When it comes to cheap feasts, my husband and I turn to pork shoulder. We typically smoke it over hickory splits for pulled pork, or slather it with spices and herbs for roasted porchetta. But for this contest, my mind turned to braising –-- not only because it’'s good to have a make-ahead dish when serving a crowd, but also because a one-pot dish is the perfect way to stretch an already economical piece of meat. My mind turned to a beautiful dish I recently spotted in La Cucina Italiana for l’agnello di pasquetta, a braised lamb dish which is traditionally served in Puglia on Easter Monday. What intrigued me the most was the final step of adding whisked eggs and letting them bake over the entire dish. So I adapted the recipe for pork shoulder, and along the way, made changes in ingredients and instructions. I added fennel seeds and tucked some lemon peel into the braising liquid. While the original recipe uses just white wine, I cut mine with chicken stock. I also added new potatoes (which nicely stretch the dish to serve more people) and finished the dish with lemon juice and tarragon for brightness. My favorite part of the dish is the eggs. They form a glorious crust over the entire dish which is unbelievably delicious with bites of succulent pork, spring vegetables, and the lemony tarragon sauce. They’'re also a judicious way to add richness without relying on more meat or pricier ingredients. This dish is a feast on its own and needs no accompaniments. If you prefer a few sides, serve with polenta with freshly grated Pecorino Romano and a lightly dressed salad of spring greens. Either way, your guests will leave full, happy, and feeling very well loved. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
EmilyCâ€™s Braised Pork Shoulder with Peas and Eggs is indeed a spring celebration. Bright lemon and tarragon make this dish wonderfully light, with tender chunks of pork melting in your mouth with each bite. Potatoes and peas turn it into a one-pot wonder, one that is sure to please any crowd gathered around your table. What sets it apart, as EmilyC herself suggests, is the golden crust of egg that binds the dish together. It is that something extra that makes a good dish extraordinary. I look forward to enjoying this feast again soon. —gingerroot
- Serves 10 to 12
boneless pork shoulder/butt, trimmed and cut into 1.5” inch chunks (boneless pork butt country ribs are a good substitute)
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
large onion, chopped
fennel seed, coarsely ground
dry white wine (e.g. sauvignon blanc) -- serve the rest of the bottle with your feast!
1 1/2 to 2 cups
chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
Juice from 1 lemon, plus 4 long strips of peel removed with a sharp vegetable peeler
1 1/2 pounds
new (petite) potatoes, scrubbed and– left whole or cut in half, depending on size
(1/2 pound) frozen peas
freshly grated pecorino romano
finely chopped tarragon
- Heat oven to 300 degrees F with rack in the middle.
- Blot the pork dry with paper towels (you want to start with dry meat so it will properly brown), and season generously with kosher salt and pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a 5 ½ quart (or larger) dutch oven or casserole over medium-high heat, and then add the pork in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd the meat. (You may need to brown the meat in a few batches.) Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer the browned meat to a plate; set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the dutch oven.
- Add the onion and fennel seed and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. As the onion starts to sweat, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Add the white wine, and stir to deglaze any remaining brown bits. Let reduce at a vigorous simmer for about 1 minute. Add the pork and any juices that have accumulated back to the pan, then add just enough chicken stock to come about 3/4 way up the sides of the pork. Add the strips of lemon zest.
- Wet a sheet of parchment paper, crumple it, and cover the pot, pressing down so that the paper nearly touches the meat and the edges hang over the side. Cover the pot, and transfer it to the oven to braise until the pork is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Check after 30 minutes to make sure the liquid isn’t simmering too vigorously. If it is, lower the oven temperature by 10 or 15 degrees and/or set the lid slightly ajar.
- When the pork is done, transfer it to a work surface. Pour the sauce through a fine strainer into a large bowl, discarding all of the solids. Skim off any visible fat with a spoon, or use a fat separator to remove the fat from the sauce.
- Remove and discard gristle and any large pieces of un-rendered fat from the pork.
- Cook the new potatoes in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water until they’'re just tender (not mushy).
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine eggs and cheese; whisk together. Season with salt and pepper.
- Shortly before serving, heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Return the pork and sauce to the dutch oven, and warm over low heat. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Add some lemon juice if more acidity is needed. It's time well spent to taste and tinker until you get the right flavor and balance in your sauce.
- Once at a bare simmer, nestle the cooked potatoes among the chunks of pork, then do the same with the frozen peas. Add the egg mixture over the top in an even layer. Tightly cover the pot and return to the oven, about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the eggs just begin to set. Then uncover the pot and cook until the edges of the egg begin to brown, about 10 minutes more (though time may vary). Spoon off any fat that may rise to the top. (The eggs may sink a bit at first, and you might think you've ruined your dish, but carry on -- the eggs will set up and form a slightly golden crust over the pork. Just monitor closely and have faith!) Remove from oven. Scatter fresh tarragon over the top and add lemon juice to taste before serving (or serve with lemon wedges on the side).
- If preparing this dish in advance, complete steps 1 –through 8, placing the meat in a tall container and pouring the braising liquid on top. Refrigerate. The following day, lift off the congealed fat and discard. Let the meat come to room temperature. About 1/2 hour before serving, place the meat in an ovenproof dish in a 325 degree F oven with the braising liquid. The pork will take about 30 minutes to reheat. Then, proceed with steps 9 through 13.