This braised pork shoulder with apples, white wine, red pepper, garlic and rosemary, is a delicious showcase for the flavors of fall and the best part is that it’s nearly impossible to mess up. You can just get it ready and let it cook. When you’re having friends over, I think it’s best to do something that you can make ahead of time, so once they show up, you can spend your time discussing Dilbert, complaining about the state senate, or staring into space. Braises and stews are the perfect make-ahead meal. You have to plan ahead, but you also buy yourself some time to have a glass of wine and get yourself looking presentable.
A braise is also a great way to heighten flavors. The richness of the pork, the sweetness of the apples, the heat of the peppers, the fresh garlic, and rosemary from the garden make for complex flavor and a satisfying meal. Serve over polenta, add a lightly dressed salad with bitter greens and you have a sophisticated, simple early fall meal.
Braised Pork with Apples and Rosemary (adapted from Italian Slow and Savory by Joyce Goldstein)
2 and 1/2 lbs. pork shoulder (or another good braising cut, I used fresh ham this time because it was cheaper at the butcher), with the skin and most of the fatty layer removed, and cut into two inch cubes (if you go to a butcher he or she will probably do this for you)
2 cups dry white wine (I used to always use an Italian wine because it’s an Italian dish, but then I loosened up)
2 dried chili peppers
4-5 tart apples- peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
3 sprigs rosemary
1 head garlic, diced
If your pork isn’t already cubed, cube it, and rub it with salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch oven (or a heavy bottomed pot or whatever kind of pot with a lid you have), heat up a little olive oil over high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the pork and brown it on all sides. You can do this in more than one batch if you need to.
When the pork is browned, remove it to a bowl. Throw in the garlic and peppers and scrape the bottom of the pot. After about thirty seconds, return the pork and dump in the white wine and throw in the rosemary. Salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Let this cook for 3-4 hours, at least until the pork is tender, but longer if you have time. If the braising liquid looks too low, add a little water.
When you are about 20 minutes from time to serve, add the apples. Add a little water if the liquid is low. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if you need to.
Remove the peppers and rosemary and discard. Serve in large bowls over polenta with plenty of broth.