Smokey Pork Bolognese with Creamy Polenta
This recipe defies the expectation of easy summer cooking. It's mid-July and hot around here . . . so why on earth would I want a hearty bowl of slow-cooked bolognese? My easy-breezy summer has become hectic and packed with meetings, obligations, and rehearsal for Midsummer Night's Dream. My long days make way for long evenings making it difficult to dedicate a lot of time in the kitchen (or the grill for that matter). Enter large-batch make-it-and-forget-it recipes. A couple of weeks ago I bought a 10 pound pork shoulder and made a huge batch of Kaluah Pig, divided it into four generous portions, made one batch into a honey-ginger-soy version, and froze the other three. When time is a precious commodity, having a delicious recipe building-block on hand makes a home-cooked dinner possible. I must also confess, with little time to get to the grocery store at the moment, I came up with the recipe to use up stuff I already had in my pantry and fridge. Fridays we get the evening off of rehearsal, so that morning I took out one pork packet to defrost, went to work for the day, and got this deeply-flavored bolognese sauce finished in half the time it usually takes. Dinner was done shortly after my handsome-hubby got home from work and Friday night became a relaxing and cozy evening at home. I served the bolognese over a creamy polenta, but feel free to use the sauce with pasta, potatoes, or rice! Your call! This is your dinner!
- 2-3 c. shredded Kaluah Pig
- 4 slices of bacon or 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery ribs, trimmed and diced
- 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/4 c. tomato paste
- 3-4 c. red wine
- 1/4 c. heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- chopped fresh oregano and thyme
- 1 c. uncooked polenta
- 1/4 c. creme fraiche
- 1 c. shredded Parmesan (plus extra for serving)
- 4. chicken broth
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. minced chives
- 1/2 c. chopped Italian parsley, divided
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high, add chopped bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp. Remove cooked bacon with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, red pepper flakes, and chopped thyme and oregano to the Dutch oven (using any of the remaining bacon grease to cook). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until softened and glossy, about 5-7 minutes. Add tomato paste to vegetable mixture and cook together for 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour wine into mixture and add cooked bacon and Kahlua pig. Mix ingredients together. If mixture seems dry, add water or chicken broth by the half-cup. Cook to a boil and then reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered for 1-2 hours. Check occasionally and stir ingredients together. After an hour or so, the bolognese should be very thick and the vegetables should be very soft. Slowly pour cream into sauce, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Allow sauce to simmer over a low heat for another 20-30 minutes while preparing the polenta (or whatever starch you plan to serve).
Heat chicken broth to a boil over high heat in a large, heavy pot, add 1 tsp. of salt, and garlic clove and cook for 1-2 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and slowly pour dry polenta into the broth, stirring slowly with a whisk to prevent any lumps. Once the polenta in mixed into the both, stir gently while simmering for 8-10 minutes. Make sure ans scrape the bottom with wooden spoon to keep polenta from burning and sticking. After about 10 minutes, the polenta should be cooked, soft, and the mixture thick. If it is too thin, allow to cook for another minute or so. Remove from heat and stir in creme fraiche, Parmesan, chopped chives, and half the Italian parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, divide polenta into bowls and ladle cooked, warm bolognese over. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and remaining Italian parsley. Yum!