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.

Chicken Teriyaki Pilaf with Butternut Squash and Mushrooms

TeriyakiChix

Watch me make this on my YouTube!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Teriyaki Chicken:

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons mirin

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, grated on a Microplane

¼ teaspoon freshly grated garlic, grated on a Microplane

1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

Add all ingredients, except chicken, to a medium saucepan (do not put over heat) and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add chicken and stir to coat. Let sit at room temperature while you prep the pilaf.

Pilaf:

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, grated on a Microplane

1½ tablespoons minced garlic

1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 cup Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained well

1¼ cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons white miso

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced medium

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias, white and green parts

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add the oils, ginger, garlic and shallot to a 5.5 quart dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until shallots are soft and translucent, approximately 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and are soft, approximately 5 minutes.

Add rice, stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add stock and rice wine vinegar. Stir to combine. Add miso and stir until incorporated fully. Add squash and pepper and stir to combine. Level rice mixture with a spatula. Add the chicken thighs (but not the sauce – keep the sauce in the saucepan!) in a single layer on top of the mixture. Cook, uncovered, until mixture is simmering all the way through (center and sides – everywhere!). Once a simmer is achieved, cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven (keep covered) and let rest, covered, for 20 minutes.

While the pilaf is resting, put the teriyaki sauce over low heat and reduce, stirring occasionally, until 1/3 cup sauce remains. Remove from heat. (You may want/need to reheat sauce if you wait a long time before serving pilaf).

Pour teriyaki sauce over the chicken. Top with scallions and sesame seeds and serve!