A Dish Served Warm


When I was a child, my father left for work every morning, my siblings and I left for school, and somewhere around the dinner hour we all returned from our various occupations—my father from his downtown office, my brothers from baseball practice, and I from various after-school activities—to be greeted with a hot dinner on the table. Once I left the nest and struck out on my own, this luxury came to an abrupt end. That is, until I bought my first Crock-Pot. The concept of slow cooking certainly wasn’t foreign—huge pots of stews, soups, and budget cuts of meat simmered all day long in the restaurant kitchens I worked in—but neither was returning home after a long day too tired to prepare anything more than a bowl of cold cereal. As pathetic as it sounds, the Crock-Pot became a substitute mother of sorts, and a symbol of the white picket fence fantasy. Hello dear, welcome home. I’ve made beef bourguignon just for you. Because I love you. Sure, go ahead and roll your eyes—the poor maligned Crock-Pot is used to being the butt of jokes and a white elephant gift at holiday office parties. But before you do, dust off the one destined for that yard sale you’ve never gotten around to, or invest $25 in a new one and make this milk braised pork shoulder. Then let’s talk love.

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder
(approximately 6 servings)

3–4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 rib celery, quartered
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, bruised
4 cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
1 sprig each fresh rosemary and sage
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Salt and pepper

Preheat Crock-Pot to high or the equivalent of 350 degrees. Tie the shoulder with twine to maintain its shape. Liberally rub with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large casserole over medium-high heat. Sear the roast on all sides. Do not skimp; a good caramelization is important. After the meat is browned, add garlic, vegetables, and herbs. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add milk and bring to a boil. Season and transfer to Crock-Pot to braise for three hours plus, or until interior reads 160 degrees. Allow meat to rest for 15 minutes. Strain herbs and vegetables from remaining liquid. Skim fat from the coagulated milk clusters and blend until smooth, adding more stock or milk if necessary. Remove trussing and slice. Roasted root vegetables are a great companion.

Originally published in the January 2011 issue.

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