Pork, Fennel, and Butternut Squash Stew

I have a brussel sprouts recipe all queued up for this blog. And not just ANY brussels sprouts recipe, but my all-time favorite brussels sprouts recipe; the one I turn to year after year, Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving, Christmas after Christmas. Unfortunately, those will have to wait, because I just ate this stew and youmustknowaboutit NOW!

For a girl who loves pig in every way and even has pigs (drunk ones) in her blog header, there really isn’t much pork on here. It seems that I save my meat eating for my restaurant excursions, sticking to a mostly veggie (and cake) diet here at home. But you must believe me: I LOVE PORK. I love how it loves all flavors; how you can shred it with chipotles and cumin, pair it with apples and sauerkraut, cook it in its own fat until crispy and tender, or cure it and smoke it and call it bacon. In my mind, it’s the finest, most talented meat. A pork roast slow cooked with nothing but rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic? Served with roasted potatoes and spinach? One of the worlds great dinners. I love it.

You may have noticed that I’m a one-pot meal girl. Sure, I’ll steam some rice or boil some pasta on the side if I must, but for the most part, I’m not big on multi-component meals. If I can fit all my elements in one cooking vessel, I’ll do it and do it with gusto. One pot meals almost always keep well, improving in the fridge over night, and freeze well. They mean you never run out of one component and they’re easily transportable (no worrying about multi-chambered Tupperware). They also tend to (usually, but not always) incorporate just the kind of braising that I like. This recipe jumped out at me not only because it pairs pork with something sweet (butternut squash) and one of my favorite winter veggies (fennel), but also because it was a one-pot stew. 

Holy hell people, this one is a keeper. I have to admit that the red wine threw me. Shouldn’t it be white wine with the white meat and the fennel and the sweet squash? Maybe that would work, I don’t know, but what I do know is that This. Stew. Is. Freakin’. Awesome. Sweet, savory, warm, fragrant, it is everything I’m looking for in a dinner. The pork, which is cooked for a couple of hours in total, melts in your mouth. The chopped fennel fronds add body, creating a thicker sauce. The butternut squash is, well, butternut squash: always delicious. The fennel is cooked just long enough to be tender, but still crisp, adding textural interest. Honestly, this is one of the better recipes I’ve made in a good long while and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s only going to get better in the fridge over night. You guys should get on this. Really.  Like, right now.

Pork, Fennel and Butternut Squash Stew

From Bon Appetit. Serves 6-8.

Pork Butt! Pork butt is actually pork shoulder, so buy either. The original recipe suggests that you serve this over noodles, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I also don’t think it’s necessary to boil the broth down at the end, as the original recipe suggests and next time I will add the squash a few minutes after the fennel so that it doesn’t get quite as soft. Other than that, the recipe is perfect; I’ve included my changes in the version below.

3 lb trimmed pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 2″ cubes
2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
2 T chopped sage
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground ginger
2 T olive oil
4 oz thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 Lg onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 c dry red wine
2 lg fresh fennel bulbs; bulbs cut into 1-inch cubes; fronds chopped and reserved (about 5 cups)
2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1.5″ cubes

  • In a large bowl, toss the pork cubes with the salt, black pepper, sage, cayenne, ginger and nutmeg until evenly coated. Let sit ~30 min
  • Heat oven to 350°F
  • In a large oven-proof pot, over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the pancetta and cook until beginning to brown, ~3 min. Using a slotted spoon, remove pancetta to a  medium bowl and set aside
  •  Add half of pork to the pot and sear until brown on all sides, ~8 min. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to the bowl with  the pancetta. Repeat with remaining pork
  • Add the onions and garlic to the pot and sauté until soft, ~5 min
  • Add the tomatoes with juices, broth, wine, and pork mixture back to the pot. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits
  • Cover the pot and place in oven. Braise for 1 hour
  • Add fennel bulbs and chopped fronds, cover, replace in oven, and cook ~15 min
  • Add the squash cubes to the pot and cook in oven, covered, for another 20 min or until squash is tender
  • If the stew is too watery for your liking, remove the meat and veggies with a slotted spoon, place the pot on the stove over medium-high heat, and boil until the sauce is reduced to your desired consistency. Replace the meat and veggies and simmer until rewarmed (I skipped this step entirely)
  • Season with salt and pepper and let cool 20-30 min before serving

 

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One thought on “Pork, Fennel, and Butternut Squash Stew

  1. You’ve sold me Cali! This looks so harvesty and spectacular. And actually, you are very much inspiring me today with the squash. As I type this, I have a pork shoulder cooking in a crock pot in apple cider with halved apples. I happen to have butternut squash sitting on my table. I think I will cube it and throw it in for the last hour. Yay! Considering my oven/stove is hanging out in my entry way at the moment waiting for my kitchen floors to be installed, I feel overly enthused about getting to add a vegetable to my one-pot wonder meal. Thanks! I hope you are doing well and life is straightening out for you.

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