Braising the Beast: Slow Cooking the Pork Shoulder Medallion

After yesterday’s grand adventure of getting out of bed following the flu, my marinated pork shoulder medallion was ready to be braised. I was hungry.

I took out the bag with the hefty pork medallion and through the plastic I could see the chunks of garlic, bright shreds of orange peel and pools of gleaming olive oil, it looked so inviting. I knew this was going to be a great dinner.

I rummaged through the vegetable bin and it was mostly empty save lots of unopened packs of bacon, 3 very strong Spanish yellow onions and the bottom, seedy half of a butternut squash. I decided to save the bacon for later and started cooking.

I lifted the pork from the bag, scraping off the fragrant marinade as I went, dried it a bit and seasoned it heavily with salt and pepper. In my 5 quart enameled Dutch oven I browned the pork until it achieved a deep brown on all sides. I started the browning with a spoonful of duck fat but the pork has such a thick layer of luscious creamy fat that it didn’t take much to render a good inch of fat during the browning process.

I removed the browned pork onto a platter and poured off the fat. Seemed such a shame to toss it but I would rather not eat it especially given the recent state of my stomach.

The pot had lots of lovely browned, stuck on bits so I added the chicken stock that I purchased from the butcher (sadly I was out of homemade and hadn’t roasted a chicken in ages, my empty freezer keened over the loss). While the stock was heating up I added in a cutting board full of chopped onions, salt and pepper, a fresh bay leaf, all of the marinade from the plastic bag I could scrape out and a slosh of balsamic vinegar. The pork went in the pot next, almost submerged in the savory broth, and the top to the Dutch oven went on. I slid the pot into what is quaintly called a slow oven, in modern kitchens this is between 300-325 F.

I set the timer on my phone for 2 hours and went to bed with the phone right next to my more clear ear and conked out solidly.

A lovely nap later and a cup of tea, I peeled and seeded the hunk of butternut squash and cut it into large dice. I added them to the Dutch oven, making sure the pork shoulder was still cozy and covered with the braising liquid.

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It looked pretty good to me.

It went back in the oven for another 45 minutes, which gave me enough time to have a steamy shower and to tidy up the kitchen with my hair wrapped up turban-style. I really wanted a caftan to wear but that was not to be.

When the timer went off again I removed the merrily bubbling pot from the oven and gave myself a brief sauna when I opened the Dutch oven lid. I think it smelled good, my poor nose is pretty malfunctional. I tasted the squash and it was perfectly tender, meltingly so. The pork was extremely tender but still holding its shape.

The thick layer of porky fat on the medallion had given off so much fat that there must have been a good cup and a half of it floating on top of the pot. I was planning on removing the meat to let it rest and add orzo to the pot to soak up the savory broth and with the squash become the most delicious pasta base for chunks of the tender pork. I just knew that I really needed to chill off the braising liquid to remove this fat, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the dish.

With a heavy heart and an empty stomach I removed the pork and then, with a slotted spoon, removed the creamy onions and butternut squash pieces to a storage bowl. I poured the broth and fat into a tub and marveled at the thick layer that already began to separate from the broth. I slid the tub of broth into the freezer and put away the pork to chill in the fridge and then ordered a pizza. It was a perfectly fine pizza and the salad was excellent, but I wished it was the next day. I know though that this dish will taste even better the next night.

Tomorrow, the finish…

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3 responses to “Braising the Beast: Slow Cooking the Pork Shoulder Medallion

  1. Hi Heather. That looks so delicious. A trick I’ve found works well is to pour the fatty liquid into a zip type bag and let the fat rise, then, holding the bag over a bowl or whatever, carefully snip a small corner off the bag. Hold by a top corner and let the liquid drain off. When you get to the fat you can pinch it off or move it to another container. If there’s still some fat you want to remove from the broth, lay a paper towel or napkin on it and draw it across. It will soak up the fat.

    Can’t wait to see the finished dish. I think it sounds like a clever and delicious combination.

  2. i admire your patience in cooking! i dont think i could make something that requires so much time and effort, and certainly without burning it! 🙂

    • Honestly, I spent most of the time in bed clutching a box of kleenex! I like cooking things like braises because they are so passive, no standing in front of the stove kind of things!

      On Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 4:33 PM, Heather in SF

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