A simple and savory winter stew featuring braised pork with apples, rosemary, chilies, and fresh citrus served over polenta.
You’d think that sometime during my decade of blogging, I’d have managed to share all my very favorite recipes. But I haven’t. There are gaping holes – the buttery, cumin-y pinto beans I make nearly every week, my back pocket marinara, and this beloved braised pork shoulder with apples and rosemary. I promise to get to the pinto beans and marinara, but today, I’m thrilled to share this braised pork.
The recipe comes from one of my most beloved cookbooks, Italian Slow and Savory by Joyce Goldstein. It’s filled with unexpected, richly flavored Italian recipes, with a focus on braises, stews, and slow cooked sauces. Published in 2004, before the Instant Pot and even before slow cookers were all the rage, the slow and savory cooking mentioned in the title happens on the stovetop or in the oven.
From the moment I cracked this book all those years ago, braised pork with apples has been a fall and winter mainstay in our kitchen. Cubed pork shoulder is seared and then braised for a couple hours with lots of garlic, chilies, rosemary, and white wine. Big slices of apples are added at the very end, so they keep their shape and texture. The dish is finished with a bit of fresh rosemary, orange segments, and shaved Parmesan, and served over creamy polenta. This braised pork is a study in balanced flavor and simply perfect as winter winds howl outside.
Before we get to the recipe, I want to mention that if you’re a furloughed federal worker or contractor feeling uncertain, or if you rely on government assistance to make ends meet, know that you are in my thoughts. I know why this is happening, but I also cannot believe that this is happening. People’s lives and livelihoods should not be the stuff of political football.
A simple and savory winter stew featuring braised pork with apples, rosemary, chilies, and fresh citrus served over polenta. Recipe adapted from Italian Slow and Savory by Joyce Goldstein.
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or other neutral, heat-tolerant oil
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, fat trimmed, and cut into 2-inch cubes
- sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 - 4 dried Thai chili peppers, or 1 - 2 sliced fresh Fresno chilies
- 1 head garlic, smashed, peeled, and chopped
- 3 sprigs rosemary, plus more for garnish
- 4 medium tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch wedges
- 2 blood oranges, or any sweet orange, supremed* (see notes below)
- 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
- 4 cups water, plus more as needed
- 1 cup polenta
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Sprinkle cubed pork generously with sea salt and pepper on all sides.
Note: during the searing stage, the pork and rendered fat splatters and pops quite a bit. Use a deeper pot than you think you'll need, and ideally, keep a splatter screen handy.
Set a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed, deep-sided pot over medium/medium-high heat, and when hot, add the oil. (Oil should be hot, but not smoking). Working in 2 - 3 batches, sear pork on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove cooked pork to a plate.
Drain off all of the rendered fat. Deglaze pot with a 1/2 cup white wine, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Next, add seared pork, chilies, garlic, rosemary, and all remaining wine. Bring stew to a boil, then turn heat down to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat and cover.
Check braise after an hour. Meat should be incredibly tender, but still hold its shape. Cook up to 1 hour longer (I've found that cooking time varies, so check meat every 20 minutes to be sure it doesn't overcook). When pork is tender and just melts in your mouth, fold in apples, cover pot, and cook an additional 20 - 30 minutes, until apples are cooked through but still have some bite.
Meanwhile, make the polenta. Bring water to a boil, whisk in polenta and sea salt. Stirring occasionally, cook 35 - 45 minutes, or until polenta is creamy. If needed, add an additional cup of water. Taste, and add sea salt to taste.
To serve, ladle braised pork and apples over polenta. Garnish with minced fresh rosemary, fresh citrus wedges, and shaved Parmesan.