Pork Braise with Orzo and Arugula

One night Whitney decided we should have something like this Pork Ragu for dinner, but I was in charge of the prep. Feeling somewhat lazy that night, I was annoyed that the recipe would have us cook such a small amount of vegetables in a skillet and transfer them along with a small amount of pork (since we halved the recipe) into a slow cooker, and getting both of them dirty in the process. With that attitude I looked up how to slow cook in a dutch oven so I could just saute the veggies in it and then throw the pork in and put the whole thing in the oven. I ended up putting the dutch oven in a 325 degree oven for 2-3 hours, and the meat came out perfectly while I saved myself a little bit of dish-washing.

Other than the cooking technique I think we followed the recipe pretty closely. We used orzo for the pasta and some full-grown arugula from a produce box we had. This was one of the better pork preparations we've done (I really prefer the tenderness from slow cooking) and look forward to having it again.

Pork Rag├╣ with Broken Lasagne from Sara Moulton

Serves 6 to 8: Makes 12 cups meat and sauce
4 pounds bone in pork shoulder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 rib celery, cut into large pieces
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 cups Chicken Broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound dried pasta, such as broken lasagne
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups trimmed baby arugula
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Using a sharp knife, remove the thick skin from the pork, leaving a small amount of fat on top of the meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the pork in a large slow cooker.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and fennel seeds.
Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and thyme and bring it to a simmer.
Add the contents of the skillet to the slow cooker. The meat should be almost covered by the liquid. If not, add some water.
Cover and cook on low until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone, and a small sharp knife inserted in the meat comes out easily, 8 to 10 hours.
For the dutch oven method I mentioned, cook the veggies in a slow cooker, then add the pork, cover, and put in a 325 degree oven for 2-3 hours.
Place the meat on a cutting board. With two forks, tear the meat into bite size pieces and discard the bones. Place the meat in a bowl.
Strain the cooking liquid into another bowl. Skim off the excess fat. Discard the solids.
Pour enough of the liquid over the pork to cover the meat. (Use the remainder for soup or stews.) When ready to serve, reheat the pork in its liquid in a large pot. Simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boiling over high heat.
Add the pasta and salt to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is tender yet firm to the bite. Drain well.
Add the pasta to the pot with the meat. Add the butter and cheese and stir well. Stir in the arugula. Serve immediately.

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