Valentine’s Day Deep Mahogany Drunk Pork & Creamy Polenta

“Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.” — Henry Kissinger

Hazan PorkFor some reason this year started out on a relatively sour note for me when I broke my ankle putting Christmas decorations away and since that time I have been pretty up beat most of the time and satisfied to do things at a slower pace on a knee scooter, but now that I am walking with a walking boot, things are going much slower and I proceed with caution given the state of imbalance until I have both feet on the ground again, that means barefoot or flip-flops to me.  So having missed our anniversary celebration and several other would be happy occasions, I decided that I could manage dinner out in freeze your butt off temperatures, but alas, that was not to be even when planning ahead…

I dove right in today with a wonderful dinner idea for Valentine’s Day, yes Michael had to work, but what the heck that didn’t mean that something special for dinner on a very cold night wasn’t in order.  A beautiful piece of pork loin is still in the freezer as I chose the pork butt and of course it had a bone in it, my first obstacle of the day, but the rest of the glorious recipe was so easy, carrots, Grappa, red wine, a few bay leaves and a grate of nutmeg.  The end result was a deep mahogany colored luscious hunk of pork with the most fabulous sauce to go with creamy polenta or (fettuccine tossed with a light drizzle of warm fragrant EVOO and garlic).  I am sure that the pork loin would make an elegant presentation, but for a family style dinner the pork butt was just fine and probably more moist and tender than a pork loin.  So in the end if you aren’t willing to take chances and dine family style at my table on a holiday, you are out of luck…
Serve with a spinach salad with grapes, sliced strawberries, honey peppered pecans and dress with poppy seed dressing.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad  Pork and Fettucine

pork and PolentaMarcella Hazan has the uncanny ability to grab a foodies heart with the simplest of dishes and given the fabulous aroma of the roast, I know we won’t be disappointed.  Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking a wonderful book to add to your cook book collection,  as a matter of fact any of her books would be fantastic additions.
Rather than follow the range top cooking instructions I chose to cook the pork in a low temp oven, 300º for 4 hours or (turning the meat from time to time) until the pork was fall apart tender and for the last 10 minutes I did turn up the oven to 350º to reduce the beautiful dark wine sauce a bit further as suggested in Marcella’s recipe.  Note for oven cooking…tuck crumpled sheets of payment around and over the roast and cover with a lid.

Drunk Pork Roast Marcella Hazan slightly adapted

For 6 to 8 servings
3 medium carrots
3½ to 4 pounds pork center loin or Boston butt, trussed up tightly with string
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter Flour, spread on a plate
2 tablespoons grappa, marc, calvados, or grape brandy (see note)
1½ cups or more dry red wine (Sangiovese)
a few grates of fresh whole nutmeg
2 bay leaves Salt Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill

1. Peel and wash the carrots, then cut them lengthwise into sticks ⅜ inch thick or slightly less.
2. Take a long, pointed, fairly thick tool such as a meat probe, a knife-sharpening steel, a chopstick of the sturdy Chinese kind, or even an awl, and pierce the meat at both ends in as many places as you have carrot sticks, keeping the holes about 1½ inches apart. Stuff the carrot sticks into the holes.
3. Choose a heavy-bottomed or enameled cast-iron pot, preferably oval in shape, just large enough to contain the meat snugly later. Put in the oil and butter and turn on the heat to medium high. When the butter foam begins to subside, turn the meat in the flour, coating it all over, and put it in the pot. Brown it deeply all around, turning it to do so.
4. When you have browned the meat, add the grappa or other brandy. Allow it to simmer a few seconds, then pour in the wine until it is just shy of covering the meat. If the 1½ cups do not suffice—it will depend on the size pot you are using—add more.
5. Add a tiny grating of nutmeg—about ⅛ teaspoon—the bay leaves, several pinches of salt, and liberal grindings of pepper. Turn the pork once or twice. When the wine begins to simmer briskly, adjust heat to cook at a very gentle simmer, and cover the pot tightly. It’s advisable to place a double sheet of heavy aluminum foil between the pot and its lid.
6. Cook at slow heat for 3 hours or more, occasionally turning the meat, until it feels tender when prodded with a fork. After cooking for 2½ hours, check the pot to see how much liquid remains. If there is a substantial amount, remove the foil, set the lid ajar, and turn up the heat a little.
7. When done, the pork should be quite dark, and there should be a small amount of syrupy sauce in the pot. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, slice it thin, and arrange the slices on a warm serving platter. Spoon all the pot juices over it, together with any carrot sticks that may have slipped out, and serve at once.

Ahead-of-time note The roast can be finished several hours in advance, early in the day of the evening you plan to serve it. Reheat it gently in a covered pot, long enough for the meat to warm up all the way through, adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of water if it becomes necessary.

 

Hazan, Marcella (2011-07-20). Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Kindle Locations 9242-9256). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.