Fall Food: Braised Pork, Apples and Cabbage
By Tom // Posted 21 September, 2009 in: Food + Drink, Recipes, Technique
The light chill today was a reminder that fall — my favorite cooking season — is upon us. Fall brings many hearty possibilities ruled out by summer’s heat; suddenly it is possible, even desirable, to have the oven on for a few hours. Enter the braise—meat and vegetables stewed in rich liquid until tender.
This particular recipe was inspired by the small cabbages that Martha insisted we buy at the farmers’ market. When I saw them, my mind wandered to the bowl of crab apples sitting at home and the thick-cut pork chops I keep wanting to buy at Clancey’s. And so a braise was born.
Braised Pork, Apples and Cabbage
Some of the visual appeal of this dish is from the small (5″ diameter) cabbages that we found at the farmers’ market. If only large cabbages are available, use one, roughly chopped, and omit the browning step for the cabbage. Four regularly-sized, tart apples can be substituted for the crab apples; cut them into eighths, rather than quarters.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2# bone-in pork roast
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 fennel stalks or a small bulb, roughly chopped
- 1 quart pork stock (recipe below), cider or water
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 small heads cabbage
- 8 crab apples (about 2″ in diameter)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven (one that has an oven-proof lid) over medium-high heat. Thoroughly coat the pork roast with salt and pepper. Place the pork in the Dutch oven and brown on all sides, a few minutes per side. Remove the pork to a plate and drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat. Return pot to medium heat and add the onions and fennel. Cook until onions are soft and starting to brown. Add garlic cloves, pork roast, and enough pork stock/cider/water to come most of the way up the side of the roast. Bring to a boil, cover and place in oven. Cook for one hour.
Meanwhile, cut the cabbages into quarters. Cut the apples into quarters and slice out their cores. Heat remaining one tablespoon of olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add apple slices, cut side down. Cook until deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Nudge the apples to the other cut side and cook until brown. Transfer apples to a plate. Place cabbage in skillet, one cut side down, and cook until starting to blacken on the edges. Flip the cabbage to the other cut side and repeat. Transfer cabbage to a plate.
After one hour of cooking, remove Dutch oven from oven. Taste the liquid and add salt and pepper as desired. Add cabbage, apples and vinegar and stir to combine. Arrange the pot so the liquid mostly covers everything. Return to oven and cook for another one hour, or until the pork is tender, but not necessarily falling off the bone.
Strain the liquid into a stockpot or large skillet. Return the solids to Dutch oven and cover to keep warm. Bring braising liquid to a rolling boil and continue cooking until reduced by half (or, until you’re tired of waiting). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange apples, cabbage, onions and fennel in a wide, shallow serving bowl. Slice or pull pork and arrange in center of vegetables. Pour reduced braising liquid over top of everything. Serve with hearty bread for sopping up the juice.
Quick Pork Broth:
Just in case you don’t have pork stock sitting around in the freezer (you might want to check in the back), here’s a quick way to get a flavorful broth that will work well as a braising liquid for pork.
- ¼# Ground pork
- Half an onion, roughly chopped (or onion scraps)
- 1 small carrot, roughly chopped
Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan. Add 4 ½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer and allow to cook, partially covered, for one hour. Strain off the solids and discard.