Sometimes, in life and on blog, I feel a little self-conscious about what I eat. I get embarrassed over bringing my grocery basket to the register, wondering what the cashiers must think of me: the girl who grocery shops daily and almost always ends up with a bulb of fennel, citrus fruit, and a little something from the olive bar. I worry that you all might be getting sick of recipes that call for lemon slices, orange zest, shaved fennel, and olives. My cooking crutches are no secret.
This time around, I’m resisting the temptation to turn my crutch ingredients into a salad and instead I’m incorporating them into a braise. We’re going to add pork shoulder to the grocery list and treat it to a long, slow simmer with my favorite ingredients. The richness of the pork will be countered with the slight bitterness of orange peel, briny olives balanced with sweet fennel. Hope you’re hungry; this is a good one.
Let’s get things going. Braising will take a while, but prepping is a piece of cake. Cut the pork shoulder into individual portions. Tie them up with kitchen twine so they won’t fall apart in the pot. Take note-if a recipe author warns you that the meat will become so tender you must worry about it falling apart, it’s a sign of very good things to come. Brown the meat in a Dutch oven, then remove and start building your braise. Sauté an onion, toast some fennel seeds. Add a dollop of tomato paste and wedges of fennel bulb. Deglaze with white wine, toss in quartered oranges and a handful of flavorful black olives.
Nestle the chunks of pork into the pot. Pour in some chicken stock and bring it to a bubble. Cover and pop it in the oven until a fork glides, effortlessly, through the braised pork.
It’s hard to think ill of food crutches when they never let you down and lead you to dinners this good. Sweet fennel, briny olives, and bright citrus: it’s an intriguing combination that might just end up on your perma-grocery list, too.