11-15-09 - Braised Pork

Night 1 : Braised poker shoulder with polenta. About 4 hours at 325. I added about a cup of root beer this time which had a nice flavor but too much sugar. White wine is really the best braise/deglaze liquid IMO. Also I think it may be best to chop up the meat before browning because it gives you more surface area to get delicious brown on.

Night 2 : leftovers. On night 1 when you put it in the fridge, pour off all the liquid into a tall narrow glass so that the juices and fat separate neatly. Take the fat off and reserve. The juices should be totally solid and jello-like when cold, indicating you have rendered out the collagen. To make a sauce, take just the quantity of juices you want for the moment, reduce the juices a bit in a pan, then whisk in butter. This is a general sauce boosting technique which will make any homey braise liquid more luxurious.

Night 3 : meat pies (Pastys, Empanadas, whatever you want to call them). I've tried these a few times and they haven't been awesome, but I think I finally nailed it. There are lots of little details to get right :

1. Preheat oven to 375 with a baking stone in it. You should prep the pies on parchment paper and then just slide that onto the stone. This will cook the bottom quickly on the preheated stone which keeps the bottoms of the pies from getting soggy.

2. Forget the dough you are "supposed" to use for meat pies (be it the dull Welsh Pasty dough or the puff pasty dough or whatever, they all suck). Just make the crust that tastes delicious to you. I like Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee (BTW any time you see a hat in French it means there's an "s" there in the English version, so pate = paste, hopital = hospital, etc. ) . To make it savory instead of sweet : A. omit the sugar ; B. double the salt (or just use salted butter + the called for salt) ; C. add some pepper and herbs to the crust ; D. use a bit of the separated chilled fat from the braise for some of the butter. (note : I generally think frozen pie crust is an okay short cut for pies, but they are all sweetened so cannot be used here; plus the whole point is the delicious crust, so you're really only cheating yourself that way). (of course do all the things you are supposed to for pie crust - work very cold, do it all in advance so they have time to chill before rolling out, etc.)

3. For the filling : the main thing is it should all be pre-cooked and not have very much moisture. I tried a few things, the best filling I did was like this : cut the pork shoulder into bite size chunks; saute some onions and carrot until just al dente (it will cook a bit more inside the pie but not much) ; let it all cool and mix together. Take a few tablespoons of the mixture and pulse in food pro to make it into a paste, crack in one whole egg, stir this back into the chunky mix as binder. This should look like a very chunky meat loaf or meat ball preparation. Spoon into pie. Be very liberal with spicing - the crust will mellow out the flavors so the filling should be full of punch.

4. Roll out pie crusts quite thin - thinner than you think is okay. Don't over-fill, leave a good inch of border for crimping. Paint edges with water to seal, then crimp well. Cut three BIG air vents - they need to be big because the crust will puff a bit and try to seal itself back up. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle on a bit of coarse sea salt. Bake about 30 or until colored. Brush with melted fat near the end of baking if you want a bit of glaze.

They look like this ; BTW I'm pretty pleased with the S90. It's got its flaws, but it takes pretty amazing photos when you just put it in Auto and press the button and don't do anything (like this one) which is what you really want from a little P&S.

Night 4 : Packaged pork Ramen with pork chunks and cloves added for lunch. Tacos of pork chunks for dinner. (the key thing here is to cut the pork into chunks and pan fry it in hot oil to make it really crispy, like how carnitas is done). Om nom nom.

Night 5 : fear food poisoning risk and throw out last bit of pork.


Aaron said...

Mm, that shot does look good. Nice sharp focal plane, nice blurry background. Nice meat pie too.

castano said...

Something that I love doing with the leftovers or braises and stews, especially when you have enough sauce, is to break them up and toss them in a risoto a few minutes before the rice is done. It's delicious, and turns a few scarce pieces of meat into substantial food for the next two days.

old rants