Braised Pork Shoulder (Ragu) with Fennel and Mushrooms

Watch me make this on my YouTube Channel!

Yield: 6 servings

2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1½ inch cubes

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced medium

3 celery stalks, diced medium

4 large carrots, peeled and diced medium

1 medium fennel bulb, end trimmed and diced medium

1 pound baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2 tablespoons tomato paste (preferably double concentrate)

10 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly

1/8 teaspoon crushed red (chili) flakes

1 tablespoon toasted whole fennel seed

1 cup red wine (red zinfandel or cabernet sauvignon)

2 cups chicken stock

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 cup water

2 dried bay leaves

7 sprigs fresh thyme

3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh oregano

4 teaspoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Ragu Base: pasta, polenta, gnocchi (your choice!)

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, not pre grated

Season the pork (cubes) all over with the salt and pepper.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle-lower position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Open a few windows and/or turn on the oven hood/fan; it might get a little smoky!

Heat a heavy 5.5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high until hot, then add 1 tablespoon oil. It will most likely start to smoke. Evenly distribute the pork and brown on all sides, about 1 minute per side. (Work in batches if need be to not overcrowd the pan) Transfer the pork to a medium bowl. (You should have about 2 tablespoons of oil left in the Dutch oven. If not, add some extra-virgin oil to make up the difference.)

Add the onion, celery, carrots, fennel and mushrooms. Stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, chili flakes and toasted fennel seed. Stir. Cook uncovered for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened.

Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, loosening up any brown bits stuck to the sides and bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes more; it will begin to thicken and you will see large bubbles.

Stir in the stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, oregano, soy sauce, Worcestershire, sugar and pork with any of its juices left in the bowl.

Bring the Dutch oven to a simmer throughout (not just the sides), cover partially (opening the lid about an 1-inch) and transfer to the oven. Cook for 90 minutes, stirring once after 45 minutes, until the pork is tender and can be easily shredded with a fork.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes, covered (lid on fully). Remove the pork and transfer to a large bowl. Shred the pork with two forks. Discard the bay leaves, thyme sprigs, rosemary and oregano. Return the pork to the Dutch oven. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle pork ragu over pasta, polenta or gnocchi. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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