One of my favorite kitchen activities is to play a home version of Chopped: I scan the fridge and pantry for leftover ingredients from recent meals and come up with innovative ways to use them. For example, you can make an excellent chimmichurri-inspired pesto from leftover parsley, cilantro, almonds, and parmesan (not to mention a healthy dose of fresh garlic and olive oil.) Instead of competing with another person, I compete with myself for how inventive I can make each subsequent new dish.
Coming home from the December holiday vacation was a great starting point for the new year. After a week in California, my fiance and I arrived back to a kitchen full of random goods from our holiday potluck and weeks of lunches he and I had made for ourselves before break. After taking a full inventory of everything in our kitchen (and gutting every shelf to dispose the unusable items), I decided to make good use of the single, leftover bottle of hoppy cider someone brought to our house for Halloween 2015 and the bag of frozen cherries sitting in our freezer from my fiance’s foray into ice cream-making. Cider and cherries… cider and cherries… could be perfect for a wintry braised pork!
This dish is rich, earthy, slightly sweet, and has a nice punch from garlic, onions, and mustard. The alcohol from the cider provides extra depth to the sauce and truly tenderizes the meat. Once you pull the pork and drown it in the stew, pair with a crispy medley of veggies from the brassica oleracea family – kale, Brussells sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, or collard greens go really well with this dish. And pork is perfect for tacos!
- 1 3-4 LB bone-in pork shoulder or loin
- Olive oil
- 4 medium yellow onions, sliced thickly
- 5 garlic cloves, slivered
- 1 bag fresh or frozen cherries, stems and pits removed
- Cider vinegar
- 1-2 TB spicy brown mustard
- 1 bottle hard cider
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat the pork dry and rub down generously with salt and pepper. On medium-high, heat up a stove pan with a drizzle of oil oil until glistening, then carefully add the pork and brown on all sides. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the pork and place in a high-sided, oven-safe pan, such as a dutch oven or another enameled dish. (I used the removable tureen from our crock pot – most can be placed in ovens under 400 degrees.)
Pour off half the oil and rendered pork fat from the skillet and add the sliced onions and a healthy dose of salt. Let him caramelize until golden and slightly browned. Spoon them around the pork and add the garlic, cherries, and a few splashes of vinegar. Dollop mustard onto the pork, salt and pepper the mixture a little bit more, and pour the bottle of cider over the contents. Use tinfoil to tightly cover the top – I used three layers – and place in the oven.
(If you plan to roast some veggies while the pork is braising, just bring up the heat to about 375 before you slide them inside the oven. I added in a pan of cauliflower, onions, carrots, and kale about 40 minutes before I took the pork out of the oven.)
After a total of 3 hours, remove the pot and careful peel the tinfoil from the steaming dish. Remove the pork and use two forks to pull the tender meat apart. Pour the onion/cherry/cider stew into a saucepan and let the liquid boil down for a few minutes. At your desired thickness, take it off the stove and ladle onto a pile of juicy, hot pulled pork. Enjoy!