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Braised Pork Shoulder with Fennel, Garlic, and Herbs

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Serves 4 to 6

  • To learn more, read:
    Backward Braising
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 145

The flavor combination in this braise is reminiscent of porchetta, and leftovers make a great sandwich. For the best results, season the pork at least a day ahead.

For the spice rub
  • 8 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tsp. coarsely ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 3- to 31/2-lb. bone-in pork shoulder roast
For the braise
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped (about 2-2/3 cups), plus 1/2 cup fennel fronds for the braise and more for serving, if you like
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
  • 2 cups dry white wine
Season the pork

Combine the garlic, zest, rosemary, salt, sage, fennel seeds, and pepper in a small bowl.

Using a paring knife, trace the fat seams of the roast and around the bone to make a series of deep incisions on both sides, without completely separating the muscles. Score any external fat or skin and fat with a series of incisions 1 inch apart. Coat the meat all over with the rub, massaging it between the muscles and on all sides of the roast.

Put the pork in a Dutch oven or high-sided skillet that fits it snugly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.

Braise the pork

Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1 to 1-1/2 hours before cooking.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 300°F. Uncover the pork, and add the onion, fennel bulb and fronds, rosemary, bay leaf, and wine. Cover tightly and cook until the meat is fork-tender, 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Leaving the liquid and vegetables in the pot, transfer the meat to a rimmed baking sheet to cool slightly. Separate the meat into large chunks, and remove and discard all the fat.

Discard the bay leaf. Skim the fat from the broth. Return the meat to the pot, and arrange the pieces in a single layer. (The dish can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. Reheat at 300°F, covered, for 30 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.)

Raise the oven temperature to 425°F. Cook the pork, uncovered, flipping once, until the exposed surface is well browned, about 40 minutes. Serve with the vegetables and sauce, garnished with fennel fronds, if you like.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 320, Fat Calories (kcal): 110, Fat (g): 13, Saturated Fat (g): 4, Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6, Cholesterol (mg): 90, Sodium (mg): 660, Carbohydrates (g): 9, Fiber (g): 2, Sugar (g): 3, Protein (g): 27

Photo: Scott Phillips

Tremendous dish and method. The bonus of browning at the end is that you can roast your sides (potatoes and green beans in my case) at the same time. I also used crushed star anise instead of fennel seeds, and I think it provided additional depth of flavor.

Outstanding dish, very well received by the family. I used dry hard cider instead of the white wine, and the cut was a little larger at 4 lbs, but it was perfect.

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