Dinner for nine: Braised pork with mushrooms; mashed potatoes; sugar snap peas with mint; Peach and raspberry pie; nectarine sorbet with blueberries – 4 June 2011

This was a remarkable meal, cooked principally by the two under-40s (one under-30) with the over-50s (mostly over-60s) providing cooking support, table setting, and assorted wine-drinking assistance.

M&N’s daughter S proposed a braised pork recipe for our planned dinner together, which was an excellent choice for a rainy, dreary day (outside it was dreary; in the kitchen it was festive!). D went to the Bowl for a 5lb pork shoulder so that N&S could get the pork cooking before lunch. We didn’t actually have a cooking pot that would both hold the 5lb pork shoulder and fit vertically in the oven, so the collective masses decided to cut the pork in half, and cook in our bread-baking cast iron dutch oven, plus our Le Creuset dutch oven that D bought without a top at Urban Ore earlier this year. The lid for our mega pasta-cooking pot (12 qt) from Costco served as the lid for the Le Creuset, and a Revere Ware lid handled duty for the top of that pot when I had to steam asparagus for lunch. Whew! Meanwhile, D’s Dad P cleaned some morels he had bought, and N sliced them into quarters, and they were cooked in butter and served over the steamed asparagus for lunch (along with a leftover pasta and scarlet runner bean soup from our freezer), but this is not a lunch blog. Back to the pork:

The two pork pieces were salted and peppered, then browned (“a lot”) in a smidge of olive oil (the pork rendered a lot of its own fat), and then removed to a plate.

N&S cut three onions cut into thick slices, cooked this awhile, very slowly, in the fat; peeled four large carrots and cut into large chunks, and added these and three cloves of garlic (which could be crushed but were not this time). When the veggies were sufficiently cooked, the pork was returned to the pans and about 2/3 of a bottle of red wine was added. This was one of the deceased wines we got at Grocery Outlet on the 21st of March – a garnacha – and it was a terrific and fitting end for what must have been a great wine once. About half that volume of Costco organic chicken broth was added – the volume should come halfway up the pork, for generous versions of “halfway” – plus a couple large sprigs of rosemary and a handful of thyme from the garden. I assume here the liquid was heated to boiling, though I didn’t ask that; then the pots were placed in a 325 degree oven for a couple of hours, then turned down to 250 when the meat was getting very dark. [N says she would use 250 – 300 degrees all the way through, because of the larger pieces of pork.] The pork was turned every 30-45 minutes or so during the cooking, then taken out and let sit while the sauce was made. The stock was allowed to settle, then strained, and the veggies discarded, and finally chilled so it could be easily skimmed before use.

S and N cut up 3 large (double) shallots and an onion, and caramelized them in oil and butter. They cut up portobello and white button mushrooms, and used a box of Pioppini without cutting (too cute they way they are). S notes you could use chanterelles instead; she prefers not to mix Asian and European mushrooms b/c of the different textures. She also points out you can cook the mushrooms separately if you like, or add to the onions to cook, which she did this time. She added more wine, and then the strained, skimmed stock back, and returned the pork – pulled into bite-sized pieces by now – to the pot to reheat before dinner. The salt also needed correcting at this point.

Let us not forget THE APPETIZERS: (especially b/c we are overdue for another photo!)

R made Moro’s Roast Almonds with [smoked, sweet Spanish] Paprika, and D made their Marinated Olives [mixed olives with coriander, fennel, orange, and red pepper]. I made Dean and Deluca’s Marinated [picholine] Olives with Thyme, Lemon, and Pepper Flakes, and also left some picholines unmarinated b/c P likes them better without the hot stuff.

We had mashed potatoes – the white kind that are sort of like Yukon Golds, peeled, boiled in salt water. M mashed them with butter and milk, and I suppose more salt and pepper.

R found sugar snap peas at the Farmers’ Market (in the pouring rain) and made a most excellent dish. He steamed the peas just slightly, and then tossed them with a paste made of blanched mint leaves from the garden and oil. Not sure where this recipe was from, before it was written on a little scrap of lined paper.

R made nectarine sorbet at home, and brought it to chill in his Cuisinart ice cream maker, and then finished the process at our house. He brought blueberries from the Market to serve alongside, because he is enamored of blueberries with nectarines. He and S collaborated on an outstanding pie entitled “Sonia’s Peach Pie Delicious” a recipe R got from my Mom.

R cooked the peach and raspberry filling, which was indeed delicious (runny, but who cares) and S made a beautiful and delicate, flaky crust, using a recipe from the Zuni Cafe cookbook. Major Wow dessert (and everything else!).

And the wines…

ranged from fabulous to good. We opened two wines that N&M had placed in our cellar for safekeeping during travel. One was superb; the other was unfortunately gone. That one will be an excellent part of a stew or something someday. The other was a Cab from Napa Valley by Don(?) Chappellet, and it was still excellent. M aired it and we held it for dinner. We opened a Calstar 2007 Zin for cooking wine, but realized it would be great with the pork, so we held onto half of the bottle to have with dinner.

After these were gone, D brought up an old friend, Monte Antico from Costco – a 2006 Sangiovese blend. Finally, a red table wine, Castelo do Sulco, to finish the evening. We didn’t actually finish that one!

Oops, no… then there was the dessert wine, a gift from our friend A, and a lovely wine – a muscato from Charles Spinetta Winery. We had this with the pie and sorbet!

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