Prudently porky

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 sautéed 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.

10 Replies to “Prudently porky”

  1. I live in a multi-ethnic area and have discovered smoked pork necks. The Boston Butt or shoulder blade roast just behind the neck is the best tasting meat on the pig. Don’t tell your guests what it is, though.

  2. Chocolate Shavings — Thanks! I’m almost ready for the weather to cool down again, just so I can have more.

    Maddog — You’re preaching to the choir. My dad’s family is ga-ga for Boston Butt, usually roasted in the oven with tons of garlic. Makes my mouth water, just thinking of it! I’ve never had smoked pork neck, but I’m sufficiently intrigued to seek it out.

    Jen — You’re such an inspiration. I really think you should go the Marcella Hazan route and open a cooking school in your home; I’d make the commute to take a class. 🙂

  3. i agree with you re: jen. but the commute would be a bitch. but we are starting a little cooking school in my home on nov. 10 with a repeat class on nov. 12 and we have sold out the 16 spots. – well, there’s one spot left on monday. 3 pasta dishes. 3 hours. and wine…

    cucina – a cooking schoolhouse

  4. By the way – sorry to double-comment – is it easy to find offal in NYC? I can get some 200m from my parents’ in Paris’ suburbia, but not sure if it’s as easily available in Brooklyn…

  5. In Brooklyn, I couldn’t say, but I’m sure there are plenty of old-school butcher shops that could easily accommodate a request for offal. One of my friends swears by Florence Prime Meat Market on Jones Street if you’re in the West Village. The pork necks I bought came from Bobolink Dairy, which has a booth at the Union Square Greenmarket every Friday and at the Lincoln Center Greenmarket on Thursday and Saturday.

    And yes, Rufus thoroughly approved. He’s mad for pork, just like me.

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