This will be my last stew of the season. The weather is becoming progressively warmer. The sun shines brighter and longer. Thoughts turn to lighter, cooler, simpler fare. And yet even as I write that, even as I commit the thought to (virtual) paper, I’m probably ensuring that I’ll make at least one more stew before summer. Just to prove myself a crafty little liar.
Because I really can’t resist a good stew. You know how much Paulo and I adore them. Whatever the time of year, there is always a stew that seems somehow perfect. Some light, some heavier. Some quick, some slow-simmering. Some served at near-room-temperature, while other bubble in the serving pot like tasty lava. Ah, maybe that is what I should have said at the beginning. This stew will be my last heavier, slow-simmering, tasty lava stew of the season. Then again, I may be lying.
I adapted this recipe from one provided by Melissa Clark. The ingredients seem rather quotidian, but let me tell you, the sauce reduces down to a lusciously good substance, almost creamy in its smooth richness. Melissa suggests using pork shoulder, but I substituted pork sirloin roast. The latter has far less fat, but because it is dark meat, it becomes meltingly tender upon long-simmering. (Whatever you do, don’t use white meat pork. It dries out quickly, despite that luscious sauce.) I also used regular yellow onions instead of the leeks that Melissa specified. I love leeks. I include them in many things. But the flavor of the stronger onions seemed to stand up better within the rich sauce. I made a few other minor changes, tweaking this and that, and ended up producing a stew that we immediately included on our favorites list.
Serve the stew with whatever makes you happy, mashed potatoes or polenta or rice, or what have you. We spooned it over bowls-ful of Yukon gold mashed taters, and drank a bottle of excellent Romanian red wine (yes, Romanian), though I forget the varietal. We sat on the deck as the bright spring sun descended, as a warm breeze with a cooler undertone wafted around us.
Pork Braised with Wine, Cinnamon, and Olives
2 lbs pork sirloin roast, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
2 T oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
5 anchovy filets (optional)
2″ length of cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary
2/3 cup green olives, whole if small, coarsely chopped if large
Season the pork cubes with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a wide, deep stew pot over fairly high heat. Brown the pork, allowing each side to achieve some nice caramelization before turning. (The higher heat helps this happen.) When the pork has browned all over, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon. (Add a little extra oil to the pan if it has all disappeared.) Saute the onion and garlic until the onion turns soft and translucent. Return the pork to the pan, and add the tomatoes with their juice, the wine, anchovies, cinnamon, bay leaves, and rosemary, along with 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and allow the stew to simmer gently for 1 hour.
Stir in the olives. Add salt, if needed, along with some pepper. Let the stew simmer for another 1/2 hour, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened and the pork is ridiculously tender. Serve over mashed potatoes, polenta, or rice. The leftover stew reheats beautifully later.