As I think I mentioned in my menu post, I’m a huge fan of cooking big meals that require little effort. Braises, things in the crockpot, roasts–they’re all amazing because they’re set it and forget it items! Wow, I sound like an infomercial… But seriously, why would you ever want to do something like pan fry fish fillets for 8 while your guests are in the other room. You should be with them, socializing, enjoy a glass of wine and having fun–not hovering over the stove.
The one skill I have yet to master in braising is “slicing” the meat. Now I know slicing a braise is nothing like slicing a roast, but every recipe I see shows these thick tender slices of meat, neatly plated. Um, no. At the first attempt to cut into the meat, it becomes mush and crumbles all together. I mean, it’s good because you know it’s tender (think pulled pork), but at the same time, it doesn’t look the prettiest. It looks like a mush of stew. If I wanted stew, I would have go ahead and made that rather than braising a side of meat for 4 hours.
I pre-ordered and purchased my pork shoulder from Fleisher’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I’m currently in love with the place. I know there are sustainable butchers in Williamsburg and Manhattan, but both are so far. Fleisher’s is conveniently located just a block from the Park Slope Food Coop, so it’s easy to get some meat and pick up the other fixings I need at the coop. I also want to note how EASY they are to work with. I’m an email girl. I hate picking up the phone and I usually don’t have that much time to do so. Shooting an email while doing 12 other things is just so much easier than finding the time to commit to a phone call. I actually choose the majority of my wedding vendors on how well they could respond via email rather than phone. Fleisher’s was great, I emailed them about pricing, they got back to me immediately and after a few quick emails, my pork was ordered.
Anyway, here we go. This recipe was loosely based off a recipe I found on Food 52’s website. I added some fennel to give it another dimension of flavor and used a lot more cider than stock. Plus, I of course altered the recipe to feed my 8 hungry guests.
Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Summer Apples & Fennel (Adapted from Food 52)
- 4lb pork shoulder, boneless and tied
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 8 large yellow onions, halved, thinly sliced
- 1/2 c brandy (apple brandy if possible
- 6 tart apples, peeled, cored and cubed
- 1 fennel bulb, greens removed, halved and very thinly sliced
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano
- 3 c apple cider
- 1 c chicken stock
- 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat the pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven with a lid. Brown pork on all sides, turning with tongs, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer pork to plate. Add onions and 1 teaspoons salt to pot and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft and deep brown (about 15 minutes). Add brandy and stir to deglaze. Add apples, fennel, garlic and herbs, stirring for 30 seconds. Return pork to pot, nestling it down in the mixture. Add cider and chicken stock. Bring pot to a slow boil over medium heat. Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce heat to 325 F. Braise until meat is very tender, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Return pot to cooktop. Transfer pork to a cutting board and remove kitchen strings. Boil pot until mixture thickens and liquid slightly reduced, 5-10 minutes. Stir in mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut pork in serving pieces and arrange on serving platter or individual dinner plates. Spoon onion fennel apple confit over and around the meat. Note: I would advise NOT covering it as much as I did in my photo, so the braised meat can really shine through.