Monday, November 5, 2012

The Pig in Autumn - Part 2

Hello again!

As seen in my first post on autumnal porcine indulgences, it's not hard to use pork in making some of the most tasty and comforting foodstuffs you might ever try. Last time we forgoed (forwent?) the oven in favour of the slow cooker. Today, it's all about the oven.

Our first foray will be into the traditional realm of the stew. Making stew isn't really all that complicated. You take a lot of tasty ingredients and cut 'em up, throw 'em in a pot, and cook that sumbitch down until it's thick, rich and delicious.

OK, there are some intricacies that might need clearing up...

It was a cold night and I wanted to really get into all the flavours I love in the Fall and somehow get them all in a pot together. I wanted pork, apples, parsnips, carrots and potatoes to come together in a hearty bowlful of good that would make my life full of happy.

After picking up a nice pork chop at my local butcher, I mosied over to the fruit and vegetable purveyor to get the rest of what I needed for the stew. Whilst I was there, I noticed a whole bunch of fennel bulbs that called out to me "uuuuuuuuse us in your steeeeeeeeeeeeew!" (because somehow fennel is haunted). So I bought one. Having never used fennel before, I wasn't sure what the heck to do with it, but luckily the ever-cheerful part-owner of Byward Fruit Market (Myriam?) was able to give me the skinny on how to use a fennel bulb.

Basically, you use the stalks for things like soups and stews and whatnot. You use the fronds like any other herb (for garnish or whatnot) and the main bulb can be grilled, fried, or eaten raw in salads. It also kicks butt in a stir-fry as I discovered a little while later...

For my purposes, I decided to use the stalks and fronds. The stalks look pretty much like celery once you slice them up. And the licoricy (is that a word?) flavour fennel imparts actually worked quite well in this case, which is good, because I was a smidge worried I was about to ruin a perfectly good stew.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe!

Apple-Fennel-Pork Stew


- 1 lb. boneless pork meat, cubed
- 1/4 cup unbleached flour
- 1 large onion, minced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 red skinned potatoes, diced (about 1 cm thick)
- 2-3 fennel stalks, sliced (about 1/2 cm thick)
- 2-3 celery stalks, sliced (about 1/2 cm thick)
- 3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced fairly thin (about 1/4 cm)
- 1-2 parsnips, peeled and sliced fairly thin (about 1/4 cm)
- 1-2 Cortland apples, diced (about 1 cm thick)
- 1-2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup lager (Creemore is my go-to cooking beer)
- 1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
- 1 tsp fresh or dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- pinch grated nutmeg
- juice of half a lemon
- fennel fronds for garnish


- Coat pork in flour, shaking off excess flour.
- Heat oil at bottom of a large pot
- Brown meat and sauté onions and garlic on medium-high for about 5-6 minutes.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients, except the lemon juice, and cook on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes, until stew starts to thicken.
- Stir in lemon juice and cook for another 10 minutes or so.
- Serve garnished with fennel fronds.

Bubble, bubble, toil and OMNOMONOM...

The colours of Fall, in stew form

The verdict? A really interesting and comforting mix of flavours. The sweetness of the apple blended well with the more unique flavours of the fennel and parsnip, with the beer and pork adding a nice rich depth to the stew. This is perfect "eat with a hunk of bread after raking the leaves" kind of food.

Our next examination will be dirt simple, but it's one of the best foods around! You know and love their messy goodness. Give it up for rrrrrrrrrriiiiiibs!!!!!

Now, while ribs are generally considered a Summer treat, what's stopping us from making up a nice batch of them in the Fall? What? You don't feel like grilling? Well, who says ribs need to go on the grill? They don't even need to go on the smoker (not blasphemy, I swear!)

To be honest, baking your ribs is actually a much easier way to get super-tender, fall off the bone ribs than smoking. The moisture stays in much better and it's a damned site less effort. That being said, I will continue to stand by the virtues of smoker-over-oven for one reason, the most important reason: they taste better smoked.

But the comparative ease can't be ignored. The process is almost identical to smoking ribs, as per the last post on the subject.... First you brine the ribs. In this case, since I was using regular pork instead of wild boar, I made a different brine.

Baked Ribs

Brine (for about 2 lbs. of ribs)

- 8 cups water

- 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp ground mix of guajllo, chipotle and mulato chilis
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 4 bay leaves

So, after you brine the ribs for about 8 hours, rub them. I used pretty much the same rub as I did in June's post:


- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3-4 arbol chilis
- 1 guajillo chili
- 2-3 allspice berries
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3-4 star anise pieces (NOT the whole pod, just the seeds and/or fragments of the seed casing)
- 1 tsp. black pepper,
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp coriander

Grind all ingredients into powder, mix with sugar and generously rub on meat.

Store ribs in the fridge overnight wrapped in plastic.

Next day, remove from the fridge when ready to bake.

To bake the ribs, wrap them in foil and bake in a baking dish at 225 F for 4-5 hours. Remove foil and bake for another hour or so. Finally, about 10 minutes before serving, turn oven to broil, baste ribs with whatever BBQ sauce you like (I cheated and used store-bought) and broil until sauce is slightly caramelized.

So fall-off-the-bone tender that the cornbread is keeping it together!

Now, the result were fork-tender ribs (most tender I've ever made!) that tasted really good, but were missing that smoky flavour that is my life's blood. But all things considered, the convenience, ease, and warmth kind of make it a worthwhile way to cook ribs in colder times.

And there you have it, just a few ways you can take nature's most versatile meat and make it fit the season.
Hope you enjoy it!

Til next time!


  1. If yer in a pinch timewise, you can skip the brine on the ribs and boil them in something delish. I like using garlic/rosemary/etc infused sody-pops, most especially root beer or cream soda...

    1. Interesting... You don't find them too sweet?

  2. Nope. It adds a nice caramelization, sealing in all the juices and making a sweet barkiness...