This dish tastes considerably different from Bill Neal’s roast pork with herb crust but it shares a British ancestry and also comes from the American south. It is adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking (New York 2003). Peacock maintains that he and Miss Lewis stumbled into the recipe following some serendipitous foraging in the woods and “the principle that what grows together goes together.” (Gift 116) The things they found growing together were wild mushrooms and blackberries. This marriage of pork with Port, intense aromatics, fruit and mushrooms would find a happy home among the eighteenth century recipes described by Elisabeth Ayrton and Jane Grigson. 6-8 servings.
For the meat:
-4-6 lb pork shoulder
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons dried thyme
-3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
-about 12 bay leaves
-2 cups onions sliced into thick crescents
-about ½ bottle of tawny Port, or equal parts port and red wine
For its sauce:
-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-2 cups assorted sliced mushrooms
-salt and pepper
-about ¼ cup minced shallots
-2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
-all the juice from the braising dish
-½ cup heavy cream
-2 cups blackberries
Preheat the oven to 325°
- Cut slits in the pork deep and wide enough to bury half a bay leaf at 1 ½ inch intervals on the fattier side of the meat. Usually you will wind up with about a dozen slits.
- Stir together the salt, pepper and thyme, then push some of the mixture into each slit along with a slice of garlic and a bay leaf. Scatter the leftover seasoning over the meat.
- Scatter the onions about a deep oven pot just big enough to hold the pork shoulder, drop it onto the onions and add enough wine to lap the bottom of the shoulder.
- Cover the meat with some parchment paper, then give the pot a good seal, either with its heavy lid or by crimping foil over the top of the pot.
- Leave the pot in the oven for 3 ½-4 hours.
- Remove the meat form the pot, then pour the cooking liquid and onions through a strainer into a heavy saucepan, pressing the onions firmly to extract their juices.
- Make the sauce by melting the butter over high heat in a heavy skillet big enough to hold the mushrooms without crowding them. Cook the mushrooms until they obtain stripes of color, shaking but not stirring the skillet to prevent the mushrooms either from scorching or steaming. Stir the shallots and parsley into the mushrooms, reduce the heat to medium and cook the vegetables until the shallots soften.
- Add the strained cooking liquid, return the heat to high and boil off half of the liquid.
- Reduce the heat to low, pour on the cream, then carefully stir the blackberries into the sauce so that they remain intact. Check the sauce for salt and pepper: Do not let it boil or the cream may curdle.
- Toss the bay leaves, carve the pork in thick slices and serve it with the sauce. Sublime.
- The same things that go with Bill Neal’s roast pork go with this pork.
- As Peacock and Lewis note, “[t]ry to get a shoulder with the bone in and the skin attached. If, however, you can’t find one, a boneless, skinless shoulder is still very good.” (Gift 116)
- They like to brine their pork before braising it, and recommend a longer cooking time, of 4 ½-5 hours. When the Editor followed their instructions, however, her pork fell apart. It still tasted wonderful, but was pulled rather than sliced pork and was notably salty from the brine. We subsequently found that braising the pork raw instead of brined for the shorter period specified in the bfia recipe worked better. We also found that we got a better sauce by scanting the wine: Our half bottle made a better sauce than the full bottle specified in The Gift of Southern Cooking.
- We omitted the garlic from the original recipe from the point at Step 7 of the bfia recipe where the shallots and parsley join the mushrooms; we found its taste in the sauce too raw and assertive.
- We also sprinkle some cayenne over the onions under the pork.
- This recipe, unlike many others, will work with pork loin in a pinch: The braisng helps keep the leaner meat moist. Shoulder is better, but when the Editor has a yearning for this preparation and shoulder is unavailable, she reaches for loin.