I've wanted to make this recipe ever since I bought my At Home With Michael Chiarello cookbook. The pictures are beautiful and you can't help but be influenced by the author's relentless hunkiness. I previously made one recipe from the book, Pasta With Uncooked Watercress, a recipe touted as extremely quick, which was a blatant lie. I discovered that tearing individual watercress leaves from their stems proved time consuming and annoying. However, the idea of this Pork Stew With Orange And Fennel was just too tempting. But once again, I found myself bogged down by a lot of busy work, cursing a certain good looking chef from the Napa Valley.
But, back to the recipe. It's full of good flavors, the most dominant being orange, rosemary and fennel. And the fennel makes this perfect for Warm Me up Baby! It's Cold Outside, part of The Spice Is Right created by Barbara of Tigers and Strawberries, guest hosted this week by Rosie, of Bitchin' in the kitchen with Rosie, who has the rules for taking part in this event.. Although this dish lacks chili peppers, it's rich with the tingle of fennel. And what could be more warming than a nice bowl of steaming stew, served on soft polenta? Although it was a cold and dreary day yesterday when I served this to my cousin Charmayne and her handsome boyfriend Julius, a bowl of this stew made us feel quite cozy. Much to my delight, Charmayne is moving to Sacramento in February, and this recipe was a good way to celebrate that happy fact.
I made the stew on Saturday---and despised it by the time I was finished. It calls for browning a lot of meat and vegetables, and I had doubled the recipe. With the memory of endless watercress plucking still on my mind, the browning process seemed interminable! When I finally finished the stew I surveyed a kitchen covered with a splatters of oil everywhere. And to make matters worse, the stew tasted awful. I stashed it in the fridge and vowed never to fix a Michael Chiarello recipe again.
However, when I tasted it the next day, it was very good. Clearly,
elves had worked their magic overnight in my kitchen yet again. The
fennel and orange gave the stew a sweet, spicy taste that everyone
enjoyed. Fennel seed has always been a big favorite of mine since I first tasted it as a child, in some bread made by a neighbor from Sweden. It has a faint anise like flavor, and is supposed to be good for digestion. I don't know about that--I just know that it tastes very good in bread, soups and stews.
There are no pictures of me making the stew, covered with grease as I was. But, I made the world's easiest polenta in a double boiler. If you've never made polenta this way, you're probably working much too hard making it. No constant stirring is required, just a stir every 15 minutes or so.
Pork and Orange, Fennel Stew With Soft Polenta (Michael Chiarello)
1-1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into bite-size chunks
regular salt or Citrus salt
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds (toasted and ground)
2 tablespoons Cointreau
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
6 cups chicken stock or canned low salt chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pound potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
12 pearl onions, peeled
2 cups shiitake or crimini mushrooms, quartered (stems removed)
12 baby carrots, stemmed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Season the pork well with salt. Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. (The generous amount of oil allows the meat to brown well. The excess will be drained off.) Add the pork, making sure not to crowd the pan. Let the pork brown on one side before turning, then sauté until well browned all over, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat by pouring contents of the pan into a sieve to drain the excess fat.
Return the pan to high heat and add the meat. Add the fennel spice,
Cointreau, red wine, and orange juice. Stir and scrape the bottom and
sides of the pan to loosen all the browned bits. Bring the mixture to a
boil, then simmer until reduced by half.
Add the stock and bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the meat is very tender.
In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the butter over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and carrots. Sauté for about 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are well-browned (Regulate the heat so the vegetables brown but do not burn, add additional oil if necessary). Add the garlic and rosemary and sauté briefly just to brown the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Scrape the contents of the sauté pan into the stew. Cook the stew for another 15 minutes. Just before serving, stir the orange zest and parsley into the stew. Serve with noodles or polenta.
Double Boiler Polenta
4 cups boiling water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup polenta (or stone ground cornmeal)
2-4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Bring about 2 inches of water to boil in bottom of double boiler; reduce to simmer and maintain throughout cooking process.
Into the top pan of the double boiler, set over the simmering water, add 4 cups boiling water. Add salt, then gradually sprinkle in the polenta, whisking constantly to avoid lump formation.
Cover and cook until polenta is very soft and smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring for several seconds every 10 to 15 minutes. (Once cooked, polenta can be covered and saved in the double boiler up to 4 hours, with the water simmering in the bottom pan. stir in a bit of water if necessary.)