Monday, January 10, 2011

Beer Braised Spiced Pork

This is one of those recipes that I kind of just made up, my first foray into culinary independence. I had been feeling confident enough in my cooking to basically make something by scratch- usually I'm just making tweaks to someone else's recipe. And while the technique is familiar and there are plenty of recipes out there for beer braised pork- or beer braised anything for that matter because the beer makes it GOOD- this one is more a fly by the seat of your pants concoction by yours truly.

Let me assure you it was delicious. Braised in a spiced beer mixture for over 4 hours and what came out was so tender and juicy, the chard and the pork all melting together, perfect over some herbed polenta with homemade bread as a weekend meal. Unfortunately I was so hungry by the time it was done that I snapped one hasty picture, scarfed down everything on my plate and didn't bother to look at the picture until I was done. And what came out looks, well... not very appetising, definitely not good enough to do this recipe justice.
So instead I've included a picture of the very unique label from the beer I used, Jack D' Or, a Belgian Saison style from the Pretty Things brewery in Massachusetts. Isn't that cute? Great beer that supports a small, somewhat local Mom and Pop brewery. But back to the food, I will swear by this recipe, so please don't let the lack of a food porn shot deter you.

Did I mention that it's easy too? The ingredient list is fairly short and once you get things simmering away in the pot it's easy. The thing with braising though is time, which is why I make this on weekends, but if you have a crock pot it would make an excellent week night dinner too. Don't be deterred by the garam masala- if you have the basics for the mixture just use that instead. The cinnamon, cumin and cloves work really well with the pork in general.

Beer Braised Spiced Pork
2 lbs. pork shoulder
1 spanish onion chopped
1 c. chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbl. olive oil
1 22 oz. beer- Don't be afraid to ask what might work best, or read the label as some tend to provide descriptions. The Jack D'or I used is said to have a spiced taste; fruity, slightly bitter with a lingering sweetness.
2 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. pureed tomatoes
4 tsp. garam masala- great spice mixture you can find usually at Whole Foods. Ingredients vary but if you don't have you can make your own following this recipe. Most ingredients will probably already be in your pantry (cinnamon, cumin, cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns).
2 Tbl. honey
1 Tbl. molasses
1 c. swiss chard- the tough stem removed- rolled up and sliced long and thin- any dark leafy green such as collards or kale will do as well, just remove the stem
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325. In a large, oven safe pot (I use Le Creuset but any dutch oven with a top will do) heat 2 Tbl. oil at a medium heat. Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper and then rub the garam masala over. Shake off any excess but reserve for later use. Once the oil is hot, turn up to medium high and sear off all sides of the pork, once done remove and let rest over some paper towels.

2. Add the last Tbl. oil to the pot and saute the onions, carrots and garlic until tender. Once done, add in the remaining garam masala, stir to coat and then add back in the pork. Add in the beer and stir to bring up any browned bits (can be awkward with the pork but do your best). Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and molasses. The liquid should mostly cover the pork, if not add more chicken stock. Put the top on and place in the oven for 3 hrs.

3. At 3 hrs, remove from oven and turn pork over. Here you should check for seasonings and general taste. If it's too bitter add in the honey. If it's sweet enough then skip this. Add in the chopped chard. Cook for one more hr.

4. When done remove from oven, take top off and turn on stove heat to medium. Cook down the liquid until it's a thick sauce. Pork should be fork tender and you can pull apart if you prefer. Serve over polenta or mashed potatoes. Also great in sandwiches, pasta or as a topping for homemade pizza.

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