Pork shoulder is a classic for braising. The meat turns nearly spoonable but still slices nicely, and leftovers are great for sandwiches. In this recipe the pork is combined with dried cherries and sweet potatoes, balancing their sweetness with the slightly bitter taste of Guinness stout and molasses. Odd combination? I thought so too, but OMG, it was fantastic!
It hailed from renowned Chef Daniel Boulud’s cookbook “Braise, A Journey Through International Cuisine” where all of his recipes are influenced with a global perspective. We know that braising transforms inexpensive, tough cuts of meat into succulent soft morsels. And as Daniel writes “In fact, the cheaper, more sinewy, and more chewy the meat is to begin with, the more delectable it’s texture and the thicker the sauce after cooking.”
The original recipe, which is depicted below, calls for a 5-1/2 pound shoulder roast. We happened to have a 3-1/2 pound pork roast on hand, so that’s what we used and adjusted the other ingredients to follow suit. Then we completed the meal with roasted cauliflower and carrots.
Don’t forget to make the Guinness stout and cherry sauce ahead of time. It needs to sit for at least an hour or be refrigerated overnight for the flavors to meld.
Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries and Sweet Potato
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large red onions, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
5 whole allspice, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
3 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
2 lbs. sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and roughly chopped
Bring the stout, cherries, and vinegar to a simmer in a saucepan. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F.
Warm the oil in a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Season the pork shoulder with salt and ground black pepper and sear on all sides until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pork shoulder to a platter. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pot.
Add the onion and the crushed black pepper to the pot and sauté for 7 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Add the pork shoulder, the marinated cherries and liquid, allspice, bay leaves, molasses, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and braise for 1 hour, turning the pork once during cooking. Add the sweet potatoes and continue to braise for 2 more hours, turning two more times. If the sauce is too thin or is not flavored intensely enough, ladle most of it off into another pot and simmer it until it thickens and intensifies. Then add it back to the first pot.
Seven hours may seem like a long time to make dinner, but much of it is hands off, and it is soooo worth it! Pork Roast with Mushroom Gravy might possibly be “the meal” that I would choose if it was going to be my last. Keep in mind, it needs to cook slowly so that the fat melts and the tough connective tissue softens. The original recipe came from Cook’s Country and it was a great starting point for this long, lazy Sunday afternoon braise.
To build a hearty gravy, start with chicken broth and add water. To maximize the mushroom flavor, toss the mushrooms directly into the roasting pan. This not only imbues the broth with deep, woodsy flavor but also allows the mushrooms to soften and caramelize. We even upped the quantity of the funghi by 20% to a full pound-and-a-half (noted in the list of ingredients).
Sometimes not even grocery stores label pork roasts properly. Were you ever confused between a pork shoulder and pork butt? These two cuts of pork are often mixed up. Both come from the shoulder of the pig, but pork butt is higher on the foreleg, while pork shoulder is farther down—confusing to start with, I know. As relatively tough and fatty cuts, both benefit from long, slow cooking methods such as roasting, stewing, and braising.
To begin with, we doubled the seasonings for the rub, wrapped the pork in plastic wrap, and let it get happy in the fridge overnight. Since we love a good gravy, we also increased by 50%, the amount of liquid (broth and water) that went into the roasting pan. Finally, because we did increase the liquid, we needed to balance the amount of flour to make a roux for the gravy. All of our changes are noted below.
1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, fat trimmed to 1/8 inch thick
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried sage
1 Tbsp.. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 onion, peeled and halved
24 oz. cremini or white mushrooms, quartered
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
PREP PORK Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub all over with 2 teaspoon thyme, 2 teaspoon sage, salt, and pepper. Tie roast at 1-inch intervals with kitchen twine. The roast can be seasoned and refrigerated overnight until ready to cook.
ROAST PORK Arrange roast, fat side up, in roasting pan and cook until beginning to brown, about 3 hours. Add onion, mushrooms, broth, 1 cup water, bay leaf, remaining thyme, and remaining sage to pan and continue to roast until meat is well browned and skewer inserted in center meets no resistance, about 3 hours. Transfer roast to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 30 minutes.
STRAIN JUICES Discard onion and bay leaf. Strain contents of roasting pan through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator; reserve mushrooms. Let liquid settle, then pour defatted pan juices (you should have about 2 cups) into measuring cup and add another 1/2 cup water to yield 2½ cups.
MAKE GRAVY Transfer 4 tablespoons of fat from separator (we did not have enough fat so we added butter too) to large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in pan juices and bring to boil. Add reserved mushrooms and simmer over medium-low heat until gravy is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove twine from pork. Cut pork into 1-inch slices. Serve with gravy.