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Makes 4 to 6 servings
Braised Tuscan Pork
Mother's Bistro & Bar/Mama Mia Trattoria
Pork shoulder is such an economical but flavorful cut of meat that I’m always finding new ways to use it. In this recipe, the pork braises until fork-tender in a mixture of red wine, tomatoes, sage and flavorful porcini mushrooms. Served on top of creamy polenta, mashed potatoes or fresh pasta, it’s perfect for a cozy fall dinner with friends.
2 pounds pork shoulder (also known as Boston pork butt, preferably Carlton Farms), trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (Love Note 1 below)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging pork
3/4 cup chicken stock or beef stock, or canned low-sodium chicken or beef broth
½ ounce (1/2 cup) dried porcini mushrooms (grade B is fine; Love Note 2)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup dry red wine, such as chianti, cabernet or zinfandel
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juice
2 sprigs fresh sage
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange pork on a baking sheet in a single layer. (You won’t be baking the pork, the baking sheet is just to allow you to spread the cubes out while you season and dredge them). Season with salt and pepper (use less salt if using canned broth). Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour on all sides, shaking off excess.
2. Place the stock in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and add porcini mushrooms. Set aside to soak, covered, for about 30 minutes.
3. Place a large (8- to 10-quart) Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat for several minutes. (You need a very hot pan to brown and caramelize the meat, otherwise it will steam in its own juices.) When hot, add butter and olive oil (adding the fats after the pot is hot keeps them from breaking down or getting smoky while the pan heats), then add the meat in a single layer and brown on all sides, using tongs to turn them (if they don’t come up easily, they aren’t cooked enough. Leave them alone for a bit before you try again). Remove the pieces back to the baking sheet as they finish browning and add more pork to brown in the pan as room allows (it’s okay to use the baking sheet that held the raw meat because the pork will continue cooking later).
4. When all the meat is cooked and removed from the pot, add the red wine to deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits, or “fond,” on the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat off.
5. Lift the porcini mushrooms out of the stock with a slotted spoon, and place them in the pot with the wine. Strain the porcini soaking broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into the pot with the wine. (This helps remove any sand. If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can use a coffee filter.)
6. Add tomatoes, sage and browned pork to the pot. Set heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and place pot on center rack in oven for approximately 1 ½ hours. To check doneness of pork, pierce with a two-pronged fork. If the pork easily falls back into the pot, it is done. (It should stay in cubes but offer no resistance). If there is any resistance, continue to cook for another half hour and check again.
7. Remove pork from oven, discard the sage and serve spooned over polenta.
1. Just as with any braised dishes, it’s important to use tough cuts of meat like the shoulder, which are marbled with fat and connective tissue and only get better with long, slow cooking. It’s important not to undercook it or it will be tough and chewy, but it’s important not to overcook them either, because the meat begins to shred when cooked for too long. Once a two-pronged fork can penetrate the meat without any resistance and the meat falls right off the fork into the pan, it’s done.
2. Porcini mushrooms are graded according to size, shape and color, with the best, most expensive, and hardest to find being grade AA. For this, and most recipes, grade B is just fine because the appearance of the mushrooms doesn’t matter.
3. This, like all stews, soups and braised dishes, can be made ahead and reheated. It’ll get even better with a little age. It also freezes beautifully. I like to use plastic quart containers – enough for two people with a little leftover.