Saturday, March 4, 2017

Pork "Beef" Stew

A couple weeks ago, I had a hankering for beef stew.  It had been cold and snowy and beef stew was one of my Mom's specialties when I was growing-up.  Unfortunately, my wife doesn't like beef.  In fact, she doesn't eat much in the way of red meat at all.  One of the few red meats she will eat is pork and only when prepared in certain ways.  She happens to really like the Halloween Stew that I make, so I thought maybe I could just try to make a beef stew and substitute some pork butt (boneless shoulder) meat instead of the beef.  And that's how this recipe was born.

It turns out that pork is an excellent and economical stand-in for beef in a beef stew recipe.  It also turns out that my wife doesn't much like this stew.  Oh well, more for me...

Pork "Beef" Stew

2 pounds boneless pork butt (aka "Boston Butt" or Boneless Shoulder Roast)
1 large onion, cubed
3-4 carrots, sliced into thick coins or half-inch cubes
2-3 stalks of celery, sliced into half-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 quarts beef broth or prepared beef bouillon
1 pound red bliss potatoes, washed and cubed
1/2 cup red wine, un-oaked like a Merlot (optional)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
olive oil
salt & pepper

  1. Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes and season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pot or dutch oven, working in batches, brown the pork and remove it to a plate.
  3. Adding fresh oil to the potk, saute the onions, carrots, and celery until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and saute briefly.
  4. Add the wine (if using) and scrape-up any bits on the bottom of the pot.  Allow the wine to simmer a few moments until the strong alcohol flavor dissipates.
  5. Add the potatoes, broth, meat, and any meat juices collected on the plate.  Scrape-up any remaining bits on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer gently until the pork and vegetables are tender, 30-45 minutes.
  7. Prepare a slurry of 1/2 cup of flour and approximately 1 cup of water.  Stir it well or shake it in an airtight container.  It should be smooth and the consistency of a pourable cinnamon bun icing.
  8. Drizzle half of the flour slurry into the hot soup, stirring constantly so that no lumps form.  Bring the stew back up to a slow boil and check the thickness of the broth.  If you prefer it thicker, add more slurry.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and butter.
Pressure Cooker Variation
Prepare as directed in the base of your stove-top pressure cooker up through step 5.  In step 6, close the pressure cooker and bring it up to full pressure.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Quick release the steam and return the pot to the stove.  Finish the rest of the recipe steps to thicken the broth.

Slow Cooker Variation
Prepare pork and vegetables as described.  Instead of browning the meat and sauteing the aromatic vegetables, place the vegetables in a microwave safe bowl.  Coat with olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Microwave on high 3-5 minutes until they have started to soften and the onions lose their pungent odor.  Place the vegetables, meat, and broth into the slow cooker, omitting the red wine.  Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.  Remove 2 cups of the broth to a saucepan and thicken it into a stiff gravy using the instructions in steps 7 and 8.  Stir the gravy into the slow cooker.  Alternatively, it can be left as liquid and tastes delicious.

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