IF 1) you have 2.5 pounds of boneless pork shoulder left over from another recipe, AND 2) you bought one more butternut squash at the farmers market than you needed, AND 3) you have 1.5 cups of cheap but decent red wine remaining in your kitchen, THEN–what do you do?
Last night, I improvised. Without bragging, the results tasted great, one of my best ever spur-of-the-moment dishes, so I want to share the improvisation with you. You may substitute beef or lamb for the pork.
Pork & Butternut Squash Stew in Red Wine
- 1 tablespoon each of salt, black pepper, powdered garlic, cinnamon, rubbed sage, nutmeg, and marjoram
- 2-3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, beef or lamb
- 1-2 cups flour
- Canola oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion or shallots
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh garlic
- 1.5 cups red wine
- 1 cup chicken broth, bouillon or stock
- 1 butternut squash, 2-3 pounds, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Optional: 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Optional: 2 tablespoons yellow prepared mustard
- Mix together all of the spices except the paprika.
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator, cut into 1 inch chunks, toss with 1/3 of the spice blend in a bowl. Let the meat come to room temperature.
- Place 1/3 of the spice blend and the flour into a leak-free plastic bag. Close securely and then shake until all is well blended.
- Place the cubed meat into the bag (in batches if needed), close securely and then shake until the meat is thoroughly coated.
- Heat the oil over medium high heat.
- Use a 12 quart pot with a thick bottom, a cast iron pot, or a Dutch Oven. Brown the meat on all sides in batches. DO NOT brown too much meat at one time; not only must the meat fit in a single layer, there must be space between the cubes. If needed, add a tablespoon of oil between batches. Do not worry about the brown crust (the fond) that will form at the bottom of the pot unless it gets too dark, in which case turn down the heat.
- Remove all of the meat and set aside. Saute the onions for about 5 minutes until they turn translucent, stirring often.
- Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, or until fragrant.
- Pour in the red wine and chicken broth, stirring and scraping up the fond and other brown bits on the bottom of the pot. The fond will dissolve into the liquid, thickening it.
- Return the meat to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 60 minutes, stirring often.
- After 60 minutes, remove the lid, add the butternut squash and the remaining 1/3 of the spice blend, stir thoroughly, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 60-90 minutes, stirring often. Butternut squash cooks very slowly in a braise, so be patient. The stew will be ready to eat when you can easily cut a cube of the squash in half, encountering no resistance.
- Optional: Stir in the smoked paprika and/or the mustard at the very end, then turn off the heat. Yesterday I used the paprika and decided to skip the mustard, and felt very happy with the results.
Serve in bowls. I chose to spoon the stew over elbow macaroni.
The dish has only two colors–orange and brown–so I recommend as side dishes blanched and sauteed string beans, along with a salad of butter lettuce with sliced radishes, grated carrots and grated red cabbage. Beer or any full-bodied red wine will serve well as beverages.
Ideas for future experiments:
- Add 1 tablespoon allspice, fennel seed or ground anise to the spice blend.
- Add 1 pound fresh or frozen peas during the last ten minutes.
- If using lamb, substitute 2 tablespoons powdered rosemary for the sage and marjoram.
And always–have fun. If it appears that I might have left out a step or two, please let me know, as writing recipes is surprisingly hard work.
Vonn Scott Bair