As I mentioned previously, last week I played host to an unplanned dinner party. Huzzah! There was plenty of red wine and a particularly nerdy board game but what really mattered was the massive hunk of pork my guests happily ingested. Even the dog was impressed.
I just happened to have a 6-pound pork shoulder (my packaging called it a “Pork Shoulder Blade Roast”) straight chillin’ in the freezer so I thawed him out in a bowl with some cold water and decided to try a recipe I’d torn out from this month’s Bon Appetit magazine, “Pork Shoulder Braised with Apples.” Along the way I made a few modifications based off what I had in the house – I’m going to recreate my version of it here but the basic gist is the same. At the risk of sounding anything but humble, it was one of the best dishes I’ve made to date and it was easy – it was rich, abundant and the meat just fell off the bone. People are still talking about it.
SO glad I sprung for that subscription to Bon Appetit (and I only did it for the tote bag!)
BRAISED PORK SHOULDER
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp butter
6 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, cut into 6 or so pieces (Bon Appetit says you can use boneless)
4 medium shallots, thinly sliced into rings
4 garlic cloves, crushed open
1 2/3 cup apple cider
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tart, firm apples (I used Fuji but Honeycrisp and Pink Lady work, too) peeled and cut into 1/2″ wedges
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
**I served my pork over cheesy grits – buy ‘quick-cooking,’ not ‘instant’
1. Move your own rack to the bottom third of oven then preheat to 325 degrees. In a large pot/dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned, about 8 minutes – remove with a spoon to a paper towel and leave drippings in pot.
2. Increase your heat to medium-high then add butter to the pot to melt. Season your pork shoulder liberally with salt and pepper then brown on all sides – cook in batches to avoid steaming the meat. It should take about 8-10 minutes per batch. Keep all the meat on a plate.
3. Turn heat back down to medium then add shallots. Stir often until shallots are browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add in apple cider and half the apple cider vinegar and deglaze the pan, i.e. scrape up all the brown bits off the bottom. Bring the liquid to a simmer then add the pork back to the pot along with the garlic. The meat will not be covered all the way by the liquid.
4. Cover and transfer to the oven. Turn the meat after about 1 hour, spooning liquid over all the pork. Cook until meat falls off the bone or is fork-tender, about 2 – 2.5 hours. Give yourself plenty of time – you can easily reheat it if it gets done too early.
5. Transfer meat to a platter and sprinkle with the bacon. Leave pot undisturbed about 10 minutes then skim excess fat off the cooking liquid. Put pot on medium-high heat then add apples. Using a measuring cup or a mug scoop out a little of the hot liquid and add the flour to it – stir well with a fork until smooth. Add mixture back into cooking apples to thicken the sauce. Cook about 10 minutes or until apples are just tender. Stir Dijon mustard into the sauce as you remove from the heat.
6. Pour apples and sauce over pork on a deep platter then sprinkle remaining vinegar on top. Serve with cheesy grits (and make sure everyone gets some of the gravy!)