A Delicious Regional Italian Pork Dish
Here’s a little background. The Bellini’s “Calling All Cooks” contest didn’t appear on my radar until a couple of days before the submission deadline. The requirements were to submit an original Italian-American recipe and a photograph of the dish. But I had no idea what I should make.
So I called up ADS and we brainstormed about it. And he told me the most delicious thing he put in his mouth this year had been something called Tonno del Chianti. He had it at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
After doing some research online, I found a good recipe. Then came the task of modifying the dish to make it my own and Americanizing it just a bit. Overall I was happy with my entry, and on the day of the cook off despite some challenges with the induction range and the convection oven I was pleased with the execution. It’s really an easy dish to make and difficult to screw up.
Anyway, now I’m free to share this dish with you all. Below is a slightly revised version of what I submitted to the contest, only changed to reflect the purveyors and a few modifications I made on the fly in the cook off. It takes a long time to prepare, but the active time is minimal. Plus I’m happy to hold your hand or answer any questions as you try this at home. And you should totally try this at home. Because it’s a fantastic winter meal.
Tuscan Braised Pork with White Beans and Shaved Red Cabbage
An original recipe by Daniel Berman, inspired by Paula Wolfert & Marcella Hazan
This recipe was inspired by the classic Italian dish of Tonno del Chianti. The joke is that while there are places in Tuscany on the water, Chianti is landlocked. So their “tuna” isn’t tuna at all, but rather pork.
It’s a rich, tender and succulent preparation, simmered in olive oil for hours until it flakes and is as tender as tuna packed in oil. In my interpretation of the dish, the meat is paired with fragrant white beans, dressed in the pork infused olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then everything is topped with a raw shaved red cabbage salad, scented with garlic, and dressed simply with a fresh, fruity olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
Generously serves 4 hungry adults but should probably be stretched much further.
Pork – Ingredients
2.25 pounds of pork shoulder (from Roma Foods)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon Penzeys Tellicherry whole black peppercorns – crushed
2 dried Penzeys Turkish bay leaves – ground to a powder
½ teaspoon fennel pollen (from Adventure in Food Trading)
(or substitute ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds)
½ teaspoon Penzeys dried thyme
3 cups first cold pressed Spanish extra virgin olive oil (from Trader Joe’s)
1 small head garlic – halved
1 organic lemon – quartered
Pork – Technique
Trim the pork of exterior fat. Cut the roast into two inch cubes. Combine spices to make a dry rub. Massage into the meat. Vacuum seal (or pack in an airtight plastic bag) and let sit overnight.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Arrange the meat on a single layer of an enameled cast iron dutch oven. Cover completely with olive oil. Seal the top with parchment paper, close the lid and start on the stovetop over medium-low heat. When the oil starts to slowly bubble (after about 30-40 minutes) add the lemon and garlic. Reseal the pot and put it in the oven for 150 minutes. Check periodically that the oil is bubbling slowly.
When the pork flakes apart easily with an interior that’s a soft pink color, it’s done.
Drain the pork, reserving the oil and any collected juices. Discard the lemon and garlic. Spoon off most of the oil, keeping about 1/4 cup along with the collected juices. Flake the pork, and toss with the oil and drippings.
Beans – Ingredients
1 pound of Hannaford brand dried Great Northern beans
2 dried Penzeys Turkish bay leaves
1 onion – halved
1 organic carrot – halved
2 organic celery stalks
2 ounces Parm-Reg rind – divided into three chunks
Beans – Technique
Pick through beans, rinse, and soak them in fresh cold water overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans. Cover with fresh cold water. Uncovered, bring the pot to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. After thirty minutes drain the beans. Then put back into the pot and cover with boiling water. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and parmesan rind. Cover and simmer slowly until tender. Drain and reserve.
When the pork is done, take a half cup of the reserved oil (or so), and warm the beans through over medium-high heat with salt and pepper to taste. Finish the beans off with the fresh lemon juice to taste (I used three lemon halves in the competition).
Cabbage – Ingredients
½ small red cabbage – finely shredded
1 clove of garlic
2 pieces of All Good Bakers bread crust
just enough good quality first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat
good quality red wine vinegar to taste (from The Cheese Traveler)
Cabbage – Technique
Crush the clove of garlic and rub it on the crusts of some sturdy bread. Toss the bread with the cabbage and let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the crusts and toss with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
Put beans on the center of the plate, Ring the shredded, dressed pork around the beans. Crown the plate with the cabbage. Garnish with fancy lemon slices and fennel fronds if you want to be really fancy. Or eat it as is for a more rustic entree.
Hold onto the reserved broth from the beans. It can make an amazing soup, braising liquid, or vegetarian broth for risotto or polenta. Also hold onto the reserved olive oil from the pork. It’s delicious. Use it to roast carrots or potatoes. Or simply refrigerate it and spread it on toast with a sprinkling of sea salt, like I do. In fact, this highly aromatic oil is so good, making the pork is a convenient excuse to replenish my supply of the stuff.