The holiday season is kind of a wild ride.
We had Cobe's family over this year. No big deal we thought. Twenty people. We did that for thanksgiving last year.
It turns out, it's kind of a big deal.
Cobe's family always does potluck, and since it's our house we had the main course. Cobe wanted salmon. I had a plan...long slow cooked salmon over very low heat a la Jerry Traunfeld. But with a teriyaki marinade. Or maybe not teriyaki, a pineapple soy.
We tried it. But with pre-frozen salmon. And it sucked.
Then I started to get nervous. Cooking for us and having it flop was one thing, I couldn't do that for the family. I couldn't make salmon. I would be too nervous. I needed something I could make the day before so I decided to make pork. Cobe could make the damn salmon if he wanted to (which he did and it was wonderful....butter and brown sugar).
This is possibly my favorite stew recipe ever, and it's also from Jerry Traunfeld. It is blessed by simplicity. You brown the meat, then sautee onions and garlic in the same pan. Next add some liquid (broth and wine). Then throw in some pears, vanilla bean and thyme and simmer the whole deal for 2 hours. When it's done, you take out the meat and cook down the sauce, addding in more fresh herbs and a little lemon. You will find you have created a new flavor...a mix of pork, pear and vanilla that is so perfect, you wonder why you never thought of it before.
Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Thyme
5 # boneless pork shoulder (boston butt) cut into 10 rectangular pieces, or 5# shoulder blade chops
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c white wine
2 c chicken broth
4 pears, bosc or bartett, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch dice
1 small bunch (1 ounce) thyme
4 bay leaves, fresh or dry
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 T coarsely chopped thyme
1/2 c coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 T fresh lemon
Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat large heavy pot (8qt) over medium high heat x a few minutes, then add olive oil. Using tongs, lower in pork and cook ~3minutes on a side (till deep caramel in color). Do not try to cram more than one layer, will likely need to do a few batches. Turn heat to medium-low and pour off most of fat (leave thin layer). Add in onions and garlic. Cook till softened. Add in broth and wine and scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon to get up all the caramelized bits. Add pears, then add back in pork. Tie thyme together with bay and vanilla using kitchen twine and nestle between pieces of pork. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer over very low heat until meat is tender, about 2 hours.
Take out pork and cover loosely. Discard herbs (bouquet garni). Add chopped thyme to pot, increase the heat, and boil off liquid until thick enough to coat a spoon (5-10 minutes). Add in parsley and lemon and adjust to taste. Return pork to pan and serve. Very good reheated.