Pork braised with beer and cinnamon

April 11, 2012 § 20 Comments

Hello friends.  How are you?  I am well, but my head is quite lodged in a cloud of data.  Like the high peak of a mountain, caught in its own little weather pattern of eternal fog.  Would that I had some of the other characteristics of a mountain to compensate!  I trust that at some point it will all coalesce and I’ll be able to step out of it enough to see what shape it is – a bunny! a dragon! an armadillo! ah, the shapes clouds take on… – but right now I’m in the thick of it, hours upon hours of interview data.

(At least it’s the very best kind of data I could possibly be wanting to work with – people’s stories!  How precious!  Yet, I find this also makes it all the harder to do anything akin to analyzing.  I’d rather just listen…)

Also, along with Boston’s schoolchildren, whatever wonky muse I may be endowed with seems to be taking an April vacation.  Anyone who has seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s stellar TED talk on creativity and genius will know exactly what I mean when I say, my genius is being “kind of lame” at the moment.  (And, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  It’s fascinating and entertaining.)

I don’t consider myself “a writer,” per se, perhaps because of exactly the fear that Gilbert speaks about in her talk, that this would then come with attendent psychoses and creativity-driven total manic desperation to write.  I’m not saying I’m stable or anything, ha, but I can’t say that I’m prone to so very much manic desperation either.  But, I do write.  Obviously.  Otherwise this space would be pret-ty empty.

And, as with so many people who write, much of the time I feel as though sentences are delivered to me from somewhere else.  They come from some ether of words, and I stumble on them like precious finds at a flea market.   Which is not to say there is no work involved.  While some are already perfect, most things you find at a flea market need some scrubbing and restoration, perhaps a new coat of varnish, or at least a little polishing.  I usually fiddle with sentences a great deal after I receive them.  But it doesn’t feel like I am the one who creates them.

So, you know, don’t blame me if I introduce this pork now with much less pomp and circumstance than it deserves.   Pomp and circumstance it does deserve, though, for its sheer succulence and malty, nutty fragrance.  But, it is just as likely to receive a couple of snickers because it is made from pork butt, and it is a fact of life that butt is one of those words that it is very hard not to snicker at, even if you manage to keep your giggles on the inside.

Pork butt is a wonderful cut of meat to work with, though.  Particularly if your aim is to leave your supper to attend to itself, cooking low and slow until it is falling apart, so tender it could be shredded with a spoon handle.  Pork butt is the traditional player in pulled pork, in fact.  But, this particular roast is slowly braised in a mixture of dark beer and caramelized onion.  Bay and cinnamon lend it sweet, woodsiness (they are leaves and bark, after all).

There is a bit more story to it than that, but it’s a story I can’t find the words for right now.  So, I’m leaving you with just the pork.  Speaking for myself, though, were I left with “just” this pork, I wouldn’t be disappointed in the least!

Pork Braised with Beer and Cinnamon (serves 4)

  • 2 1/2 lbs. pork butt roast
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 1/2 pints of dark beer
  1. Preheat your oven to 300F.  Sprinkle your pork roast generously with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium high heat.  When the butter is foaming, add the pork.  Brown well on all sides, then transfer the pork to a plate.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and brown, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Then stir in the beer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you stir.  Add the pork back to the pot along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate.  Cover tightly and put the roast in the oven.
  4. Bake in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, flipping the meat over halfway through.  Then, remove the cover and cook another 30 minutes, until the meat is completely tender and pulls apart easily with a fork and the sauce is somewhat thickened.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to sit rest for 5-10 minutes.  Then, serve warm over soft polenta or mashed potatoes.

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