There are two very distinct categories of cookbooks in my mind. First, there are the utility books. These books have a lot of recipes packed in and are all about utility. The recipes are good, accurate, and delicious. The second category is more along the lines of an art book. Books in this category tend to prioritize glossy photos and beauty over recipes.
It’s pretty rare, these days, to find a cookbook that bridges that gap.
The new book, Bountiful, by Todd Porter and Diane Cu, the lovely couple behind White on Rice Couple, does exactly that. For starters, the book is freakin’ beautiful. Some of the photos just give me a huge case of photo envy. I could just leave the book on my table and never cook a thing out of it and be happy with it.
Of course though, the recipes are inspiring as well. They are all centered around things from their garden, but have no fear. You don’t need a crazy garden to make the recipes. The recipes are accessible and, from what I can tell, really good.
I made this Asian style Soy Braised Pork Shoulder just because it caught my eye. I thought I would share my take on it and also give away a few copies of Bountiful!
1) Cube pork shoulder into about 1-inch pieces and add to a large pot of simmering water. Try to trim off any extra fat and boil pork vigorously for 10 minutes. Strain and rinse pork and set aside for later.
2) Peel ginger and slice it into small, thin coins. Smash garlic cloves as well and add to a large pot with sugar, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, white wine or sake, and 2 cups of water.
3) STir that all together and then add the pork back to the pot. Bring to a slight simmer, then cover, and simmer the pork for about 75 minutes. Check on it occasionally and make sure it isn't burning. Feel free to give it a stir occasionally or skim off any foam that accumulates.
4) When pork is very tender and the sauce is thick and covers the pork, it's done. Serve the pork over rice with a big handful of bitter greens like arugula or Dandelion greens.
Recipe adapted from Bountiful.
Soy Braised Pork Shoulder
Prepping the Pork
Typically, when I make a pork shoulder, I will roast it, or grill it, or slow cooker it, whole for a very long time. This slowly melts the fat in the pork and leaves you with a perfect pulled pork, but this method is a little different and totally new to me.
For starters, cube the pork and you can trim off any large pieces of fat. Shoot for about 1-inch cubes.
Then, and this is the part I had to re-read like 20 times, you boil the pork.
You read that right. Simmer it for about 10 minutes in a big pot of water. This will leave you with some somewhat cooked, but fairly unappetizing pieces of pork. Don’t worry. It gets better.
When the pork is done simmering, drain it and pat it dry. You’ll need this stuff also.
One quick note… I substituted normal white wine for sake and also rice wine vinegar for Marsala wine. I didn’t have these and didn’t feel like trekking to the store.
To start the braise, add the ginger (peeled and sliced) and garlic (crushed) into a large pot with the sugar. I used a mix of white and brown sugar for my version.
Then add in all the other ingredients, the pork, and about 2 cups of water to just barely cover the pork.
This was my finished pot, ready to cook!
Bring the braise to a light simmer over medium heat, then turn the heat down to medium low and cover the pan. Simmer the braise for about 75 minutes. Check on it occasionally and give it a stir to make sure the ingredients aren’t sticking.
The original Soy Braised Pork Shoulder recipe says it could take up to two hours to finish, but mine was perfect after about an hour an a half. The pork pieces should be super-tender and nicely coated with the reduced liquid that has turned into a glaze at this point.
I wanted to make a meal out of this so I served my pork over brown rice. One important ingredient though is some sort of bitter green which balances nicely with the slightly sweet pork. Todd and Diane used fresh arugula from their garden, but I went with a slightly sturdier bunch of dandelion greens that I just roughly chopped.
I served the Soy Braised Pork Shoulder over some rice with a big handful of the greens. Then I drizzled on a bit more of the reduced sauce and a few squirts of Sriracha because, hey, why not?
If you like cookbooks, you want this book.
I’m giving away TWO copies! All you have to do is leave a comment to be entered. I’ll pick two lucky winners at random next Monday (11/25)!