I first had pork braised with apricots when I lived in France. The roasted meat was bathed in a succulent, sweet and savory sauce which I could not stop eating. It had been braised in a pristine but ancient-looking cast iron dutch oven in an outdoor wood stove at a friend's family stead which sported a full suit of armor and haunted stone walls. I was too busy drinking Beaujolais wine and over-sharing with my friends to pay attention to what the cook was doing. (Shame!)
Over the years I have taken different stabs at recreating this fantastic meal. All were good, but I couldn't quite nail it. So this time I decided to draw upon that memory and take the dish in a different direction. I used some distinctly North African flavors with Puerto Rican rum, Italian Prosecco, and California kumquats. It doesn't taste like the 'original', but it is delicious in its own right and very American in its cultural mash-up. Oh, and I serve it with grits cooked like saffron risotto because, America.
4/12 – 5 lb. Pork Shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and tied
1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ginger powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
1 tbsp grated fresh turmeric root
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped separately
Pinch of saffron threads
½ c. Prosecco
2 tbsps dark rum
4 kumquats, quartered
2 c. chicken Stock
¾ c. sulphur-free dried apricots
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed, sliced
STEP 1: Make the spice mix: In a small dry saute pan toss together the paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and garlic powder. Set the pan over low heat and stir gently until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
STEP 2: Tie the roast and season the pork shoulder all over with the kosher salt and black pepper. Then season all over with the spice mix.
STEP 3: In a large dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Brown the pork shoulder on all sides until it is deep in color. Remove with tongs and place on a large plate or platter. Cover the plate tightly with foil.
STEP 3: Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of any fat in the pan and return to the heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until it starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the saffron, ginger root, cilantro stems, and turmeric root and saute for another 2 minutes.
STEP 4: Pour in the rum and deglaze the bottom of the pot by gently scrapping the bottom to loosen the stuck on bits. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the Prosecco and bring to a gentle boil, continuing to scrape the sides and bottom of the pot. Boil gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Drop in the apricots and kumquats and boil for 2 minutes.
STEP 5: Add the fennel to the dutch oven, then add the pork shoulder along with any juices that have collected on the plate. Lower the temperature to medium low and spoon some of the cooking liquid over the pork.
STEP 6: Place a sheet or parchment paper over the pork that is large enough to cover the meat but still hang over the side of the pot by an inch. Press down on the paper slightly, then place the lid on top of the pot and place in the oven on the middle rack.
STEP 7: Braise in the oven for 2 hours until fork tender, checking after the first 30 minutes to make sure the braising liquid isn’t boiling too hard.
STEP 8: Remove the pot from the oven. Remove the pork gently from the pot to a serving plate and cover with foil to let rest. After 5 minutes skim as much fat as you can from the top of the sauce, then pour in any juices from the platter. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash the apricots and kumquats so you have a nice thick sauce.
STEP 9: Slice the pork and arrange on a serving platter. Pour over the sauce, and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro leaves. This can be enjoyed as-is, but we love it over Stone Ground Saffron Grits “Risotto”. (Recipe to follow!)