This mouth-watering stew is the result of a week’s worth of rumination following the viewing of a Saturday morning cooking show on public television a week ago. We are often inspired by dishes we see prepared on these shows so the fact that we gathered the ingredients and closely followed the directions, as we generally always do the first time around, was nothing new to us. Interesting, however, is the fact that the only three things this dish Dayton created have in common with the original recipe are that it utilizes pork shoulder and fennel… and is a stew! The original stew was touted to be a sweet and sour Chinese pork stew which sounded like it might be quite good! The end result was a sickeningly sweet concoction having no character at all, with vegetables that had turned into indistinguishable mush. After a Sunday afternoon at the Wolf we ended up, following great disappointment, throwing it away while commented that the featured Chinese chef should have been embarrassed to even consider publishing the dish on his website… or even preparing it for a television audience! The good news, however, was that all was not in vain. Dayton was intrigued by the thought of a rich pork stew containing fennel, hence the conception of Pork Stew with Fennel, Baby Artichokes and New Red Potatoes. His Franco-Italian style of cooking produced an absolutely glorious dish filled with great flavors, distinctive textures and a velvety sauce that made both of us want to lick out our bowls so as not to waste a single drop of rich deliciousness… you’ll be inclined to want to do the very same thing!
Pork Stew with Fennel, Baby Artichokes and New Red Potatoes
Trim, cut in half, then place in acidulated water:
- 3 lb baby artichokes (this nets approximately 1-1/4 lbs of trimmed hearts)
Chef’s Note: If fresh artichokes are not available, 2 8-oz packages of frozen artichoke hearts can be substituted. However, the frozen artichokes will not have that wonderful al dente crunch that comes from quickly blanched fresh baby artichokes.
Bring a pot of acidulated, salted water to a boil and add the baby artichokes:
When the water returns to a boil cook the artichokes for 4 minutes. Immediately drain them through a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process… the artichokes should be al dente. Transfer to a medium bowl and set to the side:
Chef’s Note: Cooking in acidulated water will remove any discoloration that has appeared on the artichokes during their preparation for blanching.
Trim, core, cut in half length-wise then slice and set to the side:
- 1 large fennel bulb
Set to the side:
- 2 T minced thyme leaves, stripped from the stems
- 3 T minced chervil
Chef’s Note: Chervil is a member of the carrot family with leaves that highly resemble carrot tops. Its flavor and fragrance are subtly anise-like, therefore complementing the fennel in this dish.
Weigh out and set to the side:
- 8-oz baby shiitake mushrooms
Quarter and set to the side:
- 1-lb small new red potatoes
Cut into cubes and dredge in unseasoned flour:
- 1-1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cartilage
Chef’s Note: Don’t remove it all! Fat brings great flavor to the dish and the collagenous cartilage adds a silky smoothness to the sauce as it cooks.
To a large Dutch oven or enameled cast iron pot over medium high heat add:
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
When the oil begins to shimmer add in a single layer:
- the floured pork
Brown well without crowding:
Chef’s Note: During the process of browning a rich dark fond will build on the bottom of the pan. The fond is filled with intense flavor and exactly what we want developed!
Transfer the browned pork to the side and drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add:
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
Stir for several minutes… the liquid from the onions will begin to loosen the fond. Add:
- 4 large peeled garlic cloves, microplaned
Stir for a minute or so, then add:
- the sliced fennel
Stir to incorporate while continuing to loosen additional fond from the bottom of the pan. Add:
- 3 T all-purpose flour
- the minced thyme and chervil
Stir for several minutes to cook the flour, then add, to deglaze the pan:
- 1/2 C dry white wine
- 2 C chicken stock (low sodium)
- the shiitake mushrooms
- the quartered new red potatoes
- 1/4 C dry white wine
- 3-oz Pernod
- 1 T tomato paste
Stir to combine:
- 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add:
- the reserved baby artichoke hearts
- 1/2 C chicken stock
Check for seasonings and adjust if necessary. Stir to combine, cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Transfer to a heated soup tureen or warmed soup bowls. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve piping hot.
In Italy potatoes and pasta are frequently served and eaten together so don’t be afraid to ladle this magnificent stew over fresh pasta. Our recommendation is a pasta filled with holes and covered with ridges to capture the rich and velvety sauce, penne rigate or rigatoni… Bon Appetit!
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