My favourite Sunday is the last Sunday of the month. That is when my husband and I host our family dinners. I usually teach a cooking class on Sunday mornings, so the menu is always mostly make-ahead.
One family member who cannot eat pork is away this month, so there is no doubt what the main dish is!! Our niece with gluten intolerances is also joining us, so there goes a baked pasta which is a great do-ahead meal for large groups. So roasted pork shoulder with white beans and herbs it is! This is a great recipe as it can largely be prepped ahead and once it is in the oven, it is hands off. It also has the added bonus of cooking the side dish with the roast. All you need to do is round out the meal with a simple green salad. I recommend using a bright lemony vinaigrette on the salad to balance all the richness of the pork and beans.
Pork shoulder is an excellent way to feed a crowd as it is both tasty and economical. It is a tougher meat that is highly marbled (there is lots of fat running through the meat) which also makes it great for long-slow roasting. Don’t get worried about the fat, a lot of it cooks out during the roasting and can be skimmed from the beans before serving, but remember what Julia Child said, “fat gives things flavour!”.
You will usually find boneless pork shoulders that weight somewhere between 2 kg to 5 kg. You should plan about 250 g per person. All that marbling also means that your roast will shrink quite a bit during the cooking process. The pork shoulder is also called the pork butt. This is a bit confusing since the shoulder and the actual butt of a pig are pretty much on opposite ends of the animal. It seems the word “butt” has roots in Old English and means, “the widest part,” which on the pig, is his shoulders.
I obsess about the menu for a simple family dinner because food is my passion and planning the perfect menu is fun and exciting for me. However, I always remind myself, and you should too, that the food is really just a venue to bring together friends and family. A reason to get together, to share, to laugh. This is what Mona’s Table is about.
Braised Pork with White Beans
420 g (2 cups) dry white beans; cannellini, great northern or navy
15 ml (1 tbsp) minced sage, divided
7.5 ml (1½ tsp) minced rosemary, divided
10 ml (2 tsp) kosher salt, divided
5 ml (1 tsp) fennel seeds, ground
2 kg (4 lbs) boneless pork shoulder
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
120 ml (½ cup) dry white wine
1 L (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
60 ml (¼ cup) champagne vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch kosher salt
Sort and wash beans, and place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand for at least 8 hours. Drain the beans.
Preheat oven to 275°.
In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons sage, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds, and 3 minced garlic cloves, set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the large Dutch oven. Season pork with salt and pepper, then sear pork on all sides brown, about 2 to 4 minutes per side. Remove roast and set on plate.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat. If pot is dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté onions until translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add last clove of garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add white wine to deglaze pan, scraping up any browned bits.
Place beans, remaining 1 teaspoon sage, remaining ½ teaspoon of rosemary, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1 minced garlic clove, broth, and bay leaves in Dutch oven, and bring to a boil.
Rub garlic-herb mixture over pork and place in Dutch oven with beans. Cover and bake at 275° for 4 hours or until pork is very tender. Discard bay leaves. Pull pork apart into chunks, and serve with bean mixture.
Make Garlic-Vinegar Sauce by whisking together champagne vinegar, garlic and salt. Serve alongside pork.