Braised Shoulder of Pork with Porcini, Barley Risotto & Cider Reduction, Served with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

Sounds expensive, but this is a very economical means to an extravagant end result. A shoulder of pork is one of the least expensive cuts of meat; it is also one of the most flavorful. The cider reduction drizzled on the pork makes it shine and adds a nice, sweet balance to the earthy flavor of porcini. By the way, a cider reduction is nothing more than warmed cider jelly. Freshly pressed cider is boiled down until it is syrupy and the flavor concentrated There is so much natural pectin in apples that it sets up on its own. You can also spread it this on toast or popovers if you like.

Porcini means “piglet” in Italian, and therefore seems a perfect pairing with a shoulder of pork. These mushrooms are sold as boletes, cêpes, borowik, steinpilz, panza, and vrganj depending on the country of origin. Drying these mushrooms intensifies the meaty flavors. The broth resulting from reconstituting them is added to the braising liquids to further enrich both the pork shoulder and the risotto.

3½ lb shoulder of pork (1.5 kg)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (30 mL)
2 Tbsp shallots, finely chopped (30 mL)
1 oz packet dried porcini (30 g)
4 cups chicken stock (1 L)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or ½ tsp dried (5 mL fresh or 2.5 mL dried)
1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dried (15 mL fresh or 5 mL dried)
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (15 mL)
Few grinds black pepper
Salt to taste
2 cups pearl barley (380 g)

Cider Reduction
2 qt apple cider (2 L)
¼ cup cider vinegar (60 mL)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots
1 lb Brussels sprouts, cut in half top to bottom (450 g)
1 lb carrots, peeled, triangle cut (450 g)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (30 mL)
Few grinds black pepper
Salt to taste after roasting

Measure 1 cup (240 mL) of water in a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave for 45 seconds. Add the dried mushrooms to the water, stir to get them all wet, and steep for 30 minutes.

Strain through a paper coffee filter placed inside a wire strainer, and press slightly on the mushrooms to extract most of the liquid. Discard the filter, and put the mushrooms into the wire strainer. Rinse under running water to remove any grit. Chop the mushrooms and reserve.

Pour cider and cider vinegar into a saucepan and reduce over medium heat until syrupy. Yield is about 1 cup (240 mL). Keep an eye on the reduction as it begins to thicken, do not let it burn. You will notice that the color deepens, and the bubbles become large when it is syrupy. Remove from heat, pour into a Pyrex measuring cup, and reserve.

Pork Shoulder
Preheat oven to 325° F (165° C)


Salt and pepper the pork shoulder. Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a stainless steel pot, enamel-lined pot or a braising pan. Brown the pork all over; reduce heat slightly if it seems too hot. Remove the pork to a plate, reduce the heat to low, and add the shallots, reconstituted mushrooms, and herbs. Cook until the shallots are translucent, about a minute. Add the chicken stock, strained mushroom liquid, and the pork. Cover tightly and place on the center shelf of a preheated oven.

Braise covered for 2½ hours turning halfway through the cooking time. After 2½ hours it will be quite tender. Remove the pork shoulder to a shallow dish (such as a pie plate), cover with foil, and keep warm. Stir the barley into the broth and cook uncovered on your range over low heat. Cook until the risotto is the proper consistency, about 50 minutes. It should be somewhat saucy. Add more stock as necessary, it may require up to a cup. Unlike rice, barley will remain firm to the tooth which pairs nicely with the tender pork.

If the pork has cooled off, return it to the oven, covered, to warm for a few minutes before serving. Remove the blade bone, and slice against the grain of the meat thickly enough so that it holds together. Some people like to pull apart large pieces of braised meat and arrange irregular shapes on a plate or platter.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots
Preheat oven to 400°F (205° C). Cook the vegetables while the barley is cooking.

Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts, and cut in half top to bottom. Cut the carrots by adjusting your knife blade 45° on alternating slices so the carrots are triangular in shape. This is an interesting shape and provides more surface area in the oven to caramelize the surface.

Toss the vegetables in the vegetable oil and pepper, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook in a preheated oven for 35 minutes. They will emerge from the oven beautifully colored, and aromatic. Season to taste with salt after they are cooked.

Slice the pork, it will fall apart some, this is what you want as it attests to how tender the meat is. Microwave the cider reduction for 30 seconds. Put a serving of the barley risotto on a plate and spread it out to fill the entire plate. Top with pieces of the pork, and vegetables. Drizzle the cider reduction on the pork, and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or dill.

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