Stew up some good, hot fall foods

Published 11:59 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

The days are getting cooler and one can think of stews, braised and roasted meats, and sautéing vegetables into luscious, hearty dishes. I was looking for such a dish to use with quinces, which we have in our yard this time of year and came upon just the thing in the new issue of Bon Appetit. We have often had flowering quince in our yards in varying locations. I think the blossoms are great on the bare stems in early spring. But none of our bushes ever had fruit. Now I note that the fruiting variety is of the genus cydonia (three flowering quinces of eastern Asia are now in the genus Chaenomeles and were probably what we had before). We inherited this fruiting bush with our house and if you are looking for one and want fruit either get a division of one that fruits or make sure you are buying a cydonia and not Chaenomeles.

Quinces are a yellow apple or pear looking fruit that is usually used in jams, jellies and preserves since most are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw. They require a cold period to flower and a long hot summer to ripen fruit – that suits us to a T.

This dish needs to be started at least two days ahead, but it very easy to prepare. It lasted for several meals and the greens and polenta as side dishes are wonderful with the pork.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Quince

2 teaspoons paprika

1 ½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of ground cinnamon

5 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed, tied in several places to hold shape

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 large quinces (about 1 ½ pounds total), peeled, cored, each into 8 wedges

2 cups chopped onions

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped carrot

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup pomegranate juice (available at Winn Dixie)

½ cup low-salt chicken broth

2 tablespoons red currant jelly (or some other red jelly)

2 small bay leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Lemon juice

Chopped fresh mint

Lemon wedges

Stir paprika, 1½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, coriander, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon in small bowl to blend. Spread spice mixture all over pork shoulder. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter with oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add pork shoulder and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer pork to plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pot and reduce heat to medium. Add quince to pot. Sauté until cut sides are slightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer quince to bowl. Add onions, celery, and carrot to pot. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add pomegranate juice and chicken broth. Bring to boil, scraping up brown bits. Add red currant jelly, bay leaves, and thyme, then quince. Return pork to pot, fat side up. Cover pot with foil, then lid; place in oven.

Braise pork until very tender and thermometer inserted into center registers 165 degrees, basting occasionally, about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Cool pork uncovered at room temperature 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and chill at least one day or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer pork to work surface. Cut off string. Cut pork crosswise into ½ inch thick slices. Overlap slices in 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Using slotted spoon, arrange vegetables and quince around pork. Boil juices in pot until thickened enough to coat spoon, about 15 minutes. Season with coarse kosher salt and pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Pour over pork. Cover and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle pork with chopped mint; surround with lemon wedges and serve.

Braised Greens

6 servings

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 pounds collard greens, Swiss chard, or broccoli rabe

2 cups low-salt chicken broth

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Melt butter with vegetable oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add greens and sauté until beginning to wilt. Stir in broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until greens are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Creamy Polenta

6 servings

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

¼ cup butter

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually whisk in polenta; whisk constantly until mixture is smooth and begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until tender and thickened but still creamy, stirring often, about 30 minutes. Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

A cooking note: cornmeal cooks faster than polenta, so if replacing the polenta with the cornmeal, cook it about half as long.