In January, when bitter cold strikes the Midwest, all I want is steamy, hot comfort food. These are the days when I don’t mind standing over the stove for hours, leaving the oven on all day. Braised food is among my favorites, especially in the dead of winter. I typically braise beef, but I wanted to try pork shoulder this time. Any tough cut of meat (such as brisket, chuck, shoulder, poultry legs or thighs) is ideal for braising, so if prefer to substitute something besides pork, this dish will be just as delicious.
I love making gnocchi, however, with limited time and space I opted for prepared parmesan gnocchi this time. I found a brand that is just as delicious as homemade, so why not? If you are making your own, you can try potato or ricotta-based. I think either would taste absolutely delicious! Or if you cannot find high-quality packaged gnocchi and do not want to make it, a hearty pasta, such as pappardelle is a perfect substitute.
Although this dish takes time and preparation, I guarantee it is worth the effort. If you double it (which I did) you will have this wonderful braised pork for days and you will definitely thank yourself later. Once you braise meat once, it will be your go-to winter dinner: hot, comforting food that really sticks to your ribs. Bon appetito!
Braised Pork Shoulder with Parmesan Gnocchi, Roasted Mushrooms, and Arugula
2 lb. pork shoulder, trim and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
Sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, diced into ½” pieces
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ c dry red wine
A few cups veggie or chicken broth, or 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes if you want a tomato sauce
A few sprigs of thyme
Plenty of salt and pepper
Heat enough oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium high heat to generously coat the bottom. Add pork, turning the meat to brown each side (you will need to do this in 2-3 batches). Once all sides are browned, remove meat, drain all but 1-2 tbsp fat/oil and add onion. Cook onion until it begins to soften and turn brown. Reduce heat to low and stir in tomato paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add wine, and turn up heat to medium to deglaze pan. With a wooden spoon, scrap and bits stuck to the bottom. Then add browned meat, thyme, and broth or tomato sauce. The meat should be about 70 percent covered in liquid. Bring mixture to a boil, tent with foil and braise in a 325 degree oven for 1 ½ hours or until very tender and easy to shred.
Gnocchi, Mushrooms, and Arugula
8 oz. homemade or packaged parmesan gnocchi
3 portabella mushrooms, washed, stems and fins discarded (or even better, ½ lb. wild mushrooms)
A few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
6 oz. arugula, or another spicy green
Grated parmesan and fresh oregano or parsley for serving
Coat mushrooms in olive oil and place on a foil-lined pan. Season with salt and pepper and toss in a few sprigs of thyme. Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 mintues or until mushrooms brown and start to shrivel. If using portabellas, allow them to cool slightly, then dice them. Cook gnocchi in plenty of salted boiling water until soft. Toss with a little oil and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add gnocchi, mushrooms, and arugula. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Divide among a few bowls, top with pork and some of the braising liquid. Garnish with grated Parmesan and fresh oregano or parsley. Enjoy with a big glass of fruity red wine.