Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Want To Be Out Standing In A Field

A few weeks ago, I hit the Oak Brook Williams-Sonoma store and was excited to find a great deal (really great deal) on the cookbook, Outstanding in the Field by Jim Denevan. Mr. Denevan is the founder of Outstanding in the Field, an organization that sets up outdoor dinners wherever food is grown. Last summer, he hosted two dinners in Chicago, one in an urban garden. Unfortunately, the price tag was a bit prohibitive but something I've put on my life list.

In purusing my new book, I came across a recipe for Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder that sounded wonderful. I knew I could pick up a beautiful piece of meat at the Community Winter Market, from one of my favorite hog farmers. I like to be able to support our farmers, even in the off season, so I was glad to find a recipe that would allow me to do just that.

The first step is to score the fat and cut slits throughout the meat for aromatics. In each slit I stuck a sage leaf and/or a sliver of a garlic clove. Now it's ready for the pan.

I think one of the most important parts of a good braise is a great sear on the meat. Caramelization of the natural sugars provides depth of flavor, on the meat and in the fond in the pan.

Carrots, onions, celery and garlic are quickly sauteed. Then the pork along with chicken stock and hard apple cider are added to the pan. All brought to a boil, then allowed to simmer in the oven for 2 to 3 hours.

After braising, the soft vegetables and braising liquid is put through a food mill to create a rustic pan sauce. (perfect for Henry since he was none the wiser) Not a bit of flavor is lost. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a bit more stock.

While the plate is dull and dark, sort of like the weather in Chicago, which doesn't allow for beautiful pictures, it was a wonderful meal! Chunks of tender, flavorful pork, hand mashed potatoes with a bit of garlic and sauteed cabbage and onions.

I am so excited to do more from the book - especially with produce from my own garden this summer. In the meantime, I'm going to save my change and hope for enough to someday be out, standing in a field, eating super fresh food with Jim Denevan.

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