Braised Pork Shoulder with Pears and Leeks
Braised pork shoulder with pears and leeks slow cooks in the oven until it falls off the bone. This melt-in-your-mouth dish just might be the perfect Sunday supper. It’s elegant, yet easy, nutritious and delicious. Sure to please your hungry crowd on any day of the week!
This braised pork shoulder is one of my favorite cool weather meals. The meat is slow braised with pears, white wine, sage, thyme and leeks for an unbeatable sweet, savoury combination that’s out of this world. It’s delicious served with fluffy mashed potatoes or a crusty loaf of country bread. This is the very best sort of old-fashioned comfort food.
I love dishes, like this one, that are slow cooked in enamelled cast iron. They fill your home with a delicious fragrance that makes it feel snug and cozy. Best of all, cooking this way creates melt-in-your-mouth dishes whose flavours harmonise during the long, slow cooking process. That is the beauty of cooking en cocotte!
What is a cocotte?
You must be wondering why I am using this funny French term. Well, the word cocotte is literally translated from French as casserole. However, a cocotte really refers to the type of cooking utensil. A cocotte is an enamelled cast-iron pan with a heavy lid that makes it ideal for long, slow cooking. Cocottes can also be long, slow cooked over charcoal which adds a delicious smokiness to the mix.
Cooking with Wine
White wine is an important part of this recipe’s flavour profile. You may be wondering what type of wine would be best. I like to use a dry white in this recipe and, in fact, I normally choose a bottle of pinot grigio (though that’s not set in stone).
If you’re like me, you may have grown up hearing talk of “cooking wine” — which was considerably cheaper than table wine. Trust me when I tell you that using cheap, off-price wine for cooking is a really bad idea. You should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.
Why, you ask? Simply because the same unpleasant flavours that make the wine undrinkable will wind up in your food! You don’t want to go to all the trouble (and expense) of producing a meal just to ruin it with poor quality wine. In fact, many French cooks wouldn’t dream of cooking with anything other than the wine they intend to serve.
While you don’t have to be that orthodox, it’s wise to take the time to find wines in your price range whose flavours you enjoy. You will enjoy those same flavours in your food, and your family will thank you for it!
About this Recipe
This is a very simple recipe — which is part of its appeal. However, there are a few things to keep in mind for best results.
- Browning. It may seem a little fussy. But, do take the time to properly brown the meat as shown in the photo at right. This will make an enormous difference in the taste of the finished dish, as all that caramelisation is packed with great flavour!
- Pears. I like to use green pears that are just underripe for this dish, as they are a little less sweet. If, however, you love a little extra sweetness in your savoury dishes, go for ripe pears. They will melt into the sauce and be scrumptious!
- Leeks. When cooking with leeks, washing is super important. All those layers tend to trap lots of sand and grit. Personally I like to slice leeks in half lengthwise, leaving them attached by about 2 centimetres at the bottom. This allows me to fan out the layers in a bowl of water and really loosen and release all the grit. You will want to rinse them this way about 3 times in order to be absolutely sure your leeks are clean. There’s nothing worse than losing a filling to a bit of sand at the dinner table!
Finally, I hope you and your family enjoy this braised pork shoulder every bit as much as mine does. Bon appétit!