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Pork Shoulder Braised with Apple Cider, Thyme, and Tomatoes

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Serves 4 to 6

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 49

  • Olive oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
  • Roasted garlic cloves, optional

Heat the oven to 350ºF.

Add enough oil to a Dutch oven or high-sided skillet to coat the bottom. Heat over medium high. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Put the pork in the pan and brown on all sides; transfer to a plate. Pour off all but a few tablespoons of fat from the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and fennel to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and perhaps just starting to brown.

Stir in the vinegar, and let it simmer until it reduces by about half. Add the thyme, garlic, and red pepper, and simmer 1 minute more.

Return the pork to the pot, and add the chicken stock, apple cider, and canned tomatoes, plus enough water to barely cover the pork. Bring to a gentle simmer on the stovetop before transferring the pot to the oven.

Braise, uncovered, basting and turning the meat occasionally. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer (barely bubbling). The pork is done when it’s tender enough to cut with a fork, about 1-1/2 hours.

Transfer the pork to a plate, let the liquid cool, and spoon off any fat. (For a smooth, refined sauce, strain the liquid.) Bring the sauce–strained or not–to a simmer and reduce until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Return the pork to the pot.

Slice the pork and serve with the sauce, onions and fennel, and garnish with thyme leaves and whole slow-cooked garlic cloves, if using.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 440; Fat (g): fat g 20; Fat Calories (kcal): 180; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 6; Protein (g): protein g 44; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 13; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 490; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 145; Fiber (g): fiber g 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe has a good foundation. My husband dislikes fennel, so we replaced with celery and carrot, cut on bias. We needed no water to cover the pork but the braising took far longer than 1.5 hours, more like 3. I was ready to give up and call for pizza but it finally started falling apart, albeit a little dry. It was late, so we didn't let the sauce cool off but there was little fat to surface; added cornstarch to the simmer to thicken. Served over egg noodles, the flavor was quite delicious! The instructions called for a lot of little steps, including temperature adjustments that made this seem a lot harder than it should have been. We will definitely try again but make some changes.

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