In most homes in the United States, if you mention, “stew” for dinner, you’re probably talking about beef stew. In Ireland, you would most likely be about to chow down on lamb stew–a dish I often saw on menus during visits to Ireland, though I never saw Corned Beef and Cabbage at all.
We produce world-famous lamb in Colorado, so lamb stew is a specialty here, too–if you can find Colorado lamb, that is. A lot of it is exported and we’re left with New Zealand lamb–no true complaint intended, but it’s a sad story in our state, none-the-less. (More Time’s Colorado Lamb-Barley Stew with Butternut Squash and Tarragon Mushrooms)
Pork with saukerkraut is the real deal in Estonia and in Germany, sausage can top the list of stew ingredients. Other spots in many countries feature fish or seafood stews. We eat what’s nearby, right? Or we have for most of the history of humanity. Today’s Fed Ex food movement, making everything available anytime, is a fairly new development. Sigh. Give me June strawberries, August tomatoes, September apples. Ok, ok; I love asparagus in December. Got me there.
But here in the states, if we make pork stews, what are they? We make Pork Green Chile, especially in Colorado and New Mexico. Posole is a common party dish and the simple version made with pork tenderloin is always a hit in my soup book. Here’s David Tanis’ take on it.
Ham and Beans appear in many versions nationwide and bean soup is a favorite winter warmup coast to coast. Let’s not forget the ubiquitous old school summer cookout brown sugar-baked beans made with canned beans and often topped with bacon a la Van Camp. The real deal made from dried beans from New England, is here. New Orleans gives us Red Beans and Rice…
And if you’re lucky enough to travel to France as we were…
you could come home to make a French Pork Stew, as I did last October.
I got to thinking about all this when a friend, who’s also a follower of the blog, asked me, “Why are there just beef stews, why not pork?” My answer was, “There are!” (Along with lots of other kinds.) Here you go, Bev; this post is for you.
And if the basic idea of stew is fairly pedestrian and simple to boot, it no longer appears that way to today’s cook because of the time involved. Stew is typically comprised of a cheap or tough cut of meat that is diced, browned, and cooked slowly in some sort of liquid with vegetables usually added to feed the whole gang. (Meat subtracted for vegetarian versions.) Thank goodness for many people, the slow cooker came along. Favorite slow cooker book here.
A pork shoulder is the preferred cut for longer-cooking pork stews or dishes, and while I’m just as happy to cook one (albeit knowing it’s a bit of a project) when a crowd’s on the way, the pork shoulder is a fairly massive, fatty slab of meat for a smaller group or a couple. It’s also a significant piece of change for the weekly food budget and is unwieldy to handle and cut for smaller or not-so-strong hands. Enter the pork loin, not to be confused with the pork tenderloin.
Pork Tenderloin, which can sometimes be sold in a 2-pack:
Often on sale in easy-to-hold pieces, pork loin is comfortably cut into smaller roasts or chops, and perfect for an easy stew. Alternately, a few boneless loin pork chops (on BOGO regularly around here) are most useful for the smaller pot. While lean, it also cooks more quickly, and if you treat it well, needn’t morph into dry, tasteless cubes. In other words, leave some fat on the cut pieces for flavor, don’t cut them too small, and brown them only briefly. No big butchering job involved. No hours and hours roasting, grilling smoking or braising.
I cut my last tender pork loin into three pieces. I sliced the first into chops for grilling. The second, I roasted covered with a thick layer of brown sugar, salt, pepper, and lots of Herbes de Provence (afterward chilled and sliced very thinly for sandwiches or tacos), and the last bit was diced tooty sweety to make the filling pot of goodness below. Crusty bread and crispy crunchy salad are the perfect accompaniments. If the need arises to stretch this out for a couple of more folks, serve it over egg noodles, quinoa, or even parsley rice. Wondering about making a pork stew? Try this with your own twists like substituting a parsnip for the carrot, adding peas or parsley, skipping the potato, or throwing in a fistful of corn:
An easy stew good enough for a company meal, meat is the star here. You’ll need a full vegetable salad as a side or a hearty vegetable platter for starters. The mushrooms are cooked separately and added at the end; you’ve got plenty of time while the meat cooks in the broth to get them sautéed and ready to go into the stew about 15 minutes before serving.
- Olive oil
- 2 pounds pork loin, trimmed very lightly, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2-3 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, and diced (can sub with 2 diced stalks of celery)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence (can sub a mixture of dried rosemary and thyme)
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 cup (8 ounces) dry white wine
- 15 ounce can tomatoes, pureed
- 3 cups water (24 ounces) or chicken broth
- 1 large potato, peeled, and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 medium carrot, trimmed, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 1 pound large Crimini or button mushrooms, trimmed and cut into halves or fourths
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or marjoram
BROWN PORK/AROMATICS: Toss pork in a medium bowl with flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a 6-8 quart dutch oven over medium high flame. Brown meat on both sides in batches. After turning over the second batch, add first batch back into the pan and tip in onions, fennel and garlic. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes or until vegetables are softening. Season with Herbes de Provence and crushed red pepper; stir.
ADD LIQUIDS AND ROOT VEGETABLES: Pour in wine and cook down, stirring, until wine is absorbed–5 minutes or so. Pour in puréed tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook partially covered for 20 minutes or so. Add potato and carrot. Cook for another 15-20 minutes or until everything is tender, adding more water or broth as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings.
SAUTÉ MUSHROOMS SEPARATELY: Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heated over medium-high flame, melt butter with a tablespoon of olive oil. When quite hot, add mushrooms and sauté, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or so. Sprinkle with thyme or marjoram and cook another 3 minutes/until tender. Season with a pinch of black pepper.
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER, SIMMER, AND SERVE HOT: Tip cooked mushrooms and juices into the stew in the dutch oven, stir, and simmer another 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings a last time. Serve hot in warmed bowls alone or over egg noodles for extra servings.
WINE: Oregon Pinot Noir or a red Côtes du Rhône.
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE MY:
Pork and Sweet Potato Curry
Thanks for stopping by; I’m so glad to have you and appreciate your reading today.
Cook a new little pork stew sometime, why don’t you?