Monday, July 30, 2007

Braised Pork With Pappardelle Pasta

I know. I can hear the roar of questions: What? Is she crazy? Who in their right mind would braise pork in the middle of summer?

It seems I'm constantly apologizing to those poor northern hemisphere souls who are sweating mightily in a summer heat that only air-conditioning, a swimming pool or winter can mitigate, and who would never consider firing up a stove, let alone doing so for 3-plus hours.

I empathize. I truly do. I spent most of my life in the hot, hot Sacramento Valley where summer temperatures could and did top 100 degrees for days on end.

What can I say? I don't live there anymore, Alice. I live on the cool, foggy-in-summer, 58-degree-average-temperature, far north coast of California. Dishes like this are standard fare for us. Well maybe not standard, but you catch my drift - I use my stove winter, spring, fall and summer.

I received inspiration for this recipe from an evening shared with my sister Alwyn and niece Ann at Della Santina's restaurant in Sonoma. There I had the special, Pappardelle Pasta in a Wild Boar Meat Sauce, which was so good I vowed to try making it at home. Then I saw Jamie Oliver's Pappardelle with Amazing Slow-Cooked Meat on Leite's Culinaria and I was hooked.

Yesterday, the arrival of friends L&D back from an extended vacation was all I needed to get me cooking. Riffing all the way with Jamie and Della Santina's, I came up with this dish. Not having a wild boar at hand and certainly not prepared to hunt one down, I used a tamer version - pork shoulder roast.

Braised Pork with Pappardelle Pasta
Click here to print recipe
Recipe inspired by Della Santina's Trattoria and Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 with leftovers
2-pound boneless pork shoulder, can be tied.
olive oil for the pan
2 tablespoons freshly chopped rosemary
6-8 long sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 carrots, pared and chopped
2 ribs celery, strings pared off with a vegetable peeler, chopped
6 cloves really good,
fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 - 28 ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice (such as Muir Glen's Fire-Roasted or Trader Joe's with basil)
14 ounces fresh water
kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper
16 to 20 ounces dried pappardelle pasta

Use a cast iron Dutch oven if you have one. If not, use a stewing pot or some such thing that will easily hold the roast. Be sure to have a tight-fitting lid.
Season the roast all over with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Heat the pan over medium-high then drizzle with olive oil when hot.
Sear the roast on all sides until the meat is crusty brown and those delicious brown bits (fond) are sticking to the bottom of the pan, at least 5 minutes per side. Lower the heat slightly if necessary to keep the meat and fond from burning.
Remove the roast to a plate and tent to keep warm.

Lower the heat under the pan to medium and, beginning with the onions and carrots, saute the vegetables, adding the celery and garlic after 5 minutes, lowering the heat and stirring occasionally to keep it all from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the red wine (I used a 2003 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres Red Table Wine from Berkeley wine importer Kermit Lynch), the chopped rosemary and the thyme sprigs (you will fish out the naked stems later) and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Allow the liquid to reduce for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, cutting them into chunks with a knife, then return the roast to the pot and add the water to cover most of the roast. If the liquid doesn't cover the meat entirely, don't worry. You will be turning it over several times during the braising period.

Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to very low, and braise the meat for at least 3 hours or until the meat is fall apart tender, turning it occasionally so all parts come in contact with the liquid.
When the meat is done, the sauce can be reduced if you wish.
Remove the meat to a cutting board.
Using a pair of tongs, retrieve the thyme stems which will now be bereft of their little leaves.
Turn the heat up to medium-low under the pan and allow it to simmer, lid off, until the sauce thickens and is reduced by one-fourth to one-third. I did this because my sauce was pretty liquidy, yours may not need this step.

While the sauce is reducing, if necessary, cut the strings from the roast and shred the meat into small and medium pieces. Add the meat back to the sauce. Taste and add kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper if needed. Turn off the heat, set aside in a warm place and start the pasta water.

Cook the pappardelle until it is just over the al dente stage.
Drain in a colander, put it back into the now empty pasta pot and immediately drizzle with a bit of olive oil, tossing to coat. This will prevent the pasta from sticking to itself. Alternatively, you can toss the pasta with a ladle-full of the sauce.
Place servings of pasta on warm plates, ladle on some sauce and meat and serve to your adoring and deserving husband/significant other/family/dinner guests.

Cook's Notes:

This was good. A blogworthy dish if I've ever made one. And because I used not one but two of my favorite fresh herbs in the recipe, rosemary and thyme, I'm submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging which comes to us courtesy of my friend Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. Her round up will be posted Sunday, August 5th. Be sure to check it out for great herby recipes from around the globe.

The Bard waits not for slackers...
Mr CC and I are taking off for a week of great plays, dear friends, tasty food, long walks, tastier microbrews, hot weather (swimming pool provided) and more plays. Ashland calls, as it does every August. This year I'll be doing some cooking for the group in our "kitchenette". We'll see how that turns out...

I'll be back Aug. 6th. See you then.

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