Braised Pork Shoulder with Butternut Squash and Dried Plums
With slow, moist braising, pork shoulder becomes fork-tender and succulent. Trim the meat well before cooking and your stew will be rich but lean. Butternut squash and dried plums contribute the sweet notes that pork loves and bring the flavors and colors of fall to your table. Pair with California Pinot Noir or Zinfandel.
1-1/2 pounds (750 g) boneless pork shoulder (butt), trimmed of fat, in 1-1/2 inch (4 cm) cubes
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 thick slices bacon, about ¼ pound (125 g), diced
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, ground fine in a mortar or spice grinder, or 1-1/2 teaspoons ground fennel
1 large fresh thyme sprig
2 cups (500 ml) chicken broth, diluted 50/50 with water if canned
½ pound (250 g) peeled butternut squash, 1-inch cubes
12 dried plums
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
Season the pork all over with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, broad Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the pork and brown well on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes, adjusting the heat to prevent scorching. Transfer the pork to a plate as it is done. Pour off the fat in the pot and return to low heat.
Add the bacon and let render slowly, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium-low, add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion is soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, add the white wine, and simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon to release any meaty bits on the bottom of the pot, until reduced by half. Add the flour and ground fennel and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Return the pork to the pot along with any juices on the plate. Add the thyme sprig and broth. Bring to a simmer. Cover, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for 1 hour. Add the squash and dried plums, recover, and continue cooking until the pork and squash are tender, about 30 minutes longer.
Remove the thyme sprig. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately in bowls, garnishing each serving with a little more parsley.