Cooking School #3: Braised Pork Shoulder

Posted by Brette in Food

When I saw this in the magazine (Nov issue of Living, From My Home to Yours, starting on p. 29), I thought there is no way I am ever making that! Not only did the length of time intimidate me, but if you’ve been following along with me, then you know I can get squeamish when it comes to meat descriptions that are too closely linked to anatomy! Then Martha and Sarah prepared it for cooking school and I knew I had to give it a try.

Hitting the Stores

First things first! Shopping! My grocery bill for this was about $21(not bad). I had to get a pot though! You’re supposed to use a Dutch oven for this. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t have one. I went to Target first, and they had nothing! Next I went to TJ Maxx. They had the cast iron enameled Dutch ovens like Martha uses for about $50, but they were so heavy!! Not to mention they didn’t have blue which was what I really wanted (yes, it all hinges on color coordination – see! I am just like Martha!). I just couldn’t imagine myself humping that heavy thing around the kitchen (I think you could break your foot if you dropped it, seriously), so I went with a lighter metal Dutch oven for $30.

Getting Started

I decided to make this for Sunday dinner. Let me say here I have never braised anything and didn’t really know what the term meant. I have certainly browned meats before making stew, but never have I done an actual braise. I was a little skeptical of the process.

After browning

After browning

I dropped the pork shoulder in the pot to begin browning and it smelled so good! It was a little hard to turn it over to get all the sides brown, but with a little help from Mr. MarthaAndMe, it all worked out ok. As it browned, it smelled even better! There was a momentary panic when the kitchen filled with smoke, but I opened a window and turned on the vent and all was well in Marthaland.

Veggie Tales

Once that was done, it was time to saute the veggies. Another confession

Cooking the veg

Cooking the veg

here – I have never cooked with leeks or celery root! Leeks have been off limits ever since my mother tried to poison Mr. MarthaAndMe with some leek soup she made for Thanksgiving, then left on the porch overnight (thinking it was cold enough). He ate some the next day and got really sick (sorry, Mom but it’s the truth!). Leeks were a little more challenging to work with than I expected – the dirt gets inside them and you’ve got to really clean the heck out of them. I’ve never had a reason to use celery root. Parsnips I do make once in a while (I roast them with carrot and rutabaga with some oil and balsamic vinegar). The veggies cooked up nicely and I added the meat to the pot.

Hitting the Bottle?

Adding the liquid

Adding the liquid

Next it was time to add liquid.  Here was another hurdle for me! The recipe called for hard cider. I have never had hard cider in my life and have absolutely no idea where to buy it! Do you know? The local hooscow shop? I seriously have no idea. The recipe says you can substitute sparkling cider. That seemed stupid, so I just used regular cider (just one cup as directed if substituting) and used stock and a little white wine for the rest of the liquid. I boiled it and popped it in the oven.

Finishing Up

I cooked it 2 1/2 hours and strained it and added the veggies. Then I cooked

Ready for the last 30 min

Ready for the last 30 min

it for another 30 min. When it came out it looked and smelled good. I made the beurre

Beurre manie

Beurre manie

manie Martha is all excited about, but really, 1 tbsp of flour does not do much thickening. I like my gravies thick, so I dumped in Wondra and got it to the consistency I like.

Serving

The recipe says to pull the meat apart with a fork into pieces. I did this, but

Finished meat

Finished meat

really, it didn’t look very nice to put out a platter of hunks of meat. I also think this is nicer if you shred it a little more finely. I did that on my plate before eating and it made it look and taste better. This had a nice, moist consistency. The flavor was tasty. The gravy was good (although I would use more cider next time). The leeks were ok. The parsnip and celery root were good.

Shredded meat

Shredded meat

This is not something I would serve to guests since it just does not look very appetizing with all those hunks of meat on a platter. I don’t think I would make it again. It took all afternoon to make and was kind of a big deal. I think I would rather have a pork roast than this.

Side Dish

To go along with this, I decided to make Big Martha’s Mashed Potatoes (p. 221of

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

the Nov issue of Living). The key ingredient is cream cheese. I didn’t really care for this. I always make my mashed potatoes with sour cream and much prefer that flavor. This was too sweet somehow. They weren’t awful, just not how I like them. Overall, this was a good dinner. Mr. MarthaAndMe really enjoyed it. The 10 year old son (Mini-Martha) liked the mashies but wouldn’t eat the meat. Surprisingly, the 16 year old daughter loved it. I was lukewarm on it.

Your Thoughts

Do you think braising is an essential cooking technique everyone should know how to do? Do you braise a lot of meats? If you tried this recipe, I would love to know how it turned out for you!

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