BY RICHARD MOOREY
WELL November definitely hasn’t been the month of quick seasonal transition that we here in Northwestern Ontario are typically used to. We have had a few record high days across the region, some downright gorgeous spring like weather, not much early morning windshield scraping and just a light fleeting glimpse of the white stuff that couldn’t even be categorized as a dusting. While winter is definitely heralding its entry this year like a muted library conversation there is no doubt that it is on its way.
As a chef it’s always been interesting to me that the way we cook shifts gears with the seasons. Some of the seasonal change can be attributed to a change of ingredients that we have access to when the colder weather sets in and although with modern farming and our global network of food production and distribution we have better access to many things year round we still experience a change in the availability of some ingredients. Of course beyond the availability challenges that can affect our winter stores and shopping options our shift in meal planning is surely in part to an internal desire to have something that’s hot, hearty and “stick to your ribs” when the mercury drops.
While so many that live the life that we do here in Northwestern Ontario love the winter months and take full advantage of the snow with outdoor sports we do have a tendency to spend a far greater amount of time indoors during the cold months. One of my favourite ways to make use of this extra indoor time and ward off the dreaded “cabin fever” is to take on slow cooking meal projects that require a little more time and attention but provide some serious tastitude for the added effort.
While I don’t shy away from my barbecue or frying pans in the winter months it’s definitely nice to fill the house with the extra warmth from a few hours of oven use and all the amazing aromas that follow. Not to mention the gift of deliciousness that you give to your taste buds when fork meets mouth.
Recipes that involve cooking methods like braising, slow roasting or stewing that take advantage of slow cookers, braising or roasting pans, good old fashioned cast iron or the classics like crock pots or Dutch ovens are some of my all-time favourite tools for making some serious cold weather eats.
One of the best things about winter cooking is that no matter how many different recipes you put on the table this season when you put the brakes on your cooking and slow things down almost every one of your creations is sure to be a comfort food smash hit. So no matter how or when you decide to shift into your winter cooking mode this year be sure to take some extra time and let dinner help you keep you warm and your taste buds happy.
Beer Braised Pork Shoulder
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 6 large chunks
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of stout
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth
- 1 bunch parsley stems, tied with string
- 2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and working in batches brown the meat on all sides until a golden crust forms. Set aside.
Add the onion, celery, and carrot and sweat until softened. Add the garlic and sweat another two minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and cook a further three minutes. Whisk in the beer and reduce it by half. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, then stir in the beef stock, parsley stems, and bay leaves. Add the water if liquid does not come up to the top of the pork. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise until the meat is fork tender, about three hours.
Richard Moorey (aka Chef House) can be reached with email to firstname.lastname@example.org, through his website at www.evot.ca, or on his Facebook group Evolution of Tastitude. You can follow him on Twitter @House_74.