Today, Le Chef and I spent a good amount of time talking business—we’re working on a couple of projects together (more about that, later!).
So when it came time to cook something, I only had an hour and a half for us to shop AND to cook AND to eat. But we did it. We made this gorgeous Autumn Pork Stew, with Beer, that I’m trilled about. It has this deep, somewhat bitter flavor from the dark beer, which is nicely contrasted by the sweetness of the squash and onions, and the earthiness of the mushrooms. We adored this dish.
Once we had the ingredients on the counter, the entire dish took us 1/2 hour. Really.
Here are the ingredients:
2 nicely marbled bone-in loin chops, 1-inch thick (known as “Iowa Chops” in Amerique Profonde) (2 pounds total)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 large cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut into quarters
4 cippolini onions, peeled and quartered
1 shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 whole cloves
6 ounces dark or amber beer (1/2 a 12-ounce bottle—drink the rest while you cook)
1 cup heavy cream
4 servings polenta (see note, below)*
1. Cut the meat off the bone into 1-inch cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat; cook and stir the pork in the hot oil until it is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook. (This is not a braise–the pork chop is a tender cut that you do not want to over cook). Transfer the pork to a colander set over a bowl to drain all liquid and fat from pan. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, reheat the pan in which you cooked the pork chops over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook briefly in the tiny layer of fat left in the pan. Stand back, and pour 6 ounces of beer into the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes. Add the cream. Let this mixture boil until thickened somewhat, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep in mind that when you taste this mixture on its own, it may taste bitter, because of the beer. But once that flavor hits the sweetness of the squash and onions, it’ll be heaven. We promise.
4. Add the drained pork and the beer-cream mixture to the pot with the vegetables. Bring it just to a boiling to heat it through. Again, do not overcook the pork or it will toughen. Sprinkle with green onions. Serve the stew with polenta.
This is just divine.
Note: Make your favorite polenta (instant, if you’re in a hurry–we were). Make enough for 4 servings and add 1/4 cup butter and about 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; stir in just a tiny bit of cinnamon (1/8 teaspoon) to complement the nicely bitter flavor of the beer. Don’t go overboard on the cinnamon. It’s meant to be more of a faintly warm, lightly sweet suggestion than a “holy cow, I taste cinnamon” moment.