Pulled Pork doesn’t have to be barbecue flavored or on a sandwich. It can still be rustic but with a more sophisticated, nuanced flavor.
I know, I know… I just shared a pork dish a couple of postings ago, but I love it, and it can be prepared so many ways.
Pork shoulder is a very forgiving cut of meat because it is marbled with fat that helps ensure it stays moist during a long cooking time. It’s a fan favorite of slow cookers (also known as crock pots) because you can largely “set it and forget it” and come home to Fred Flintstone floating through the air to the dinner table. But you can also make it in the oven in a heavy bottomed pot if you prefer, or do not have a slow cooker. I provide instructions for both ways, below.
You’re probably familiar with chicken mushroom marsala. It’s a classic dish with a can’t miss marsala taste because the cooking time is quick. But marsala cooked over a long period of time is a lightly-there, delicate flavor that’s not easily recognizable yet adds another layer of flavor complexity. Braising pork shoulder in milk is another classic Tuscan method that also ensures moist meat. Combining marsala and milk provides flavor, tenderness and moisture — attributes often lost with pork.
As shown in the photo at the top and below, I served the pulled pork over couscous with my recipe for mediterranean roasted bell peppers and pearl onions. Another way to enjoy it is with my pantry tomato sauce over my polenta recipe. If the words “pulled pork” got stuck in your head with images of sandwiches, then the least you can do it make my pickled fennel to serve with it. As you can see, pulled pork is that flexible. Yabba dabba doo!
Braised Pork in Milk and Marsala
- 3-4 pounds (48 – 64 ounces) boneless pork shoulder (also known as pork butt)
- 2 cups dry marsala wine
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups full fat milk
- 24 pearl onions, peeled
- 3-4 celery stalks, cleaned and leaves removed
- 5 garlic cloves peeled and gently smashed
- 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for pan, more for drizzling on meat
- Bring pork to room temperature (about 30 – 40 minutes prior to cooking)
- Trim large pieces of fat off the pork (leaving a little is fine and will help keep it moist)
- Rub salt on all sides of pork
- Pre-heat a heavy skillet (e.g., cast iron) on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Brown all sides of pork, about 2-3 minutes each side
- While pork is browning, place onions, celery and garlic at the bottom of your slow cooker or heavy pot (e.g. a Dutch oven). Add marsala wine and chicken stock. Set slow cooker on LOW for 8 hours. Alternatively, if using a heavy bottomed pot, pre-heat the oven to 300F (150C).
- If using a slow cooker, place the browned pork on top of the onions and celery. Drizzle some olive oil over the pork and close the lid. Flip the pork over several times while cooking
- If using a heavy bottomed pot, place the pork on top of the onions and celery. On the stovetop, bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the lid and carefully transfer the pot to the pre-heated oven. Flip the pork over several times while cooking. Remember to use a pot holder to remove and replace the lid!
- If using a slow cooker, at the 7-hour mark, add two cups of milk and stir to blend with the other liquid
- At the 8-hour mark, test the pork for “fork-tenderness”. Meaning, can you easily shred it. If it is done, you should be able to lightly pierce the pork with a fork and pull away some shredded meat. Once done, remove the pork, and wrap it in foil to rest for 15 minutes before cutting. When you slice it, the slices should fall apart. You can further shred it with two forks. (Note for future: If it remained in slices, it needed more cooking time. Make a note for the next time!).
- If you used a heavy bottomed pot, the cooking time is roughly 3 – 4 hours. It all depends on how much fat is in the pork and how it breaks down while cooking. It can be different each time. You must test and check on it. At the 2-hour mark, add 2 cups of milk and stir. At the 3-hour mark, like the slow cooker method, if it is done, you should be able to lightly pierce the pork with a fork and pull away some shredded meat. Once done, remove the pork, and wrap it in foil to rest for 15 minutes before cutting. When you slice it, the slices should fall apart. You can further shred it with two forks. (Note for future: If it remained in slices, it needed more cooking time. Make a note for the next time!).
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and serve with the pork. Discard the garlic, celery, and liquid