Pork Melange & Garlic Polenta
Who let the pork out! Oink oink! One dope thing about winter, even a southern Californian t-shirt-and-flip-flop one, is all the rich and hearty food to help us power through the bitter cold. Today we’re going to warm up with some juicy pork, peppery andouille, smoky chorizo, and crispy bacon along with a garlic polenta. For the meat we’re basically just going to brown it in the pan then finish cooking it through in the oven. Can’t you just do it all in the oven? Of course you can but you ain’t no scrub, you deserve a better tasting and looking dish so you’ll sear these puppies (porkies?) first. If you want to use different sausages – Italian, bratwurst, any other pork sausage – then go for it. Technically you don’t even have to strictly use pork sausages but it’s nice to pick a theme and stick to it. As for the polenta we’re aiming for a simple one without the usual suspects, such as milk and parmesan, since the meat roast will offer quite a bit of richness and tons of flavor. I went ahead and served this dish with some pickled bell peppers but dill pickles, giardiniera, sauerkraut that you can saute a bit, and other pickled varieties work very very well. Finally you can spoon a bit of the rendered fat from the meat over the polenta when serving for an extra hit of flavor. Now go make this and enjoy it, maybe even with an adult beverage (if you’re of legal drinking age).
- 1.5 lbs (680 g) boneless pork shoulder
- 4 strips (4 oz / 113 g) thick cut bacon
- 1 (7 oz / 198 g) chorizo sausage
- 1 (7 oz / 198 g) andouille sausage
- 8 oz (227 g) corn meal
- 40 oz (1.2 l) water
- 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 g) unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves
- Start off by cutting the bacon and pork shoulder into larger chunks. I cut each strip into 4 pieces and the pork into chunks roughly the size of a golf ball.
- Place the bacon into a cold pan then turn the heat up to medium. Cook for a few minutes on one side then turn it over and cook it a for a couple more minutes. The idea here is to only cook it about half-way rendering some of the fat, we don't want this to get crispy just yet.
- Once the fat has become a bit translucent and the the meat has gotten just a bit of color remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Ideally at this stage there should be a couple of teaspoons of fat left in the pan but if there's too much then drain some or if not enough then add an extra hit of oil.
- Poke a few holes in the sausages on both sides using a fork then place in the pan this time raising the heat a bit closer to medium-high. Just like the bacon we only want to get some nice color on these bad boys without cooking them through. 2-3 minutes per side should be good to get them browned up. Once done remove them from the pan and set aside.
- Now it's time to brown up those pork chunks. Although the sausages have rendered their own fat I didn't have enough left in the pan to really get a good color on the pork so I simply added a bit of extra oil and boom, pork goes in. This is where you don't want to overcrowd the pan so sear the pork in a couple of batches. As per the bacon and sausage remove the meat along with any fat from the pan and set aside. I had some fond stuck to the bottom of the pan so I deglazed with a splash of pinot grigio and poured that dope little sauce over the pork. If you don't have any pinot grigio around you can use any (drinkable) dry white wine, chicken stock/broth, or water.
- At this point the sausage should be cool enough to handle so go ahead and cut each one into 3-4 pieces so that they're roughly the size of the pork chunks. You'll notice that these are still raw in the middle but so is the pork which is what we want, they will cook in the oven.
- In the same pan, if oven-safe, or in a baking dish mix together the pork, sausages, and bacon then place into an oven preheated at 425 f (218 c) for about 30-40 minutes or until everything has cooked through, is still juicy, and has gotten some extra color. Nobody would blame you if you were to, say, give everything a mix one or two times while in the oven.
- While all that porky goodness is roasting away it's time to make us some polenta! Pour the water into a medium sauce pot and bring up to a boil over high heat. The water should only go up about half-way in the pot so that the corn meal has enough room to expand and we have room to stir. Pro tip.
- While the water is heating up mince those garlic cloves like boss.
- Once the water starts bubbling up turn the heat down to low and pour in the corn meal slowly while stirring with a whisk so that no lumps are formed, you don't want lumpy polenta. If you simmer this over low heat then you don't have to worry about constantly stirring so that the corn meal doesn't stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. One tricky thing here might be getting the right amount of water for the amount of corn meal you're using which can also differ between the various brands. If you see the corn meal start sucking up too much water while pouring it in then add in an extra cup and resume adding the corn meal. On the other hand If there's a bit too much water then keep the heat on medium or medium-high and once enough water has evaporated drop the heat to low. Problem solved.
- Next up toss in the garlic and give it a good stir.
- This needs to cook over low heat until the raw corn meal flavor disappears and the desired consistency is achieved. For me this was about 20-25 minutes, stirring once in a while, and reaching a texture similar to creamy mashed potatoes.
- Add in the butter and stir until it's all melted in.
- Finally salt and pepper to taste then cover and set aside to keep warm until ready to serve.
- Once the pork is also done roasting take it out of the oven and let that cool off for 10-15 minutes.
- Now the moment we've been waiting for: serving the food. Serve all of that corny and porky deliciousness along with some pickled peppers or maybe some giardiniera and enjoy!