Friday, December 29, 2006

Experiment: Pork Butt: Round one

It is quite clear that forgetting to salt has had an impact. The meat is just a bit bland without it. The apple juice has also made it rather sweet, as expected. This will need to be fixed though as it makes the meat one dimensional and the sauce is already a bit sweet as well. It is really hard not to mess with the second batch as I have many new ideas to adjust the recipe but damn it! This is an experiment to determine the necessity of the marinating time, so I must resist.
However, for the next time, it definitely needs more heat. I think that the jalapenos that went into the marinade, but not into the braise, will need to be added there. First though, I will go over exactly how the braise was prepared.
About half an hour before the meat is ready, pull it out of the fridge to bring to room temp. Then start preparing the mirepoix for the braise. Chop one large yellow onion, two celery stalks, two carrots, two green onions and three slices of bacon. Brown the meat in a thick bottomed pan on high heat with a good amount of OO. This is a critical step. As I often am, you may be tempted to move the pieces around. Resist this urge. Make sure to develop a good caramelization of each side before turning. It is much better to have an over done piece than one which is not properly seared. Also, do not crowd the meat in the pan. This was not really an issue in this case because of the small amount of pork worked with. However, for the next time the meat will need to be tripled at least. If there is not enough room in the bottom of the pan, do this step in batches.
Once all of the meat is browned, remove it from the pan and add the onions. Add a bit more oil if necessary. Then drop in the bacon and the garlic cloves from the marinade. Then add the celery, carrots and scallions. Let all of this cook down a while, 20 minutes or so. After these have cooked through, move everything to the sides of the pan, open a can of tomatoes and, after crushing the tomatoes up with your hands, add them directly to the bottom of the pot and cover. This part of the process is more important than it may seem. By putting the tomatoes directly onto the bottom, and leaving them there for a while, they will also caramelize and create a very nice flavor that would otherwise not occur.
After the tomatoes have had a chance, stir it all up and throw the meat back in on top and just cover with everything. Also, add about a third of the marinade to this mix. Retain the rest. Let the braise go for two hours, stirring about every half hour. Once it has cooked, remove the meat and blend everything else with a hand mixer. In this case, the amount of meat was really inadequate for the amount of sauce that was produced. Therefore, the meat needed to be kept separate, pulled apart and the sauce added. The next time of course, more meat will be used and hopefully be able to be kept in the sauce.
Approximately 30 minutes before the braise is done, take the reserved marinade and place in a pan over high heat. Bring this mix to a boil to reduce, adding a few pats of butter. Stir frequently and reduce to very nearly nothing. From about two cups to less than half a cup. This should take about half an hour. Once this sauce is reduced and the braising liquids mixed, add the sauce to the rest and stir together. I had to salt this sauce at this stage but if done at the appropriate time, before the meat sits in it, that should be unecessary.
It turned out quite good. Not quite what I was expecting and not quite pulled pork. Not quite bbq style anyway. Still it was a good start and I have many ideas on how to improve for next time. Just hope I can resist the urge to fuck with the next batch. Should be posting the results of the comparison soon.


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