Sunday Dinner: Drunken Pork Stew

Pigs have four shoulders. Makes sense right? Four legs. Four shoulders. The back shoulders yield ham. Glorious, glorious ham.

Upfront is a whole other sort of gloriousness. The front shoulders yield the Boston butt and picnic shoulder. The Boston butt is fattier, well-marbled, and more tender. The picnic is tougher, as these muscles get more work than those up top. Both can be slow-cooked for a variety of reasons. Picnic is where, if my sources are correct, some North Carolina-style barbecue is derived. Boston butt is the more expensive, easier to cook cut, that you are likely to buy at grocery. Why is that the case? Most picnic goes to from the wholesalers to restaurants or butchers. You will rarely find grocers carrying both cuts.

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These shoulder cuts usually get thrown into the smoker, and cooked low and slow for barbeque purposes. Personally, I prefer taking a Boston butt and treating it like a piece of beef chuck roast: Sear it, submerge it in a bunch of liquid, and braise it.

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What’s left is pure gold. The fat has given way and the pork reduced to fork-tender awesomeness that tastes like pig and whatever liquid is in the pan. In this case, it was a bottle of Diseño malbec.

WHAT WORKED: Don’t skimp on the wine. I usually cook with Yellow Tail because the price is right, but since the wine plays such a big roll, spend a couple of bucks for a decent bottle. Cheap wine is still cheap wine, whether you drink it or cook with it .

WHAT DIDN’T: Jennifer’s recipes are easy so this went together without a hitch.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy to medium. There’s some babysitting and butchering that you have to do.

BEST FOR: This is a great entertaining dish that can be very easily scaled for a larger group.

SERVE WITH: More malbec, duh.

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Drunken Pork Stew
Adapted from the original by Jennifer Olvera at Serious Eats

  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless Boston butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard (smooth, not coarse-grain)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium or 2 small onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and minced
  • 16 oz. full-bodied red wine (I used a malbec, but chianti, shiraz, or cab will all work)
  • 8 oz. tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 12 oz. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Rearrange your oven racks so that one sits at the second position from the bottom and has plenty of clearance above it. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.

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Add your pork to a large mixing bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper. Use a large spoon to toss the pork and coat with mustard. In a Dutch oven over high heat, add 1 tbsp. of oil. When it shimmers, add the pork. Toss in the oil and cook until brown and crisp on all sides, about 10 minutes. 

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With about one minute to go, reduce heat to medium-high. Push the meat to one side of the pan and add the garlic and onion. Saute until the onions soften and begin to brown, about five minutes. Toss the meat and onions together with a wooden spoon, then add the red wine. Scrape up any browned-on bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil and let it boil for a minute. Stir in the tomato juice and spices. Return the pan to a boil, cover, and transfer to your oven. Braise for 4 hours.

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With about 20 minutes to go, combine rice and broth in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cover. Cook rice until tender and all of the broth is absorbed.

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Transfer the pork and rice to separate serving bowls and serve hot.

3 Comments

  • Tim W says:

    Be careful when you label something “Carolina” BBQ. While all Carolina BBQ is pork there are a few distinction to make. Eastern NC BBQ is whole hog with a vinegar and pepper based sauce with no tomato. Lexington (Western) BBQ is Pork shoulders with a vinegar, pepper, ketchup based sauce.

    Then there are the heathens in central South Carolina that use a mustard based sauce and shoulders.

    • jaredpaventi says:

      Yeah, I fail on the whole Carolina barbecue thing. It’s my least favorite style. I should probably go in and strike that section.

  • Niccolo says:

    Very nice. Will try cooking it tomorrow.

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