Saturday, November 1, 2014

Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Thyme

I don't think I realized how much I use cardamom and chiles until asked to cook gluten-free meals without those. That rules out Indian and Middle Eastern - two of my go-to cuisines for gluten free. Soy restrictions ruled out anything Asian, so that left me spinning back to basics. Luckily, Jerry Traunfeld's Herbal Kitchen is full of simple, yet outstandingly flavorful dishes. I was worried this one might be too sweet, but it ended up just fine. For serving to my guests, I substituted a Napa non-alcoholic grape juice that does a pretty good job of mimicking white wine, but if not dealing with a brewer's yeast allergy, I recommend just going with wine.

One year ago: Steamed Fish Curry
Two years ago: Chicken Fricassee with Porcini
Three years ago: Chipped Beets and Beet Greens
Four years ago: Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake
Five years ago: Chocolate Layer Cake

Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Thyme (from the Herbal Kitchen)

5 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 10 rectangular pieces (I used leg and cut a bit smaller)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 pears, such as Bosc or Barlett, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2" dice
1 small bunch (1 ounce) thyme sprigs
4 bay laurel leaves
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
3 tbsp coarsely chopped thyme
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
Cooked polenta

1. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Sear pork in batches until deep caramel brown. Set aside.
2. Turn heat down to medium-low. Pour most of fat from pan, leaving a thin layer. Add onions and garlic and stir until they wilt down (I let them caramelize a bit).
3. Pour in wine and broth and scrape bottom.
4. Stir in pears and put pork back in pan.
5. Tie thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and vanilla bean together and tuck in between pieces of meat. Cover pot, turn heat to very low, and simmer until meat is tender, about 2 hours.
6. Lift pork from pan, move to a platter, and cover with aluminum foil. Discard bundle of thyme.
7. Add chopped thyme to braising sauce, increase heat, and boil until it thickens enough to coat the spoon.
8. Stir in parsley and lemon juice, season to taste, and return pork to pan. Serve over polenta.

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