Excerpted from Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen, published by Skipstone Press, 2010
Milk-braised pork is not something you see every day, but it’s not an uncommon dish either. The milk gently curdles while cooking, which may turn some off (unless, like me, you’re a true food lover and all those curds wrapped around that fatty, tender meat makes you want to sing and dance in your kitchen), but it can be smoothed out later in a blender. Braising (cooking meat in a liquid) is a method of cooking wherein you can often fudge the measurements. Nothing is precise, so use this simple recipe as a guide and embellish as you like. The one rule is to salt your pork prior to cooking. I salt it straightaway when I bring it home from the butcher, then wrap it back up and put it in the fridge until I’m ready to cook.
Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 pounds pork shoulder, salted and “cured” overnight in the refrigerator
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
8 sage stalks, leaves picked and roughly chopped, stems reserved
Whole milk, at least 6 cups
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Cover the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and set over medium-high heat. When hot, place the pork shoulder in the pot. Cook on all sides until dark golden brown. (Don’t move the pork around the pot—just let each side get a nice sear.) Set the pork aside on a platter and lower the heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic and half of the sage. Cook and stir until the alliums are soft and brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Place the pork back in the stockpot and add the remaining sage leaves and stems as well as a few grinds of pepper. Cover the pork, about two-thirds of the way up its side, with the whole milk and bring to a boil (use more milk if need be). Cover and put the stockpot in the oven and roast until the pork is fork tender, about 3 to 4 hours. Milk will curdle around the pork and appear thick and puddinglike.
Remove the pork from the sauce and set it aside on a platter to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Now you can either purée some of the braising liquid in a blender to smooth out the gravy or leave it as is and let people ladle some on. Season the gravy to taste with salt and pepper, and serve it alongside the sliced pork shoulder.
PANTRY NOTE: Salt the pork at least a few hours before cooking, but preferably the night before. I use about 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of pork and place it in the refrigerator. You can add rosemary in this recipe or substitute it for the sage. Leftover pulled pork can be used in a sandwich for an easy next-day lunch.