15 December 2008

Pork shoulder confit with old fava beans

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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.

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