Spain is a nation of pork eaters. Their penchant for pork has economic underpinnings because the matanza—the fall slaughter of the family hog—was central to rural life. A country within a country, with its own language, complex history, and a wealth of artistic traditions, Catalunya (to natives) has more in common with neighboring France, than macho Castile—but all share a love of pork. Catalan food blends Roman, Arabic and even Italian influences into one of Europe’s most distinct and emphatic cuisines.
Anya Von Bremzen is author of The New Spanish Table, one of our favorite Spanish cookbooks. Slow cooking brings out the best in a humble cut like pork shoulder and for our selected recipe, Catalan Braised Pork Shoulder With Dried Fruit. The sauce, enhanced with dried fruit and a whiff of cinnamon, is classically Catalan. (If you think the sauce is too sweet, you can add a splash of red wine vinegar to it at the end—we did.)
Generally tending to dine on the later side, this meal was going to be no exception, mostly because we mistakenly bought a bone-in pork shoulder, which of course takes longer to cook. It was going to be a guessing game as to when the roast would come to the requisite 165 degree temperature. In the end, it only added an additional 1/2-hour. Thank goodness because the aromas wafting through the house were causing our stomachs to growl!
Rounding out the meal were roasted baby potatoes with olive oil and rosemary and a very spring-like side salad. With only two of us eating, there were lots of leftovers, perfect for a quick evening meal later in the week…
Dried cherries and apricots are measured out, while the pearl onions thaw.
After the pork is generously rubbed with salt, pepper and garlic, it is browned in a dutch oven.
Using tongs helps hold the pork upright to make sure all sides are seared.
- 1 boneless pork shoulder, such as Boston Butt (about 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper (kosher or sea)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
- 3 tablespoons light olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 cup peeled white pearl onion
- 1⁄4 cup kirsch (or brandy)
- 2 cups full-bodied dry red wine (with a lively acidity)
- 1 cup stock (beef or chicken or both)
- 3⁄4 cup pitted dried sour cherries
- 1⁄2 cup dried apricot (preferably Californian, halved or quartered if large)
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 small piece cinnamon stick
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Once browned, the casserole is removed form the pot.
The chopped onion, carrot, and pearl onions are added to the casserole until well-browned.
Return the pork to the casserole with the sauce of wine, onion, carrot, and pearl onions.
Remove and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and rosemary sprigs and put the sauce in a bowl for serving.
Cut the pork into slices, arrange on a platter, and pour some of the sauce over.
- Preheat oven to 325º.
- Using kitchen string, tie the pork shoulder crosswise, spacing the ties 1 inch apart. Rub the pork generously with salt and pepper and the garlic.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 5 to 6 quart flameproof casserole or Dutch oven over high heat until almost smoking. Add the pork and cook until richly browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Add the remaining oil while the pork browns, if the casserole looks too dry. Transfer the pork to a bowl.
- Add the chopped onion, carrot, and pearl onions to the casserole and brown well, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the kirsch and cook over high heat until it is reduced to about 1 tablespoon, about 1 minute.
- Add the wine, beef stock, cherries, apricots, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and rosemary sprigs and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the casserole to dislodge the brown bits. Season the sauce with salt to taste.
- Return the pork to the casserole. Cover tightly and transfer it to the oven. Bake the pork, turning it once or twice, until it is very tender and an instant-read thermometer registers 165º, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Transfer the pork to a plate and cover it with foil to keep warm. Remove and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and rosemary sprigs.
- Transfer the casserole to the stove top and cook the sauce over high heat until it is slightly syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Remove the string from the pork and discard it. Cut the pork into slices and arrange on a serving platter. Pour the sauce over the pork and serve.
Baby fingerling potatoes are cut in half and mixed with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper then roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Dinner is served with a side salad.