bright green castelvetrano olives have become a staple treat for Christian. Per usual, I stocked up on some of these olives, adding a container of kalamatas into the mix. From there, I decided I would find a dish that would incorporate pork and olives.

Earlier this week I made an Ina Garten recipe from her new book, How Easy is That?, given to me by my mother-in-law this Christmas. The baked shrimp with feta looked fantastic and I had to make those immediately (and it turned out delicious, of course). Anything with fennel and Pernod is alright by me.

Craving more fennel, I was ecstatic when I came across a recipe for a pork stew with fennel and olives on the Cooking Light website. It just seemed so perfect. While I made some tweaks, it is very close to the original recipe found here. I think the use of shoulder is much better in the stew than the tenderloin called for in the recipe, but obviously I’m biased.

To make the dish insanely easy, I just threw everything in the crockpot without browning or sauteeing, so there was virtually no work involved. Sure, browning the meat and onions would have given it a bit more flavor, but I was tired and not in the mood for cooking – a rarity around here. I actually made this the day before we ate it, which was a good call (thanks Christian) because the flavors definitely developed more sitting around overnight, based on my taste test when the initial cooking was done.

The pork, as usual, was so tender  – perfect texture for the stew. The fennel and olives were nice additions, really finishing it off. Lots of flavors in there that work well together – briny olives, slight licorice of the fennel, and sweetness and acidity from the tomatoes.  I probably would have added more herbs de Provence, but even as is, I thought this turned out great.

I ended up serving this dish with on top of some mashed potatoes and parsnips from our CSA box, and a big green salad with dijon vinaigrette.

Pork Stew with Olives and Fennel

  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 cup kalamata or nicoise olives

Add all ingredients, except the olives, into the crockpot. Cook on low for about 8 hours (or high for about 5 hours), until pork is very tender.  When done, stir in the olives and sprinkle with parsley (if desired).

*** If you don’t want to use a crockpot, brown the meat and onions in a dutch oven with some olive oil; add some white wine and scrape up brown bits, then add the rest of the ingredients. You’ll want to cook it on a low heat for a few hours, maybe 2 or so, until the meat is done. Alternately, you can do a hybrid – brown the meat and onions, then throw it all in the crockpot for 8 hours on low.


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