pork, fennel, and butternut squash stew

10 Jan

Blehhhh. What a dinner. Or lack of one. I didn’t get to eat this recipe until the morning, even though I started it at 5:30 the night before. Don’t let that dismay you. That won’t happen to you. You see, I have been eyeing a large Le Creuset dutch oven for a long time now. I found one at Marshalls for about $50 one time, but I was feeling stingy and decided, eh, my slow-cooker can do the trick 99% of the time. Well, it doesn’t. It does the trick about 70% of the time. Still good, but those other times just kill me. For this past Christmas I cooked a French feast (I, cleverly, dubbed the day “Noel”) and decided I should probably try to find a dutch oven finally. I stopped by TJ Maxx on Christmas Eve (they don’t have many Marshalls around here) and lo and behold, there was a display of lovely cast iron cookware! But dammit that same Le Creuset was going for $140. A bargain still, but it’s no $50! There was a smaller, 3 quart Cuisinart cast iron pot, but I couldn’t see myself using it much. So I ended up using my old Wagner cast iron pan, which is nice, but the pour spouts allowed too much liquid to evaporate and my boeuf bourguignon was a near disaster.

Now, in preparation for this recipe, I told myself that I needed to get a cast iron pot with an actual lid that fits. I decided to go back and get that 3 quart Cuisinart – after all, I’m kicking myself about not getting the Le Creuset when I initially saw it, right? So I picked it up – $40. Eh, I’ll try to forget that I could have gotten the bigger, better, badder one for $10 more.

All’s going well – I’ve prepped the whole recipe in advance (an anomaly) and I’m leisurely completing the steps while watching the latest episode of Stossel on my laptop. Then comes the step where I have to add the meat back to pot with the liquid ingredients, bring to a boil, and then transfer to the oven (woo hoo! here we go cast iron pot!). Oh. Crap. I can only get like 2/3 of the meat in the pot and the liquid’s literally at the rim, ready to overflow. And I haven’t even added the squash and fennel. I HATE YOU LOUSY 3 QUART POT!

At this point, it’s 7:30. I’m hungry. I didn’t feel like tending to a soup pot on the stove for the next hour and a half. I suppose I could have, and I may have been able to eat dinner, but I was just crabby at this point. So I transferred the whole thing, ladle by ladle, into my slow-cooker. And because the thing takes a while to heat up, I decided it needed 2 hours to cook. And when that time came, I was ready for bed – full of cheese and salami instead of pork stew with fennel and butternut squash. So instead, I just turned the heat on low and let the machine do its name sake all night. And yes, it did make a good breakfast!

Pork, Fennel, and Butternut Squash Stew

adapted from Bon Appetit

[Halving this recipe would be a good idea if you’re not cooking for an army. I have lots of leftovers. Plus, it would fit in a 3 quart pot. Sigh. Also, you can do this 3 ways. Dutch oven, slow cooker, or stovetop. I’ll make notes for each.]


3 pounds pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 2 inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sage (dry rubbed or powder or whatever is fine)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped bacon (I used pancetta – not necessary)
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups broth
1 cup dry red wine
2 large fennel bulbs, quartered and sliced (chop fronds if you have them – mind didn’t)
1 medium butternut squash, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1. Place pork in a large bowl. Combine spices in a little bowl, then pour onto the pork. Stir to coat evenly and let sit for 30 minutes. (I’m not entirely sure why the recipe calls for this, but it’s nice to use that time to do the rest of the chopping).

2. Preheat oven to 350 if using an ovenproof cookware. Turn on crock pot if using that.

3. Heat the oil in the ovenproof pot, or regular pot. Add the bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.

4. Add about half of the pork chunks to the pot and cook for 8 minutes, until browned. Remove with slotted spoon and add to bacon. Repeat with remainder of the pork.

5. Add the onions and garlic to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. After this is done, you can add these ingredients to the slow cooker, if using.

6. Add can of tomatoes (don’t drain), broth, wine, and pork mixture to the pot and bring to a boil. Or add these ingredients to slow cooker. If you have the ovenproof pot, cover and put in the oven. Cook for one hour. If using the stovetop, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for same about of time. In the slow cooker, you can add your vegetable ingredients as well and you’re done!

7. After an hour of cooking, either on the stovetop or oven, add the vegetables and cook for about another 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. I like my squash on the mushy side, so I’d be sure to cook it long enough for that. Now this is where I stopped, since I was pretty done with the stew at this point (it being the next morning and all.) But there’s more…

8. Once vegetables are to your liking, remove them and the meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Boil the liquid on medium-high heat until thickened. The sauce should coat a spoon, about 25 minutes. Return veggies and meat to the pot and adjust seasonings.


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