Saturday, January 12, 2013

Slow Food: Pork Ragu

“Tomorrow, I’m going to make a slow cooked ragu.”

When you have a day to spend around home, slow cooking a sauce in the oven is wonderfully relaxing.  You can do nothing while a lovely aroma spreads through the house, and you seem a kitchen hero to your family.  I recently made a pork ragu in this manner.

Lie in front of the fire while your dinner cooks itself!

A “ragu” in Italian Cuisine refers to a meat based sauce.  It can have tomatoes in it, but the meat is the main attraction.  A tomato based sauce can have meat in it, but it isn’t a ragu unless it is mostly meat.  So, the Ragu brand pasta sauce at the supermarket (while I’m sure it is delicious) isn’t technically ragu at all.  

Even more technically, this ragu is a Neopolitan Ragu, in that is uses a whole cut of meat rather than chopped up into pieces.  The whole cut of meat is a boneless pork shoulder.  After 3 hours of braising, it was tender to the point of falling apart.  The perfect main attraction for a ragu.

Browned pork shoulder, waiting for braising liquids.

However, the pork needs a lot of support to make it delicious.  It is flavored with shallots, leeks, tomatoes, red wine and spices.  Most noticeably, there is a hefty dose of Sriracha hot sauce. The flavors that resulted were warm, comfy, and slightly spicy.  

I served it over penne with an accompanying salad using my new favorite ingredient, prunes!  Prunes taste lovely in vinaigrette.  They have been tainted by their use as a constipation treatment.  They are so fruity and sweet.  Anything fruity and sweet goes really well with pork!

Sriracha Pork Ragu
(serves 6-ish)

3 lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of skin and excess fat
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 big leek, white and light green parts, chopped
2 14.5 cans chopped tomatoes and their juice
1 cup red wine (I used pinot noir)
2-3 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce, depending on how spicy you like things
5 thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons dried oregano
about a teaspoon fennel seeds

dried pasta
Grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Pat the surface of the meat dry and generously salt and pepper it. Preheat oven to 325 F.  Set a Dutch Oven over medium high heat.  Heat olive oil and butter until butter melts.

Add meat to pan and brown on all sides.  You may have to turn it to awkward angles to get the whole thing browned, but get it all; you don’t want any raw meat to contact your veggies.

Add garlic, leeks and shallots to the pan.  Toss them around to coat in oil and saute until softened, only a few minutes.

Add tomatoes, wine, hot sauce, thyme, oregano and fennel. Liquid should reach about ⅓ the way up the side of the meat.  Add wine or tomato juice if necessary.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and slide the whole thing into the oven.  Cook for 3-4 hours, turning the meat over once an hour.  I knew mine was done when I attempted to turn it over and meat slid right off.

Remove the meat and shred with two forks.  Return to pot and stir everything up.  Taste and add salt, pepper or hot sauce to your liking. Cover to keep warm.

Boil water and cook your pasta.  Serve sauce over pasta and top with parmesan cheese.

Source:  Braised Pork Ragu with Pappardelle, from Dinner: a love story

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