I have a favorite cooking pan. It is the one I reach for when I am sauteing or braising meat. It is a very large pan – 13 inches across. You can brown a lot of meat at a time.
It is a very deep pan – 6 inches deep. The contents can sizzle and spit and everything stays IN the pan.
It is a very heavy pan – 10 pounds. But two handles make it easy to handle. The bottom of the pan is very flat. It cooks so evenly there are no hot spots to burn its contents.
It cleans beautifully – shiny as a new silver coin. Amazing when you realize this same pan had been used several thousand times in our little French restaurant, Roxy’s Bistro. I have great affection for this pan.
I use this perfect pan to make Southern Italy dish PORK RAGÙ with polenta. Pieces of boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt) browned in olive oil are slowly simmered in a robust rich wine tomato sauce fragrant with fresh thyme and rosemary. Then it’s served over the creamiest, most luxurious polenta you have ever tasted.
I also use my perfect pan to make polenta. Think of polenta rich with whole milk, unsalted butter, seasoned with a little brown sugar and fine sea salt. Grate a little Parmigiano-Reggiano over it. Sprinkle the polenta with chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and you have polenta that is the stuff dreams are made of. Polenta that compliments superbly your lovingly prepared Pork Ragù.
There is a secret to this type of cooking. The Pork Ragù tastes even BETTER after it dreams away in the refrigerator for a couple of days. This makes it the perfect dish for entertaining. You simply carefully reheat the Pork Ragù and whip up the polenta. Even the polenta benefits from a tiny rest before being plated. If you have any left over Pork Ragù it makes a gorgeous sauce over pasta. It also freezes beautifully.
|POLENTA WITH SOUTHERN ITALIAN PORK RAGU
- 3 pounds skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt) cut into 2 inch chunks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves (about 4 tbsp, finely chopped)
- 1½ tb. fennel seeds
- ½ tsp red chili flakes
- 2 generous tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup full-bodied red wine
- 2 14-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes (preferably Italian)
- 6 good sized sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs(about 3 inches long) fresh rosemary
- 2 tbs red wine vinegar for finishing
- THE POLENTA
- 3 cups water
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 6 tb unsalted butter
- 4 tsp. light brown sugar
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1½ cups polenta
- Generous grindings of black pepper
- Just-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Season pork with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.
- Cook pork, turning often, until evenly browned - 10-12 minutes.
- Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with 2 tsp salt and several good grinds of black pepper
- Leave the golden-brown pieces in the pan but remove any burned bits.
- Add a little more olive oil if need and the onion and garlic sprinkled with a little salt., the fennel seeds and the chili flakes. (Adding a little salt to the onions draws the moisture from the onions and assists in the cooking of the onion.)
- Saute stirring occasionally until the mixtures becomes translucent and a little brown.
- Add tomato paste and cook stirring occasionally until slightly darkened in colour, about 5-8 minutes
- Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits reducing the wine a little..
- Add tomatoes crushing them as you go, then add the whole thyme and rosemary.
- Add the pork with any juices accumulated.
- Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer, partially covered, until pork is very tender. (2½ - 3 hours) Sauce will thicken.
- Remove sprigs of thyme and rosemary.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Pork can be cooked 5 days ahead. Let cool, cover and chill in sauce.
- THE POLENTA
- In a large, heavy saucepan over medium high heat, combine the water, milk, 4 tablespoons of butter, the sugar and the sea salt and bring the whole to a simmer.
- Lower the heat, and with one hand, slowly shake the polenta from its cup into the simmering mixture while briskly stirring with a wooden spoon in the other hand.
- Adjust heat to its lowest setting, stirring constantly, and cook until the spoon will stand up by itself.
- Remove from heat and grind over the pepper and dot the polenta with the remaining butter.Let the polenta rest briefly to cool and firm up and bit.
- Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and top with Pork ragu.