Back on Saturday, when we knew we'd be firing up the oven to bake bread but were going out to dinner, we decided to conserve oven-energy and braise a shoulder of pork (Boston butt) for later in the week. We adapted a recipe from a beautiful book on southern cooking we saw at Vaden and Ginger's, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, by Martha Foose. It's essentially just Chinese red-cooked pork; here's the recipe as we did it.
Chinese Grocery Roast Pork and Bok Choy
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 cup dark soy sauce - we used half double-black and half normal
½ cup sake
½ cup rice vinegar - we used Chinkiang, which is black, though Foose recommends a red vinegar - Koon Chun makes a good brand.
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar - we used light brown, plus a lick of molasses
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 star anise
2-inch piece cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon five-spice powder
½ cup water
1 picnic shoulder of pork or Boston butt - 3-4 lbs.
3 baby bok choys, stalks separated from leaves, sliced crossways into half-inch pieces.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, then garlic and ginger, and cook for 1 minute. Add the soy, sake, vinegar, honey, brown sugar, molasses, hoisin, anise, cinnamon and five-spice. Simmer for 1 minute. Add a half cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat.
Place the meat in the liquid, turning several times to coat it with the sauce, and put the covered Dutch oven in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes undisturbed, then baste with the cooking liquid (or just flip the whole thing over) and continue to baste every 20 minutes to half hour until the internal temperature of the meat is 185 degrees, about 4 to 4½ hours.
This is the part we did ahead of time, on Saturday, and put the whole Dutch oven in the fridge, to meditate and improve in flavor. On Tuesday, we threw the Dutch oven back in the oven to reheat, and as soon as it was bubbling, put the chopped bok-choy stalks in the liquid for 10 minutes, then added the leaves and let them cook for 5 minutes more.
The meat was meltingly tender, so parts could be sliced and others pulled apart like pulled pork. We served it doused with pan juice, and the bok choy was fished out with a slotted spoon and piled into another bowl. We managed to avoid chomping down on the star anise and cinnamon just by being careful, because it's hard to find among the clumps of bok choy.
We asked Julie over to help us deal with all this food, and had a great time nattering away over dinner. And afterwards, Kathy and Russel came over with a bottle of Domaine Saint Vincent Brut, another fine sparkling wine from Alburquerque. Who'da thunk that the home of the green chile would also be so hospitable to champagne vineyards?
The wine went beautifully with Holt's individual stone fruit Johnnycake cobblers, which we gobbled up for afters. This is a beautiful recipe from Baking with Julia. Like the pork, we did much of this the day before. We had some very ripe plums and peaches from one of the farmers in the market. We cooked the fruit with just a little sugar until nice and thickened and added a zotz of butter just for fun.
The next day the fruit got put into little ramekins with the Johnnycake (two n's, no space) topping:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flourThere's a nice picture by picture guide to America's simplest dessert here. And here.
1/2 cup cornmea
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 stick (2 ounces or 1/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 12 pieces
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or cream and milk)
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (I used the Robot Coupe). Add the cream till the biscuit holds together. Spoon on top.
Bake at 425º for 15 minutes.