For our latest Sunday night dinner, Jon and I made one of our best collaborative-effort dinners yet – braised pork stuffed ravioli in a sauce made from the braising liquid. The inspiration for this dish came from a project I’d worked on in culinary school. I made a Cuban sandwich for an amuse bouche as part of a menu writing project that had smoked ham and braised, pulled pork both from the same leg of the pig. I lugged this 21 pound pig leg home from the farmer’s market, where I’d purchased it from Flying Pig’s Farm, a local farm from the Battenkill River Valley in Shushan, New York. It looked completely ridiculous because the leg still had the foot on it (the trotter) and it was sticking out of the canvas bag I’d stuffed it into and bobbing around behind me as I walked home.
The pulled pork for my project didn’t turn out as tender as I hoped, and Jon and I kept working on making our own version of braised pork as flavorful and juicy as we could. Jon has always liked using beer as the alcohol / deglazing agent in cooking, and we have settled on Sierra Nevada as our go-to beer for braising. This dinner was definitely one for which we couldn’t be last minute – the pork takes 6 hours to braise and our Hungarian butcher is closed on Sundays, so we had to get the meat the day before.
In spite of this need for thinking ahead, one of the nice things about braising a large piece of meat is all the downtime you have while the pork is in the oven. We leisurely prepared other parts of dinner (like making the pasta dough), we cleaned the apartment – we even had some time to sit down and take a break for a little while before our friends arrived. While the pork was in the oven, we decided this could translate well into a Bite Sized bite and settled on fried pork ravioli topped with creamy foam.
For the Braise:
1 2-3 lb pork butt
4 carrots, roughly chopped
2 large onions, roughly chopped
1 celery root, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, crushed
1 bottle of pale ale such as Sierra Nevada
2 cups apple cider
1 ½ cups chicken stock
½ bunch fresh thyme
½ bunch fresh oregano
½ bunch fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
16 black peppercorns
Salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 250°. Allow pork to sit out for 30 minutes to release some of the chill from being in the fridge. Heat a large pan (a Dutch oven or Le Creuset style pot with a lid works best) and coat with oil.
- Meanwhile, season meat well with salt, black pepper and garlic powder. When oil in pan is near smoking, sear the pork butt until all sides have nice color. Remove pork from pan.
- If needed, add a bit more oil to pan. Sweat carrots, onions, celery root and garlic until lightly browned and season well with salt and pepper. When vegetables have gotten some nice golden color, deglaze with beer and allow alcohol to cook off. Add the pork back to pan and cover with cider and stock.
- Add rest of ingredients – fresh herbs, lemon zest, peppercorns, seasoning. Bring to a light simmer and cover. Put in the oven and braise for 5-6 hours. You should check on the braise every hour or so to make sure the liquid isn’t boiling – you don’t want it to get too hot in your pot or the meat will be tough and not tender. You should also rotate the pot every few hours to ensure even cooking.
- You will know your braise is done with the meat is just falling apart and tender and juicy. It should literally break apart with hardly any effort from your fork. When braise is done, remove pork and allow to cool at room temperature.
- Strain braising liquid and reduce by 1/3. Season to taste. Once this sauce has reached the consistency you like, you can add butter (monter au beurre) and use to sauce the raviolis, or add to the filling to moisten if needed.
- When pork is cool, shred with two forks for the filling.
For the Filling:
Shredded braised pork
½ qt carrots, finely diced
½ qt onions, finely diced
1 box Cremini mushrooms, finely diced
½ qt spinach, julienned
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp celery seed
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp red pepper flake powder
½ qt Parmesan, grated
Some braising liquid, to deglaze
- Sweat carrots, onions and garlic in olive oil, season well with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and season and cook until liquid has evaporated. Deglaze with braising liquid.
- Add julienne of spinach and season again. When spinach has wilted, add shredded pork, celery seed, cinnamon, red pepper flake powder and grated Parmesan. Moisten with a little more braising liquid. Transfer to a bowl or tray with wide surface area to cool.
For the Pasta Dough:
440 grams 00 flour
3 whole eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp salt
- Sift flour and salt together onto a clean, dry surface. Create a well in the center of the flour.
- Whisk eggs, yolks, olive oil and water until well combined. Slowly pour into center of the flour well while using a fork to combine in a circular, whisking motion.
- Once egg mixture and flour are incorporated, knead the dough for ten minutes to develop gluten. You’ll know that the dough is ready when it re-forms its shape from an imprint made by pressing your thumb into its surface. The dough should be soft and a creamy, yellow color. Wrap in plastic and rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
For the Bread Crumbs:
Stale Miche bread, dried and blended
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
- Slice stale bread into ½ inch slices and put on a baking sheet. Let sit in off oven over night – the pilot light heat from the oven will dry out the bread even further.
- In a food processor, blend stale bread until fine. Add dried herbs and seasoning and blend to combine.
- Pass breadcrumbs through a tamis or chinois to ensure uniformity.
For the Creamy Foam:
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
½ cup Pecorino Romano
10 cloves garlic, minced
½ yellow onion, minced
Small bunch fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns
- Mince 10 cloves of garlic and ½ onion and sweat in olive oil until translucent and slightly golden.
- Combine milk, cream, Pecorino, garlic, onion, herbs and peppercorns in a small sauce pot and reduce by 1/3 over low heat.
- When cream and milk have reduced, remove herbs, bay and black peppercorns and blend mixture in a blender or with hand mixer. Blend with mixer to create foam.
To Create the Raviolis:
- Using a pasta machine (I have this cute little red Imperia), roll out two sheets of pasta dough to thinnest setting. You should sprinkle your work surface generously with Wondra flour or semolina to prevent sticking.
- Arrange teaspoon-sized portions of pork mix about 3 inches apart on one sheet of pasta. Using a pastry brush, lightly apply small amount of water to the dough surrounding the filling and cover with second sheet of pasta. The water will help seal the sheets of dough together.
- Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut out squares of the raviolis. In the meantime, begin heating canola oil in a small pot.
- Dip raviolis in buttermilk, then homemade breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown and top with Pecorino foam, braising liquid sauce or any sauce of your choosing.
© 2010 Jonathan Meter and Jessica Hertle. All Rights Reserved.