Well, it’s been quite a couple of weeks, once again. Though work continues to occupy most of my waking thoughts (and many of my sleeping ones), I’ve still managed to keep my pointy-headed geek side fed with election and economic news as well. And I’ve been cooking, turning out lots of comfort food, mostly. It’s the perfect thing for the moment, with the nasty economic downturn, uncertain times ahead for many of us, and winter coming on strong. Comfort food is accessible, imminently affordable, adaptable and delicious to boot.
I’ve really been making an effort to buy quality ingredients and eat locally since reading about the abuse at large-scale farms and slaughterhouses. I just can’t stomach the thought of contributing to that kind of depravity, so when I got an email from the Bobolink folks announcing the sale of their whey-fed pork, I placed an order for some of the nasty bits that are pretty hard to find, anyway — feet, knuckles, and necks.
For my first meal, I made a basic, but delicious pork neck ragu shamlessly ripped off from inspired by Jen‘s post from a few weeks ago. You traditional types out there will be horrified, but my family’s red sauces always started with a roux, so that was my jumping-off point; it really adds a depth of flavor you just can’t get otherwise. I heavily salted the pork necks and browned them very well in the dark roux, moved them from the pan, then sautÃ©ed chopped onion, celery, garlic, carrot and a bay leaf in a little extra olive oil added to the roux. Once the vegetables had softened, I added a few tablespoons of tomato paste to a hot spot in the pan, stirring until it caramelized; a few glugs of dry white wine, some fresh thyme springs, and two cups of chicken stock went in next, and once it came to a boil, I nested the pork necks in the sauce. After covering the pan tightly, I put it in a 325-degree oven for about three hours.
I took the necks out of the sauce and pulled the meat from the bones once they were cool enough to handle. Then I simmered the shredded pork in the sauce until much of the liquid had evaporated, set aside 2/3 to freeze for a later meal, and served the rest (loosened with a little pasta water) with penne.
Totally comforting, completely delicious, and didn’t break the bank. I’d call it a success.
And Happy Halloween, everyone! May your evenings be filled with candy and costumes.