With tomatoes aplenty at the market, I’ve been in this meat-sauce mood lately. It’s hearty and warming; perfect for those cold nights in the middle of summer. Ok well, regardless of whether your summers are cold or not– surely there can’t be an inappropriate time for delicious ragu over a buttery plate of polenta? Those who know me, know I love braising. It’s my preferred way to eat fat-laden cuts of meat. Just imagine moist and tender chunks of pork, soaked in a thick sauce of meat juices and herbs, then ladled over creamy polenta. The lobster mushroom and peak-of-the-season tomatoes impart an umami that marries wonderfully with the rich flavor of the pork shoulder. The recipe is pretty standard. I braise my short ribs in a similar way: tomato and onion base, broth, bouquet-garnis, and wine. Try it out!
1 kg or 2.2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 ts kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tb cooking oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 lobster mushroom or small handful of other savory mushroom, chopped
2 Tb tomato paste
750g or 1 1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup full-bodied red wine *
2 Tb dry, Amontillado sherry (optional)
1 1/2 - 2 cups vegetable or pork broth, until meat is submerged
6 small carrots, with stem trimmed
1 sprig rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
1 cup polenta
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Parsley, minced (optional)
Season pork with 1/2 ts kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (medium coarse). Heat pot to medium-high heat with oil and sear until sides are golden-brown, in two batches. Set aside.
Scrape off any burnt bits and add onion, garlic and mushroom to the pot. Cook until brown, about 10 minutes.
Add tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, red wine, sherry, and broth and bring to a boil.
Add 3/4 ts salt, black pepper, pork, and bouquet garnis. Partially cover pot and bring to a low simmer.
After 1 1/2 hours, add carrots to the pot.
Start the polenta: bring water and salt to boil. Add polenta and turn down to medium-low heat. Stir constantly to prevent sticking. If polenta starts to stick to the bottom, add a little more water. Cook until creamy, about 15-20 minutes. Finish with butter.
When pork has simmered for 2 hours, discard bouqet garnis and remove pork pieces. Shred pork and simmer sauce until consistency is thick. Return pork to the pot. Salt as needed.
Serve hot over polenta and garnish with parsley and cheese.
Always use a wine that is good enough to drink. If it doesn't taste good, why put it in your food? Generally accepted full-bodied wines I've used: Bourgogne, Côtes du Rhône, Chianti, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I would stay away from overtly tannic or fruit-forward wines.