Sunday Dinner: Braised Pork Butt in Milk with Cornbread and Summer Squash & Cherry Tomatoes

We relish our weekends because that's when we get to try out the more elaborate and involved meals we've been dreaming about all week. Since we love to entertain, more often than not these "Sunday Dinners" turn into leisurely (and fairly bacchanalian) evenings with hungry friends.

Whether it's a seasonal vegetable side or a 12-hour roast, we usually start our weekend menu with one particular dish and build the rest of the meal around it by wandering around at the Green Market. On special occasions- or when we think ahead- we'll order a special cut of meat from our friends at Fleisher’s Meats

For the first of our Sunday Dinner posts we'd like to share a meal we made for our good friends Christian and Lauren of Material Lust. They came over to our apartment to shoot photos for a feature they are writing about us on one of our favorite blogs, Sacramento Street. 

For the shoot, Jake did a butchering demo and since we don't exactly have enough room to cut up a whole animal in our apartment, he de-boned a pork butt instead (actually the pork shoulder). With our freshly cut butt we decided to make a classic and extremely simple Italian dish- Braised Pork Butt in Milk. Sounds weird, but it's so good. As the butt cooks the fat melts out and mixes with the milk, slowly condensing and curdling into a rich nutty brown gravy. As with any braise, the pork becomes incredibly moist and tender, and it takes on the delicate flavor of the milk.

With that dish in mind, Silka baked a corn bread recipe she's had her eye on for a while and we roasted some yellow summer squash with cherry tomatoes from Migliorelli's. And for a salad, we picked up some luscious greens from Two Guys from Woodbridge. 

Since the meal is pretty heavy and we were all exhausted from a day of shooting and cooking, we topped the meal off with our favorite, Bulleit bourbon on the rocks.

Pork Butt Braised in Milk
Adapted from Marcela Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

+ a 2-3 lbs boneless pork shoulder/butt with cross-hatched skin
+ a quart of milk - non-homogenized or raw if you can get it
+ bay-leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries, and nutmeg (optional)

1. In a heavy cast iron or enamel dutch oven, heat a couple tablespoons each of butter and olive oil over high heat. When the butter stops foaming add the pork, skin side down. When it's browned turn the pork from side to side, a few minutes per side.
2. When the pork is browned on all sides, pour in two cups of milk. If you want you can also throw in a few bay-leaves, 5 whole peppercorns, 5 juniper berries, and some grated nutmeg. 
3. Bring the milk to a simmer then turn the heat to low and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Check the pork every now and then, turning it onto a different side. 
4. After about an hour the milk should be curdled and look like a nutty brown sauce. At this point add another cup of milk and turn the heat to medium-high. Let the milk simmer for 10 minutes then turn the heat back down to low and cover completely. 
5. Let the pork cook for another two hours or so, checking and turning occasionally. You should add more milk if all the liquid boils off.
6. When the pork is tender and falling apart, take it out and place in a glass baking dish or an all-metal pan. Put the pan and pork under the broiler, skin side up, until the skin is crisped golden brown- about 3 minutes. Make sure to watch the pork carefully, as it can burn easily and quickly.
7. Meanwhile bring the sauce left in the dutch oven to a boil, adding a few tablespoons of water. Stir until the water is incorporated and you have a nice gravy.
8. Serve the pork covered in the sauce.

Yellow Summer Squash with Cherry Tomatoes

+ 4 medium sized summer squash or zucchini
+ a pint of cherry tomatoes
+ olive oil
+ salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Slice the summer squash lengthwise about a ¼ in thick. (A mandoline is perfect for this.)
3. Lay the squash down in the baking dish. Don't be afraid to overlap them. Throw the cherry tomatoes on top and drizzle olive oil all over - 1-2 tablespoons. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Bake for an hour, or till the squash is translucent and golden and the cherry tomatoes are puckered and bursting with juice.

Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo

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