Ah, now this is a meal Nonna would be proud of. So simple, yet so delicious and heartfelt. The only hard part about this dish is waiting for it to be done. It will take about 2 to 3 hours of cooking time. The best part about this dish (besides the taste of course) is that you can use this method on any type of meat. I adapted this version from Chef Anne Burrell’s Braised Lamb Shanks. Instead of lamb shanks I used the skinny end of the huge pork loin I buy and section myself (the two “pork tenderloin” pieces as I described them in an early post). Originally I was going to serve this dish with polenta (I think Anne paired the lamb with polenta too) but when it was cooking the smell of the house just screamed “Italian Sunday” so I paired it with some medium shells. I plan on using this recipe next time I have guests over.
· About 2 pounds of pork loin
· 1 big onion
· 3 carrots
· 3 celery ribs
· 4 garlic cloves
· 2 (6oz) cans of tomato paste
· 2 cups of chicken stock
· 2 tsp each of dry rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes and salt
· 3 to 4 cups of water
· 3-4 bay leaves
· Gremolata (optional and recipe follows)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
2. Using a pan that will be able to go into the oven later (I used a high sided skillet, but a dutch oven will work great too), coat the bottom of the pan with oil and put over high heat.
3. Season the meat with salt and pepper generously and brown on all sides. Be careful the oil is very hot and might spit at you.
4. As that browns, cut all your veggies into big chunks and process in a food processor or blender until it is like a veggie paste.
5. When the meat is done browning, remove from the pan and set aside for now. Add the veggie paste and season with salt and pepper.
6. You are going to cook the veggies until it forms a brown crust on the bottom of the pan. This will take about 20 mins. When it’s ready it should look like this:
7. Add the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes.
8. Then add the stock (or you can use red or white wine too here) and spices
9. Cook this until reduced by about half.
10. Add the meat back into the pan. Add the bay leaves as well. Add the water until the meat is fully submerged (or almost fully submerged, mine stuck out a little). Cover the pan with foil.
11. Cooking time will vary depending on your meat choice, but this is what I did:
a. First 45 mins, then flip
b. Second 45 mins, flip again and take off foil
c. 30 more minutes and then done
Boil pasta of your choice and serve topped with pork and gremolata.
Some good tips from Anne Burrell’s recipe,were that if the water reduces too much, just add more. Also, if you have a fatty meat you might have to skim the fat as you go. I chose a lean meat so there was no fat to skim.
So what is gremolata anyway? It is a traditional topper (condiment) for long cooked meals to help brighten up the dishes flavors. It’s almost like a pop of fresh flavor to accompany the long slow savory tastes of the main dish. Traditional gremolata consists of parsley, lemon zest and garlic. That’s it!
I used the zest of one lemon, 2 garlic cloves, and handful of parsley. Chop them all up together and mill together so it becomes a homogenous mixture.