Heaven in a Bowl: Lisa’s Winter Stew


A few weeks ago, I’d asked J. to pick up a mix of root veggies so we could have them with various upcoming meals. He got a couple of sweet potatoes, garnet yams, russet potatoes, yukon golds (about 1 lb) and a couple of butternut squash. The law of cooking being what it is in my household, we ate one butternut and just haven’t gotten to the rest.

(Yeah, I know “just haven’t gotten to it” is a very lame excuse. It’s only redeeming value is that it is also true.)

Yesterday morning I quickly glanced through our pantry and fridge to make sure we weren’t going to have a lot of rotting things greeting us when we return from SF. (Virgo, aka A/R, alert: We’re not leaving till Sunday, so this meant I could use up stuff over the course of 4-5 meals.) The sight of all that lovely starch made me very sad and I resolved to do my best to do something with all of it before we left.

At first I was tempted to just cook it and mash it, because $5 dinners did it. But then I realized I wasn’t sure how well it would freeze. So when I ran to the (fantabulous) Metro Market for lunch, I tried to think of something to make. A row of fresh-pressed apple cider caught my eye, and I decided to cook a pork roast with cider and use the sweet potatoes and yams (don’t you know its a fundamental precept of the universe that pork+cider+sweet potato = YUM? It is. Unless you’re a vegetarian.)

A quick chat with the lovely meat lady, and I was handed 4 pounds of pork shoulder. “Do you have anything smaller?” I asked, “it’s just my partner and I.” No problem, she just cut it in half. I added that cider to my basket and went home. (Lunch, if you must know, was lox, bagel, smoked gouda, and an apple.)

Once home I started looking for a recipe, but ended up combining two. One was a Pork & Pumpkin Stew (from Gourmet magazine, October 1991) and the other my old favorite Winter Squash and Chicken Stew with Indian Spices.

My recipe is this:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups cider
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound garnet yams, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • In a cast iron Dutch oven heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Brown the pork, patted dry, in two batches, transferring it with a slotted spoon to a bowl as it is browned.

    Add the onions to the kettle, cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are golden, then stir in the garlic. (This keeps the garlic from burning.) Add the cider, the broth, and the pork with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Bring the mixture to a boil, and braise the stew, covered, in the middle of a preheated 350° F. oven for 1 hour.

    Stir in the sweet potatoes, yams, and spices. Continue braising, covered, for 45 minutes or until the yams are tender. Remove from oven and cool just enough to eat.

    This is a magnificent stew: rich, hearty, spicy and sweet. The starches have basically dissolved enough to make a rich ‘creamy’ sauce, and the pork is meltingly tender. So good. So very very good.

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