Saturday, February 19, 2011

Charcutepalooza and Whey Fed Pork

Have I mentioned I have a crazy job? I do – but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Yet when I finally caught my breath this morning after a week of deadlines and travel and began to catch up on reading at one of my favorite sites, Food 52, I learned about Charcutepalooza, an incredible project conceived by bloggers Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy, based upon meat preserving techniques contained in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn and Thomas Keller. And I learned I’m two months late! Having missed the Duck Prosciutto and Pancetta/Bacon challenges, I’m running out today to pick up a brisket. St. Patty’s Day, here I come. I’ll keep you posted on my effort. 

I had a winter-long love affair with this book four years ago which led to my devouring everything Michael Ruhlman has ever written. I would so have loved to have the resource of Charcutepalooza to vent about my many failures and to gloat about the success that to this day have ruined me for store bought pancetta and guanciale. Congratulations for thinking of such a perfect project – I’m so looking forward to seeing how everyone fares. 

But what to do tonight? Last week, Nina White at Bobolink Dairy was kind enough to ship one of their whey fed pork shoulder roasts and a fresh ham. Although to me Bobolink’s veal shoulder roasts are amazing – they are almost impossible to get this time of year (but spring is coming). Fortunately, their whey fed pork is beyond wonderful as well. Fresh ham into the freezer – pork shoulder, you are tonight’s centerpiece. 

Pork shoulder (also known as pork butt, go figure) can be cooked in so many delicious ways. With the wind whipping today, I’m going comfort food all the whey (get it?) – Maiale al Latte, pork braised in milk. Now, I know this sounds out there if you have never tried it before but it is more than delicious. Although Bobolink’s pork shoulder often comes with the skin on – this particular one did not so it’s perfect for this dish. Had the skin been there, I would have been forced to cook something else. No way could I cook a pork recipe that started with the instruction to remove the skin! 

And by the way – Food 52 – thanks for the Editor’s Pick on what is one of my favorite osso buco recipes Osso Buco with Lemons and Olives! Your site is an amazing resource.

Maiale al Latte
Serves 2 with tons of leftovers

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and pepper for seasoning meat
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 (4 1/2- to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (without skin), tied or not
3 juniper berries, crushed (if you don’t have them, don’t obsess – skip it and pick up a jar next time you are in the market)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chucks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 stalks of celery, peeled and cut into chunks
1 leek, white and light green part only, cleaned and cut into chunks
Peel of one lemon, preferably a Meyer lemon (but, again, don’t obsess) removed with a vegetable peeler,
   taking care not to include the white pith
2 large rosemary sprigs (dried from last summer is fine)
2 large sage sprigs (same)
1 sprig fresh or 4 dried California bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine you would be happy to drink
3 cups whole milk (or if you are not the kind of family with milk in the fridge, 2 cups half & half and 1 cup water)
1.  Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle.
2.  Heat oil in a 6-quart ovenproof heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers – I use a Le Creuset dutch oven and it’s perfect.
3.  Season pork roast with salt, pepper and fennel seeds.
4.  Brown roast on all sides with juniper berries, 8 to 10 minutes total. Remove roast – there should be a little fat/oil left in the pot. If not add a little more olive oil and heat to shimmering.
5.  Add garlic, herb sprigs, carrots, parsnips, celery and leeks and sauté until lightly browned – about 5 minutes. Return roast and accumulated juices to the pot.
6.  Pour wine over roast and simmer until reduced by half. Pour milk over roast.
7.  Cover pot and braise in oven, turning roast occasionally, until tender (milk may form curds), about 2 1/2 hours.
8.  Remove the roast and place on a platter. Tent with foil.
9.  Strain the cooking sauce through a sieve pressing down on any curds that formed. Discard solids. Return juices to the pot (skim off any fat or use one of those fat separating measuring cups). Boil sauce until reduced to about 2 cups.
10. Slice the roast and serve with the sauce.
Serve with soft polenta. Broccoli rabe sautéed in olive oil with garlic and chile de arbol contrasts nicely with the rich sauce.

Leftover weeknight tip: If you have leftover sauce and meat, sauté a leek, some carrots, parsnips, whatever, in a little olive oil with garlic. Add leftover sauce, 2 quarts of chicken stock (homemade is best – or Easter Broth from Marco Canora’s awesome book Salt to Taste known in my house as Freezer Emptying Stock), juice from a Meyer lemon and simmer for thirty minutes. Cube leftover meat and add. If substantial is what you are looking for, add a handful of cooked egg noodles and heat through, but it's not necessary.  Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with a baguette for sopping up good soup.

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