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One of our favorite winter meals is Braised Pork Roast, a comfy, homey dish much like a pot roast. So often we American’s are so set in the idea that every pot roast should be a beef chuck roast. I recently saw Melissa D’Arabian braise a pork roast, bringing in a bit of French influence. I admit, fully, I riffed of one of her wonderful recipes…and I’m so glad I did!

Oven Braised Pork with Root Vegetables

Oven Braised Pork with Root Vegetables

 Oven Braised Pork with Root Vegetables, 6 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds (about) of pork shoulder, cut into 6 large pieces
  • salt & pepper (don’t be stingy here, especially if using homemade stock)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup (or so) red wine (or substitute)
  • 1 1/2 cups beef or chicken stock or broth (or substitute)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 small sprigs thyme, or about 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 6 carrots, cut into large chunks (as if for pot roast)
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dark jam such as currant or raspberry (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Pat the pork dry and season well with salt and pepper, brown on all sides in pan, working in batches if necessary. Transfer pork to a plate.

Add onion and celery to the pot. Sweat till softened, five to seven minutes. Add garlic and sweat another minute or two. Stir in the tomato paste, cook till lightly carmelized, about three minutes.

Watch this carefully, you will need to stir it and work it. It’s a fine line between caramelized and burnt. Have your wine or liquid ready; it will cool things off quickly if it looks like there is danger of burning. Dust with flour, cook a short minute or two to cook off any raw flavor, stirring.

Whisk in wine, scraping bottom of pan, simmer till reduced by half. Add the stock or broth. Return the pork to the pan with any juices, add bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Add water to bring the level of the liquid to just near the top of the pork, but do allow the liquid to cover the meat.

Cover and place in oven to braise for about three hours at 325 degrees, until meat is fork tender. After an hour and 45 minutes, add in the potatoes and carrots. To promote browning of the vegetables, turn them in the sauce as you put them in. Check the liquid level and add a bit of additional water, if needed. It should be about halfway up the meat at this point.

Check it for doneness and liquid level again at about 2 and 1/2 hours. Depending on how hot your oven runs, it may be close to being done.

When tender, transfer meat, potatoes and large carrots to platter, reseason. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems, defat sauce and reseason. If it seems a little flat, stir in the jam, it is a “stealth” ingredient and adds richness and rounds out the flavor; you won’t recognize it the dish.

You may force the sauce with its diced vegetables through a sieve for a smoother consistency, or pass just as is, as I usually do.

Brown the meat well - this is the basis for all the flavor.

Brown the meat well – this is the basis for all the flavor.

Be careful here - its a fine line from caramelized to scorched. Have your wine ready...Use a plastic or wooden spoon with your enameled cast iron an don't tap it on the top - over the years that will cause rust.

Be careful here – its a fine line from caramelized to scorched. Have your wine ready…Use a plastic or wooden spoon with your enameled cast iron an don’t tap it on the top – over the years that will cause rust.

Let the wine reduce, scraping the bottom until the fond is lifted and mixed.

Let the wine reduce, scraping the bottom until the fond is lifted and mixed.

Ready for the oven - I like to keep a lot of the vegetables to the sides so they brown nicely, and notice the level of the liquid. Check this after about two hours or so, and again about 1/2 before you expect it to be done.

Ready for the oven – I like to keep a lot of the vegetables to the sides so they brown nicely, and notice the level of the liquid. Check this after about two hours or so, and again about 1/2 before you expect it to be done.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my Strategies – You’ll see them all explained on the upper left tab of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied

  • Meat: Pork Shoulders are generally big roasts; I pick them up on sale for 89 to 99 cents a pound, and I have to make them fit my budget.  No one wants the same thing all week, so divide and conquer:  lay the roast on your board and cut off a third for this recipe.  Cut into serving sized portions, and be generous because this cut shrinks considerably as fat renders out.  Cut the remainder in half, holding your knife tight to the bone as you turn the roast. Slide the knife across the bone into what was the middle section – you’ll be able to remove that section pretty much intact for meal two.  Cut into six chunks as well, label and freeze for another week.  The last section, the one with the bone, I rubbed with rib rub and cooked along with the braise, maximizing my time and cost of running the oven. We’ll have pulled pork later in the week, served ‘hoagie’ style. The pulled pork leftovers will be frozen short term for another meal, with a little saved out to remix into BBQ pizza, the leftover buns become garlic toast.  (I’ll be able to pull the pizza dough from my freezer:  last time I made pizza, I doubled the recipe and froze half.  I’ll put it in the fridge to thaw overnight.)  Total cost for the main protein for six, maybe seven meals depending on the leftovers?: $8.19.  My portion today? $2.73.
  • Tomato Paste: I freeze the contents of partially used cans of tomato paste in a small zip bag, and just break off what I need. If I didn’t have tomato paste, I’d substitute any rich tomato product, such as spaghetti or pizza sauce, (and then serve that later in the week as another meal) or just omit. My tomato paste was actually free on sale with a coupon. Cost: 0
  • Vegetables:  The onion was 47 cents a pound totaling 18 cents. The potatoes were free with last week’s pot roast special. If I needed a price, I’d figure  today’s special -  $.78 for five pounds of potatoes, used about 30 ounces, so 29 cents. The carrots were free also, but I still have some, too, for 49 cents on sale around Easter (what, the bunny filled up on chocolate and couldn’t eat his veggies?)  I used 3/4 of a pound, so 37 cents. The vegetable cost is: $.84 on the high end, or if you count the potatoes and carrots as free, 18 cents. (Don’t forget to save your onion skins and carrot trimmings for a future soup.)
  • Liquid in the recipe, Wine & Broth:  Basically, just get 2 1/2 cups of liquid from whatever you have around the house, add in your browned pork and top it off with water.  I happened to have a about a third of a bottle of “Three Buck Chuck” from Trader Joes from a couple of months ago, tightly sealed in a jar (well on its way to turning) which I figured would still add great depth of flavor. My cost was 85 cents, although perhaps, considering most people would have thrown it out, it’s pretty much a free ingredient. If you don’t have on hand, and don’t want to buy a bottle especially for a recipe, see here my substitutes.
  • For the stock, I actually prefer chicken, and used the stock I made from the bones and scraps .  If you don’t have stock, use bullion or tomato juice.  (Save that juice from cans of whole tomatoes when you don’t use them in a recipe – put them in a zip bag in the freezer for stews, braises and pot roast.)  You could certainly used crushed or whole tomatoes.  A little cranberry, grape or apple juice can be added for that fruity note, perhaps with a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar. Add in the jam or jelly at the end for the deep, rich taste – you’ll never know what it is, but it will be delicious.  My cost $.87 cents for the wine and $.24 cents for the broth.
  • Spices, herbs and flour: Buy the bay leaf in bulk at the competitor’s store in the vegetable aisle. (Yeah, if you live in the Twin Cities, you know who I mean!)  The thyme was dried from my garden, and the rest is negligible. I’ll say a generous 5 cents.

Nutritional Analysis per serving:

Calories 549; Fat 26 grams; Cholesterol 101 mg; Fiber 6 grams; protein 30 grams. Sodium 400 mg.

Put Your Own Spin on It:

  • Consider serving mashed potatoes as a side dish to use up all that wonderful sauce instead of making a one dish dinner.
  • Any other root vegetable would be marvelous as a side. Small, baby onions or other root vegetables could be added to the pot with the potatoes.
  • Melissa served hers with Black Beans, but I can’t help thinking that perhaps you might want to add a dash of chile powder and perhaps some cumin for that pairing.

My Pay Off:

A truly hearty meal for tonight, leftovers for a lunch, a get ahead method that has dinners for later in the week most of the way done, and bargain priced meat stashed in the freezer for down the road. I’ve also warmed the heart as well as my house with this long braise, and made my oven do double duty for not just one, but two long cooking meals. My total working time was about 25 minutes, much of that time was spent turning the meat while it was browning, so I was also able to do other tasks in the kitchen while that process took place.  This dinner was a big hit at our house – I literally heard little moans and groans and happy sounds as people ate it, and that is, for me, the highest compliment.

Succulent Braised Pork made April 2010
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