Growing up, a staple at family parties was keilbasa in grape jelly. There was other stuff in it, like ketchup or barbeque sauce, and probably some Lipton French Onion Soup mix, because wasn’t that stuff in everything in the 70s and 80s? The dish was usually served warm, in a crockpot or on a hot plate or something, and we’d spoon it up onto our paper plates right next to the macaroni salad dressed with Miracle Whip. It was the type of recipe that probably originated on the back of a jar of Smuckers, designed by The Man to find new ways to help the hungry masses injest sodium and high fructose corn syrup. It was chock full of processed pork scraps and chemicals, but it was sweet and spicy, and went perfectly with a styrofoam cup of Sprite.
Since this blog is a Sandra-Lee-Free-Zone, I’m not even going to try to recreate that dish. But The Man did strike gold when he combined pork products with grapes. Thankfully, Bon Appetit has come up with a version of that delicious combination that won’t make you hang your head in shame when you eat it.
The recipe is amazing. It’s a perfect fall or winter dish, so since there’ll inevitably be another cold, blustery day before the warm weather hits, I recommend filing this away for that occassion. The original recipe didn’t involve polenta, but I thought it needed something to absorb the broth. Polenta was definitely the right choice, since it’s a little sweeter than rice or potatoes so it compliments the grapes nicely. Mashed potatoes might work with this, though I think they might be too earthy for such a fruity dish. Though, you could always go for Miracle Whip macaroni salad.
Braised Pork with Grapes and Balsamic over Creamy Polenta
For the pork
1 3 1/4-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed, cut into 3 equal pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 large shallots, halved, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
3 cups seedless black grapes (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 large fresh sage sprigs
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs
For the polenta
1 cup polenta
3 cups water, broth, or a mix
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 325°F. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add pork to pot and cook until browned on all sides, about 13 minutes total. Transfer pork to plate; discard fat in pot.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium heat. Add shallots and grapes; sauté until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add sugar; sauté 30 seconds. Add vinegar; bring mixture to boil and cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add broth, all herb sprigs, and pork with juices from plate. Bring to boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven.
Braise the pork for 1 hour. Using tongs, turn pork over and continue braising until meat is very tender, about 45 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, make the polenta. Bring the water, broth, and milk to a boil. Add the polenta and the butter, and reduce to a simmer. Whisk the polenta in thoroughly to make sure there are no lumps. Keep the pan on simmer, whisking every few minutes, for approximately 25 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency.
When the pork is done, remove it from the oven, and using slotted spoon, transfer pork to platter; tent with foil.
Remove herb sprigs from pot and skim fat from surface of cooking liquid. At this point, the grapes should have completely disintegrated, leaving you with a rich, flavorful broth. Boil that over high heat until thickened. The recipe suggested boiling for 7 minutes, but I had a lot of liquid in the pot, so I boiled it for about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour over pork and serve. Or, just place the pork back in the liquid and serve everything from that pot.
Spoon the polenta into shallow bowls and serve the pork and broth over everything.
It does not make for the most elegant presentation, but it definitely tastes wonderful. If I were cooking this for guests, I might sprinkle some fresh thyme over the dish to give it a bit more color.
The recipe suggests pairing the dish with a 2003 Rosenblum zinfandel. By sheer coincidence, we had a Rosenblum zinfandel on hand, just a later year and a different vineyard. But, close enough to justify opening it.
It went perfectly with the dinner. If you can’t get your hands on a Rosenblum wine, I would definitely recommend sticking with a zinfandel. The dish is fruity, and the peppery zinfandel compliments it nicely.
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