As Fall approaches I find myself thinking about braised, stewy pork dishes. They almost always include something slightly sweet, are bathed in a velvety rich sauce, and are ladled on top of some platform (potatoes, polenta, grains, rice).
This version is a perfect summer to fall transition dish- making use of fresh figs, the bounty of apples available and my favorite sweet, creamy squash. The pork can be set to cook in the morning to be ready for dinner and is even better the next day. The polenta can be made to order or made ahead, chilled, and fried into crispy cakes with a creamy filling. —savorthis
Heat some oil in a pan. Season pork all over with salt and pepper. Brown fat side down, then turn to brown all sides. Pour off most of the fat (reserve if you wish for another use). Add madeira/port and deglaze pan, simmering for several minutes. Add broth and stir to combine. Cut onion into slivers, cut apples into eight wedges each. Place apples, onion, figs and garlic in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place pork on top and pour broth over. Cook low for eight hours.
Use a pairing knife to remove stem from squash. Cover top with plastic wrap and microwave about 10 minutes or until soft (use a towel as it will be hot!) checking after about 5-6 minutes. (You can also halve, scoop seeds and bake face down in 1/2" water at 400 until tender, 20-30 minutes). Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Cut in half, gently remove seeds and scoop flesh into bowl (if you wish to use an immersion blender) or blender. Add the cream and blend to get a thick and very smooth purée. You can add a bit of milk to thin if needed. Season with salt. Can be made ahead.
Remove pork from slow cooker to a plate. Skim off fat if desired. Pour sauce into a pan and heat, mashing garlic and a few figs with a spoon. Stir in mustard and fresh herbs and season to taste with salt. Return pork to sauce, breaking into chunks. Stir and keep warm.
Bring 3 cups water to a boil with 1 t salt. Stir in polenta and stir until your arm wants to fall off- about 30 minutes. You can run briefly amok in between stirs, but try to stir as much as possible as it makes it creamier. At around the 20 minutes mark stir in the kabocha and cheese. Season with nutmeg and white pepper and salt to taste.