Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Braised Pork Shoulder

There was a time I used to keep The Food Channel on my television for most of the weekend, during the day. I loved it so much, I'd also watch a few episodes more than once. Back then, Unwrapped was still fascinating, I wasn't yet sick of "BAM", and Anthony Bourdain was still on the line up.

Over time, I've become disheartened by how much the network has changed from a "Chef Based" cooking network to a "Food as Entertainment" network. The same tired things get shown over and over again, the great chefs are gone, and Unwrapped is a bore.

Little by little, I just stopped watching and it occurred to me, recently, that I bet I've only turned it on perhaps once or twice in the past year. In fact, the last thing I remember turning in to watch was the very first second (thanks Deb!) season of The Next Food TV Star and I remember wanting that sweet guy (Reggie?) from a Los Angeles Bakery to win, but he lost to Guy Fieri (who in retrospect, although I can't abide watching him gorge his face with food [honestly, must he use his mouth as a back-hoe?], was probably the better choice). How long ago was that, a couple of years at least?

So, it was surprising to me that I was channel surfing the other night and stopped to watch a young woman prepare a simple and inexpensive Braised Pork Shoulder, and I didn't turn the channel. That's very rare these days. It really did look very easy and tasty, and I thought to myself, as I watched "First, I'd like to make that this weekend, but Second, someone needs to show her how to properly use a knife. It's as if she's never learned." I had no idea who she was until I went online to download and prepare the recipe.

The coincidence is, that she is Melissa d'Arabian who apparently is the most recent winner of that same show -- The Next Food TV Star -- and she is not a chef, which explains her less than polished performance and lack of knife skills. The Braised Pork recipe has all five star reviews from the new fans of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners, so I made it and pronounce it excellent. So fast and easy, really economical without tasting like it, and it reminded me that having a cast iron dutch oven is such a good thing. I need to use it more often.

The complete recipe is here. I'd add less wine next time -- my red wine had too much personality. My progress photos are shown below:

Rough chopped celery, leeks, onion, carrots, and garlic cloves.

A pork shoulder, which cost only $4.85 for the entire package (several pounds), was cut into hunks, seasoned, and seared in a cast iron dutch iron. Mmmm, seared pork.

Those babies came out to rest after just getting browned on the outside. I picked all the crispy bits off and ate them. So good.

All but a few teaspoons of the pork fat was drained off, and I added the veggies until they were soft, and then added stocks, seasonings, bay leaf, etc., and brought to a boil.

The seared pork shoulder was nestled back down into the vegetable stock.

Three hours later, I had some beautiful braised pork shoulder and lots of stewed vegetables.

It was pull-apart with a fork tender. After we had pork shoulder and veggies, we pulled the rest of the pork into the shreds and kept that for sandwiches and other dishes. Excellent. Congrats, Melissa!


  1. Guy won on the second season, it was the two gay guys on the first season. I was happy when Melissa won over Jeffrey. He was good, but Melissa made food that normal cooks can enjoy.

  2. Yeah I used to watch food network all the time too. I'd turn it on as background all the time while I was still in school. I'm not real into most of the shows they have on now. I still like Giada and Ina and of course my one true love, Alton Brown but there are so many shows that I don't particularly care for. The pork looks so tender. I will have to give this a shot when it cools down. Though I think I'll do it in a slow cooker. I can't even think about braising something like this until it gets down into the 50's overnight.

  3. Yes, yes, yes! I used to watch the Food Network all the time. I don't know when I stopped, but I did. And I used to love Unwrapped, but it has, as you so perfectly put it, become a bore.

    The pork looks so wonderful. I'm so excited for cold weather to come so I can make all the things that heat up my kitchen, and be happy about it :)

  4. We have had some weird weather lately -- blistering hot one day and chilly sweater-over-the-shoulders the next. I had the pork shoulder so gave it a whirl, but as you've all suggested, it would be so much nicer with a rainstorm outside and a hunk of hot bread.

    Thanks for clearing up the show I was talking about, Deb!

    And Eva, I think Alton B is a hoot. I'd let him cook for me anytime. Some of his best work I think, were the outtakes from his road show (something about asphalt?). His "off air" personality was actually genuinely funny and entertaining when he wasn't doing his shtick -- the real humor was funny as hell.

  5. I have been thinking about making something similar to this, so thanks for the post. I also agree on your comments on Food Network. I used to be able to turn it on and have something good to watch. Now I actually flip and check whether I enjoy the show, or move on to something else.

    I do love Melissa, she was so down-to earth and kept her cool even after some of the other folks in the show were obviously rude to her. And she can cook (w/o the traditional culinary school background). ~ Yudith