I return. It’s been a while since I’ve written about what I’m cooking. As I mentioned in my last post, I was out of commission for, well, let’s see, over half a year here, because I was in a bad car accident (not my fault) which broke one of my hands. I’m still not totally up to full strength in that hand yet, but I am able to cook now. In addition to the accident, I got caught up in finishing my last semester of classes (which were undoubtedly affected by said accident) and then completing my master’s project. It’s all official now – you can call me Master!
In the meantime, it’s nearly November. Temperatures are still wavering back and forth, but the air smells decidedly like fall: wood smoke, decomposing leaves, damp earth. Nights are crisp and the light is changing. I couldn’t be happier. Fall is my favorite season of the year. Fall is also my favorite cooking season.
Tonight I was craving squash and pork. I decided to make a beer-braised pork shoulder, roasted butternut squash and braised dinosaur kale. My love of all things pork-related is well documented on this blog, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But I also love braising pork because it is exceptionally easy and so flavorful. The possibilities for seasoning are endless, and the cut of meat and cooking method are very forgiving. Tonight I worked with what I had on hand, which included some delicious leftover Woodcut No. 05 Oak Aged Ale (from ODell Brewing Company), and some Haralson apples from a recent apple-picking excursion.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Beer-braised Pork Shoulder
- 3 lb bone-in pork shoulder or butt (sometimes generically referred to as “roast”)
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat (or vegetable oil or lard)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 2-3 medium apples, quartered and cored
- 1 onion, peeled and halved, root end kept intact
- 12 oz amber or brown ale
- 1-2 cups water (depending on size of your pot)
- Salt to taste
Heat your fat on medium high heat in a pot that is large enough to contain the roast and enough liquid to cover it. Put the shoulder in and brown on all four sides. Generously salt each side of the meat when you turn it.
Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, apples, onion, beer and 1 cup of the water. Evaluate your situation: how much of the roast, apples and onion are covered? You want them to be just almost covered, with just the tops breaking the liquid. Add enough water to get to that state.
Bring everything to a boil, uncovered, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. Stir the pot occasionally, every 20 minutes or so, and cook for 2 hours. You can stop cooking as soon as the meat is tender (around an hour and a half), but it just keeps getting tastier the longer you cook it, in my opinion. When you are done, remove the meat from the pot and place in serving dish and tent it with foil. Take your cooking liquid and strain it through a fine sieve to remove all the solids. At this point you can use this liquid to make a gravy (it will not be thick like gravy on its own), or you can simply set it aside to dress your meat when you serve it.
Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 large butternut squash (~3 lbs)
- A couple tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the top and the bottom of the squash. Then cut the squash in half across its middle (i.e., not lengthwise). Butternut squash is somewhat unwieldy, so doing this will give you a flat surface that will make peeling easier. Peel the squash using a peeler or a paring knife. Then cut into cubes roughly 1 inch in size. Put all the pieces in a bowl, toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and season with salt. Spread the pieces out on a rimmed baking sheet so that they are all in one layer (overcrowding will prevent browning). You will bake them for a total of about 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to ensure even browning on the sides. Once golden brown (or rather, golden orange-brown), remove from oven and taste again for salt. Adjust as necessary.
Braised Dinosaur Kale
- 1 bunch dinosaur kale, washed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup vegetable (or other) broth
Cut the hard stems off the kale and set aside in a bowl. Cut the rest of the kale in ribbons about 1 inch wide. Heat the butter in a medium pot (I used a roughly 2 quart pot), and cook until it browns. Add the kale stems, stir to coat in butter, and add a little salt to taste. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the stems have softened a bit. Uncover, add the remaining kale and the cup of broth, stir and then cover again. Cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, then taste the kale. I like mine just a tad bit crunchy, but you make like it softer. Keep cooking until it’s reached your desired texture. Taste again for salt and adjust if necessary.