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Pulled Pork Sugo, Winter Greens & Chestnut Polenta Cakes

Fri Mar 20, 2009

Pulled Pork Sugo with Chestnut Polenta

Let me start first by saying, no, we haven’t set a date yet. Neal and I might be getting married this fall, or we might be getting married next spring. Or maybe we’ll get married fall 2010—though I think I might lose my mind if I’m in planning stages for another year-plus. We figured we’d pick a date once we found a venue we liked. But that’s just it, trying to find a venue has been like Amazing Race meets Survivor. I’ve gotten lost behind the Orange curtain, hit by a cyclist who ran a red light, seen a wedding venue come menagerie and driven all around Sonoma County with Slingblade barking at me from my father’s GPS, “Bear left, cow right.” All this running around is exhausting. And when I get home from a weekend’s worth of talking about tables and chairs and luxury Porta Potties, cranky for having missed my Sunday morning at the farmers’ market, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time cooking.

Which brings me to reason number 2,356 that I love my Le Creuset Dutch Oven: No-fuss cooking. Forget the crock pot. This can go in the oven, on the stovetop or even on the grill. It’s sturdy, conducts heat great and almost everything I’ve ever cooked in it tastes incredible. I’ve made carnitas, braciole and Hungarian Goulash. But right now my favorite dish is Pulled Pork Sugo with Winter Greens and Chestnut Polenta Cakes.

The word sugo is Italian for “juice” or “sauce” and it is up there in the country’s food lore with the best Bolognese—cooked slow, different for every family and nonna‘s hallmark. Mine started with a recipe from Gourmet and is slowly morphing into something all my own. The dish is hearty and heart-warming, it takes very little effort to make come together—you literally stick it in the oven and walk away for hours—and the flavors have that layered balanced of savory and sweet, texture upon texture. While I love this sugo over chestnut polenta cakes for the nuttiness the chestnut flour adds, and the extra dimension of chew the polenta cakes get, and I like to add sautéed beet greens or Bloomsdale spinach from the South Central Farmer’s Cooperative, it’s also great with firm, dry pastas. The original Gourmet recipe paired it with orechiette, ear-shaped pastas that cup the sauce perfectly, holding onto it like a message from generations long gone. Bigoli, a rough-hewn spaghetti-shaped pasta is another favorite for the dish, and soft polenta goes well, too.

Winter’s running out, which means the opportunities to make this cool weather dish are trickling away with the lingering darkness. But for now I’ll make my sugo and eat the leftovers in the morning, topped with a gently fried egg, a pick through the last of the potential wedding venues on my list, knowing I had to do very little for this great meal.

Pulled Pork Sugo
adapted from Gourmet

2 lbs pork butt or shoulder
salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
11/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup cannellini beans, preferably dried and soaked
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 bunch beet greens, Bloomsdale spinach or other hearty winter green
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, grated

Place rack in the middle of your oven. Heat to 325 degrees.

Pat pork butt dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast in a small roasting pan or Dutch oven, tightly covered with foil and covered, about 3 hours, or until the meat begins to pull apart evenly. (This step varies greatly by your oven so the first time you make it, check after an hour.) When the pork is cool enough to touch, shred and set aside.

Pour off all but a few tablespoons of fat. Add the celery and onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and oregano into combined, then add tomato paste. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine, broth, beans, vinegar and pork and let simmer, covered for at least 30 minutes. If the sauce gets to thick, add a little water. If you’re pairing it with pasta, use the pasta water.

Wash, trim and shred your beet greens. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and heat until glistening. Add the beet greens and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle with salt and sauté until wilted and sweet. Remove immediately from heat.

Serve with Chestnut Polenta cakes (below), soft polenta, or dried pasta. Finish with grated cheese.

Chestnut Polenta Cakes

4 cups water
pinch of salt
1 cup coarse ground polenta
¼ cup chestnut flour
butter
olive oil

Note: The trick to polenta is cooking it for a long time, the longer you cook it, the softer and creamier the corn gets. It also makes it much easier to digest. The trick I learned is to have a pot of hot water on the stove, and to slowly add water as the polenta thickens, to keep it the right texture.

To make the polenta, add water, salt and polenta to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon, adding water as it thickens. Cook for 45 minutes. Add chestnut flour and stir in until it’s full integrated.

Pour polenta into a greased 9×12 dish and let set, then cut into 3-inch squares.

Heat a sauté pan and add a teaspoon each of butter and olive oil. Add the polenta cakes and cook, about a minute on each side until they’re warmed through and they have a crispy skin. Top with beat greens and pour sugo over polenta and finish with cheese. These polenta cakes are also great with fresh tomatoes and sautéed green and a fried egg for breakfast!

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3 Responses to “Pulled Pork Sugo, Winter Greens & Chestnut Polenta Cakes”

 
  1. Phoo-D Says:

    My stomach just growled- this sounds awesome. We love braising and I will add this to the list to try before winter runs out! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Food Woolf Says:

    Oh, and it tastes unbelievably great too.

    True story.

  3. Kevin Says:

    That pulled pork looks tasty!

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