In last week’s newsletter I mentioned that I was down at my boyfriend’s house in South Carolina for thanksgiving weekend. Well, that casual statement seemed to unintentionally become the DTR heard around the world. Or, at least, in my small virtual corner of it where nothing is truly official until it’s blog-official. So thank you all for your emails, high fives, and fist pumps. You make me feel like I have a hundred Jewish mothers out there instead of just one (my dad).
It’s always a little awkward easing into writing about someone who may or may not want to be written about. So I may have been dragging my feet a little bit with this one. But in my defense, over the past few months, there hasn’t been a whole lot of calculated cooking on my part. It seems I managed to seal the deal using just my charming personality, good manners, and excellent taste in edible headgear.
As far as my non-virtual storyline is concerned, the trip down south in which I met 50 or so members of Charlie’s extended family did kind of set the stage for taking things to the “next level.” And as far as I’m concerned, that next level should include a meal that’s a little bit more involved – a testament to the little dinnertime information gathered so far, and the early taste memories that have been shared. And last week, all that touchy feely nonsense cooked itself into a big mushy pot of pork and parsnip stew.
As the new man in my life was quick to point out, I don’t really post much about meat on this site. But I do cook a fair amount of it, especially when the person coming to dinner considers charcuterie to be a major food group. After spending a few days in swamp country, I had a hankering for slow cooked pork. Since my usual beer base is no longer an option for stews and wooing (see page 134 of my book), I decided to give hard cider a try. Instead of potatoes, I used sweet and savory parsnips. And because I knew my audience, I added hunks of smoky pancetta and a good glug of bourbon.
Despite my own preferences for kale pastas and cauliflower steaks, I have to say that this stew was one of the best new recipes I’ve made in a while. The real proof was when the next morning, the boy who makes the best breakfast around, asked me if he could take the leftover stew home with him, and I only gave him half.
But the good news is, part of being stuck with me means there will always be more stew where that came from. And sometimes more meat than you bargained for.xo
Phoebe (the biggest ham of all)
- ¼ pound pancetta or slab bacon, diced
- 1 ½ pounds pork butt, fat trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- Sea salt
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 1 pound parsnips, peeled and diced
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
- 1/3 cup bourbon or calvados (apple brandy)
- One 12-ounce bottle hard cider
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon room temperature butter
- 1 tablespoon flour (I used GF AP flour)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- In a large heavy lidded pot or Dutch oven, brown the pancetta over high heat until crispy on all sides. Remove to a plate. Season the pork with salt and add to the pot (depending on the size, you may need to do this in two batches). Brown the pork on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove to the plate with the pancetta.
- Add the onion and sauté over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsnips and cook until lightly browned, 4 minutes. Pour in the bourbon or calvados and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the rosemary, pork and pancetta to the pan and cover with the cider, stock, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours, stirring once, until the pork is fork tender but not completely falling apart.
- In a small bowl, stir together the butter and flour. Stir into the stew along with the mustard. Simmer 10 minutes more until thickened. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as necessary. Serve warm alongside semi-sweet potato mash.
Using a sweeter cider will suit this recipe just fine. I used Harpoon, but any brand will work.