There’s nothing like a good pork shoulder from a healthy, happy and humanely raised pig. The shoulder in particular has so much fat and sinew that–when cooked properly–yields amazing flavor. This is a great dish for large groups and is not difficult to prepare so long as your ingredients are pristine and you take the time to do the small upfront tasks correctly and with care.
INGREDIENTS (serves 8-12):
-Best quality heritage pork shoulder (6-7 pounds) off the bone, skin removed
-3-4 bulbs of fennel, cut into large chunks (seek out the female or more “bulbous” fennel as it has more flavor than the male)
-1 tablespoon organic tomato paste
-1 large yellow onion, coarsely diced
-5-6 carrots, coarsely chopped
-2 tablespoons of fresh oregano or marjoram
-Salt & pepper
-Extra virgin olive oil
-1 bottle of dry white wine
-3 bunches of Swiss chard, washed, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
-Juice from 1 lemon
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut your pork shoulder into 2-3 inch pieces. Remove any excess pieces of fat but leave the majority as the fat will melt into the braise and give the dish incredible flavor. Salt the pieces on all sides.
In a large Dutch oven heat 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot sear the pork on both sides until deep dark golden brown. Remove to a platter to rest.
Add the fennel pieces to the smoking hot oil and brown/caramelize on both sides. Remove to a bowl for later use. Turn off the heat and let the oil and fat cool down a bit. Dump and discard the liquid in the Dutch oven which now contains a lot of fat but be sure to leave all the tasty brown bits which are left behind.
Turn the heat up to medium high and add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion, carrots & herbs to the pot. Season with salt so that they begin to break down. Using a wooden spoon stir the mixture and scrape up as many brown bits as possible. These will greatly flavor the sauce. Once the vegetable are soft (6-8 minutes) add the tomato paste and allow to almost “rust” for 2-3 minutes before stirring through the vegetables. Add the fennel back into the pot.
Place the pieces of pork on top of the vegetable mixture, adding any juices from the platter on which they were resting. Turn up the heat to high. Pour in enough wine to just cover the pork. If 1 bottle is not enough add water on top to cover. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer gently for 4-5 minutes or until most of the alcohol has burned off.
Place the lid onto the pot and place into the 350 degree oven and braise for 3-4 hours or until the pork is cooked through and very tender. Once per hour remove from the oven and give everything a stir and check to see there is enough liquid. If too dry add a bit of water. I like to leave the lid off the last 30 minutes to further reduce and brown the meat.
When ready remove from the oven and keep at a steady simmer on a medium flame. Add the chard on top and allow to “wilt” into the sauce. Add the lemon juice on top. Use tongs to help incorporate into the sauce. Once cooked (4-5 minutes) you are ready to plate the dish. Place a bit of chard onto each plate. Add a bit of pork on top and then ladle over the sauce. Be sure that everyone gets a bit of carrot and fennel. Serve immediately.