Braised Pork Butt with Herbs and Shallots
We're having another bout of chilly rainy weather here at the seacoast so our food mood turned to the sort of yummy comfort food that fills the kitchen with herby fragrance and warms our bodies from the inside. Pork butt, slowly braised with shallots, rosemary, vinegar, sugar, juniper berries, tomatoes and thyme -- more typically a fall dish -- was my answer to this primordial need. It filled the bill, and the interesting sweet-sour quality of the sauce made it a hit all around. Now if we could just get some sunshine around here!
With pork being bred as lean as it is today, the braised pork butt produces surprisingly little excess fat, but it still has enough fat to deliver a flavorful, moist and satisfying meal. The only trick to this dish is to keep the braising temperature as low as possible, as boiling quickly toughens the pork. Served with bok choi Italiano and pan-roasted potatoes.
Braised Port Butt with Herbs and Shallots
3 lb boneless pork butt, sliced about 1" thick
8 shallots, sliced
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 C red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
3 sprigs fresh oregano
12 juniper berries, crushed
1/3 C dry white wine
Select a heavy Dutch oven or cast iron skillet with tight-fitting lid that can accommodate the meat in one layer.
Brown the pork in a little olive oil over high heat. Remove to a side plate and pour out all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the shallots about 8 minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the vinegars and sugar and stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in the tomatoes, herbs and wine. Add the meat, lower heat, cover tightly and braise for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, turning the meat occasionally and adjusting the heat so that the liquid is barely moving.
Remove the meat to a warmed platter and cover. Skim fat from the liquid in the pan and raise heat to boil and quickly reduce the sauce by half. Strain sauce over the meat and serve at once.