birch and grasses alone on the snow, grey sky indistinguishable. the flat world falls into the edge of time, lifeless, dull wedge of horizon and soundless ...
15 December 2008
Pork shoulder confit with old fava beans
The fava beans were old and tough and the half-life of the nutrients had probably depleted to a point where it didn't matter if I ate them or not. But today was cold enough to eat shoe leather stew, and I still had a lot of pork shoulder confit to use. We also had a bottle of bad wine in the kitchen and a few other odds and ends that needed to be eaten.
I started by simmering the fava beans in water for an hour or two, trying to soften the skins. The kitchen started to smell good when I sautéed a big onion and a few cloves of garlic in an olive oil/duck fat mixture; a few bay leaves were added when the onions softened and I peeled and cut up a few carrots, too. I turned the flame high and poured almost a cup of inky-dark wine into the pan, and it bubbled and cooked away. For the next half hour I kept adding wine by the pour - a few glug-glugs or so, wanting to keep the reducing liquid at a boil. I softened a handful of dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl of hot water, and added the liquid before the chopped mushrooms.
Next came the drained fava beans with their tough skins; some people like to peel them, and it's easy to do after they've cooked, but I wanted the chewiness of the skins, and their dark color, too. A can of plum tomatoes came next and then a sprinkle of sugar. I covered this and let it cook awhile, adding a pour of water when it appeared to be drying out. I cooked it about an hour, scraping down the sides and giving it a stir when needed. I sliced the pork confit and spread it on the bottom of a dutch oven. I poured the bean mixture over it and was about to put it in the oven, but the dish looked incomplete. I liked the look of the carrots and tomatoes, so I peeled and diced a big sweet potato and a yukon gold, hoping their color and shapes would improve the texture. Finally, I added more pork to the top and poured a little water over the whole thing. I baked it with the lid on for forty-five minutes and removed the lid for the last twenty minutes - it browned up nicely on top.
Results were mixed: my youngest daughter and I liked it a lot, but my cassoulet-loving son was not impressed. My wife thinks most of these stew-type dishes are a homogeneous blend of things that turn purple; it was the attempt to prevent this that prompted me to add the potatoes.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow's dinner - more of the same, I hope.