I absolutely crave braising my food during the cooler months of the year. Pork shoulder, beef short ribs, chicken thighs - you name it - it's a reason to keep me in my favorite room of the house (ahem, the kitchen) with a glass of wine, waiting with drooling pleasure as my meat cooks ever so slowly with herbs and aromatics, creating a tender, moist dish full of robust flavors in the end.
Fellow Foodie and I have recently taken to Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home mostly because we have been cooking so much from our garden and Jamie just happened to have a cooking show about recipes from his garden on The Cooking Channel. We were intrigued by this different but utterly delicious recipe for Jamie's Favorite Hot and Sour Rhubarb and Crispy Pork with Noodles. Combining the braising technique with some lighter and very interesting flavors, we thought we would give it a go, changing up ours a bit to our liking.
Where Jamie's calls for pork belly, we opted for the inexpensive pork shoulder which was just as delicious. And the flavor combination with the rhubarb and other asian-inspired ingredients was a sure hit with our taste buds as well as our guests.
If you like pork shoulder and are up for something new and different, I strongly suggest you give this recipe a whirl.
(note: rhubarb is definitely a Spring season produce item, most commonly thought of as a fruit but is actually more like an herb; it looks just like red celery stalks and has a fantastic sour flavor that when cooked becomes slightly sweet with the appropriate acidity - if you can find it this Fall try this recipe, or put it in your "to do" list for next Spring).
3 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into small baseball-sized chunks
1 lb (about 4-5 large stalks) rhubarb, cut into large chunks, about 1"
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp soy sauce
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 fresh red chilies, halved and deseeded
1 heaping tsp Chinese five spice powder
2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
about 3-4 cups chicken broth (roughly 1 x 32oz box)
Canola or peanut oil
Salt and pepper
Soba or udon noodles, boiled according to directions on package
A couple of green onions/scallions, thinly sliced
Toasted sesame seeds
Fresh lime wedges
(this recipe can be made in a slow cooker/crock pot as well - I prefer the oven method for this recipe)
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a food processor, add the rhubarb, honey, soy sauce, garlic, chilies, Chinese five spice, and ginger. Blend together until mixture is pretty smooth.
Meanwhile, cut your pork shoulder into small baseball-sized portions or chunks.
Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large dutch oven or baking vessel over high heat; add the meat and the rhubarb marinade and enough chicken broth to slightly cover the meat. Bring mixture to a simmer, remove from heat, place lid on top (or cover with foil) and place in preheated oven for 2-3 hours (or longer) until pork is extremely tender and "shreds" when you fork at it.
Remove pork from pan and allow to rest a bit, about 20 minutes. Cut pork into small chunks.
In a saute pan over medium high heat, add 1-2 tbsp of oil and add each smaller pork chunk to the oil to crisp up on each side, about 30 seconds a side. When desired caramelization is reached, remove from pan and set aside.
Serve pork over noodles garnished with some green onions, sesame seeds, and lime wedges with a drizzle of the cooking liquid from the braise.
This was one of the most unique meals I had made in a long time, and the flavors and textures left not only us but also our guests to sneak back into the kitchen for seconds, not knowing if it was the tang of the rhubarb, the caramelization of the pork in the saute pan, or just the well roundedness of all of the flavors melting together that they liked the best. Try this recipe next time instead of your traditional carnitas recipe for an exciting and flavorful departure your taste buds will thank you for.