Another one for the OMG files. My vegetarian friends will have to avert their eyes, because this one is the omnivore’s dream come true. Pork shoulder, another example of a cut of meat that performs very well when prepared in the slow cooker, without any compromise in texture. Fennel is the magical ingredient that takes the dish from simple to spectacular. The recipe comes from Serious Eats, a site that never disappointed me. Kenji’s recipes are trustworthy by default.
SLOW COOKER PORK RAGÚ WITH FENNEL
(slightly modified from Serious Eats)
1 (6-pound) bone-in pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut on the bias
2 large shallots, sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 Parmesan rind
Season pork all over with salt and pepper and place in the bowl of a large slow cooker. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add fennel and carrot and cook, stirring often, until vegetables start to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Add shallots and continue cooking until softened, about 4 minutes longer. Add wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, crushed red pepper, oregano, rosemary, sage, and Parmesan rind. Stir to combine and transfer to the slow cooker, pouring tomato mixture on top of the pork shoulder.
Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours, basting with tomato sauce occasionally. When pork is fall-apart tender, transfer meat to a bowl and discard thyme, bay leaves and Parmesan rind. Skim fat from the top of the sauce and adjust seasonings, if needed. When meat is cool enough to handle, shred using two forks, and discard the bone and any undesirable fat. Mound meat on top of your favorite side dish, spoon sauce on top and garnish with shredded Parmigiano.
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If we have to say goodbye to summer, let’s at least indulge into a bit of comfort food, shall we? Pork shoulder has that melt in your mouth quality that makes it perfect to create a ragú such as this one. Plus, using the slow cooker makes life so easy, you arrive home to the delicious smell of a dinner basically ready and waiting. If you don’t have a crock pot, use your regular oven low and slow or a pressure cooker fast and furious. How about that for flexibility?
The classic side dish for this ragú would be pappardelle, but for the sake of our waistline I normally opt for a root veggie pure, in this case a cauliflower and rutabaga mix. A bit of Parmigiano shaved on top just for good measure. Leftovers get better and better, and if you don’t mind stretching the boundaries of fusion cuisine, they work surprisingly well as a filling for tacos. Remember… flexibility rules, at least in the Bewitching Kitchen it does!
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