The biggest challenge (and most exciting new recipe) of my Week Of Trying this past week came from Bruce Aidell’s Complete Book of Pork, for Beer and Mustard Braised Chops. The recipe was for a fattier chop than your standard pork chop, and specifically suggested getting “4 butt steaks” that were all 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 inches thick. I sent Boomer to Whole Foods with the instructions, written verbatim from the cookbook. The person at the meat counter interpreted them thusly:
Yeah, that’s almost seven pounds of sliced-up Boston butt. That was… more pork than I needed. But we all had a good laugh at it, considering we don’t often eat “cuts of meat” types of meat around here, and considering we’d found ourselves in possession of what can only be described as a mountain of butt steaks. Who wouldn’t find that funny?
Anyway, I put half the butt steaks aside for later use, and proceeded to beer-and-mustard braise just two of these monster butt steaks. The recipe started with a flavor rub of 1 tbsp each of fresh chopped thyme, rosemary and sage, 1 tsp each of ground mustard, sweet Hungarian paprika and kosher salt, and something like half a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. The steaks needed to be rubbed all over with the spice mix, then left to sit at room temperature for an hour (or wrapped tightly in the fridge for up to 24 hours, with the explanation that the longer it sits with the rub, the tastier the pork will be).
While my butt steaks were enjoying their rub (hee!), I got to work chopping and dicing to get my two cups of thinly sliced yellow onions and 1/2 cup diced carrot. Once everything was ready, I heated a tablespoon of olive oil over moderately high heat in a large skillet and seared the butt steaks on both sides, for about three minutes a side, until they were browned. Then I removed the pork from the pan, lowered the heat to medium, and added the onions and carrots to the pan. The onion/carrot mixture then got covered and left to cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring them frequently, until they were super-soft.
Once the onions were crazy soft, it was time for things to get saucy. I added 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of dark beer (I had a growler of Triumph Brewery’s Amber Ale on hand — probably not as dark as it could have been, but plenty dark for me), and stirred up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Then I stirred in one tablespoon of coarse-grained mustard and one tablespoon of cider vinegar (the recipe said you could go with balsamic vinegar instead if you so desire), then brought everything to a boil, ready to get braising. The butt steaks (and accumulated juices) went into the sauce, the lid was slapped on, the heat was adjusted to have everything at a simmer, and then I waited about an hour, until the pork was succulent, tender and falling apart. Mmmmm…
To finish off the sauce, you take the pork out of the pan, skim off the fat, and then boil it down until it reduces to a syrupy consistency. Then stir in half a cup of sour cream (or creme fraiche), and serve over the pork. Of course, there was a little work left to be done, as Pookie is not one for carving meats, and moreover, a butt steak is not the world’s most beautiful piece of meat to be confronted with on a dinner plate, especially a butt steak the size of my car. I decided to trim the meat and then cut it into nice chunks, for ease of carving while eating in front of the TV; in the end the presentation was pretty much stew-like. I served this with heaps of sour cream smashed potatoes and some steamed carrots.
And seriously, despite this taking about three hours from start to finish, on a work night, it was well worth the trouble. The sauce was hearty and rich, while also fresh-tasting with a nice tart zing, and the pork was outrageously tender and succulent. Granted, the pork wasn’t Pookie’s favorite (it made her too conscious of the fact that she was eating a meatstuff), but when she dug into her first bite of the sauce and potatoes, she flipped. I am ever so pleased that the centerpiece recipe of my Week Of Trying turned out so well!