Autumnal Awesomeness

What classic Autumn pairing comforts the soul and warms the heart as much as braised pork with apples? Basically impossible to mess up, your family and friends will go wild for this sweet-salty, fall-apart-tender Pork Shoulder Braised with Apples. Additionally, the ingredient list is relatively short and cheap, and the skill set needed is minimal; but you’ll need several hours for prep and braise.

Cooking a pork shoulder into heavenly succulence is practically fool-proof, but it does require time. Put the meat in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, pour in just enough liquid so the meat is partially submerged, then cover it and let the pork cook slowly in a low oven for a few hours. This is entirely hands-off time. The pork is done when it’s so tender that it literally flakes apart when you poke it with a fork and falls off the bone—if there was one.

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Look for pork shoulder or pork butt. Even though it’s called a “butt,” it’s actually part of the shoulder meat. (The actual rear end is called the ham!) Not able to purchase a boneless cut, it was easy enough to remove the meat from the bone. Plus, now we had extra fodder for the next time we make homemade meat stock.

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Some varieties of apples fall apart while cooking; here you want the apples to hold their shape. Pink Lady and Honeycrisp are good choices and are widely available. The directions indicate to peel the fruit, but I left the skin on for the extra nutrients it offers. Serve with cheesy grits. Both the meat and grits recipes are from one of our all-time braising chefs, Molly Stevens, so we knew we’d be in for a treat—and we certainly were! The dinner was fabulously feast-worthy, especially accompanied by late-season braised green beans, also by Molly…

DO AHEAD: Bacon and pork shoulder can be cooked 2 days ahead through Step 5. (Which is what we did because we were going to be away for the weekend.) Let cool in braising liquid, uncovered. Chill, uncovered, until cold; cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 6 pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup Calvados or other apple-flavored brandy
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider, preferably fresh
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tart, firm apples (such as Pink Lady or Honeycrisp), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch wedges (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Chopped fresh chives

Directions

  1. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 325°. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until browned and crisp, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
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  2. Increase heat to medium-high. Add butter to pot with drippings. Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Working in batches if needed, cook pork shoulder, reducing heat as needed to prevent overbrowning, until brown on all sides, 8-10 minutes per batch. Transfer pork shoulder to a plate.
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  3. Add shallots to pot and cook, stirring often, until shallots begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
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  4. Remove pot from heat; add Calvados and stir, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Return to heat and simmer for 1 minute. Add apple cider and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then return pork shoulder to pot, placing in a single layer on bottom of pot (the meat should not be completely covered).
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  5. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Braise pork shoulder, turning after 1 hour, until fork-tender, about 2 hours. Stir in reserved bacon.
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  6. Using tongs, transfer pork to a deep platter. Skim fat from cooking liquid. Place pot over medium heat and bring liquid to a simmer. Add apples and cook until apples are just tender and sauce is slightly reduced, 8-10 minutes.
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  7. Stir Dijon mustard into sauce; season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired. Pour sauce with apples over pork on platter. Sprinkle with chives.
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    I was so excited to try the meal, I completely forgot to add a sprinkle of chives!
All three recipes by Molly Stevens
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Serve with Cheesy Grits

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup polenta (cornmeal)
  • 3 oz. real good sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)

Directions

  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, bring the milk and a large pinch of salt to a simmer over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the polenta, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in 1 cup water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is thick and creamy, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
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