Saturday, August 8, 2009

Guess what? Pork Butt.

Went to the store to get a smoked ham hock to satisfy a bean soup craving. No ham hocks to be seen, but pork butt was on sale. Don't think I have ever bought pork butt before, but I've never tasted a part of the pig I didn't like,** so I picked one up. This dish came out so good that I went back to buy some more and put it in the freezer. Here's the recipe. It actually takes longer to type it than it does to cook it!

The night before you want to eat the soup:

Put a pound (or two) of small white beans to soak overnight. Navy beans are fine, too.

Take the pork butt (or half of it and freeze the other half, proportions are very adjustable!) and sear it in a very hot pan, all over, until it's good and browned. You'll probably find that there's some nice rendered fat already in the pan. Good. Put the pork butt in your crock pot.

Take a large onion or two smaller ones and slice. Not too thin. Cook the onion in the fat left in the pan until it loses that raw look and starts to be translucent. Dump the onion and the fat into the crock pot on top of the pork. Add a couple of whole peeled garlic cloves.

Deglaze the pan with about a cup or so of water; get all the good caramelized bits and dump this in the crock pot, too. Turn the crock pot on low and go to bed. (If it is too hot in the house, put your crock pot out on the back patio unless you live in the bayou like Grandmère and the gators will get it.)

In the morning you should find that the kitchen smells marvelous, the meat has acquired even more lovely color and the onions have virually melted away into velvelty loveliness. There will be a thick layer of fat rendered out. Take a heat-safe measuring cup and ladle the fat into it. It's ok if there's still a tiny bit left in the pot--it's tasty! Unless you're really good at it you'll also have some broth in the cup too. Let the fat cool a bit and put it in the fridge. You can separate the broth and add it back later.

(Don't make the mistake I did and unthinkingly dump this lovely lard into the trash! Save it and make rillettes!!! Here's a great recipe from a wonderfully poetic food blogger named Lindy. I love rillettes. )

Rinse the beans and add them to the crock pot. Add some salt free herb mix but no salt yet because it makes the beans tough. Add enough water to the pot to ensure the beans don't dry out. Go out into the wonderful world and do good and distribute. Forget not.

When you come back from doing good the pork should be falling apart tender and the beans cooked through. Add any additional seasoning you want (I like to pop in a spoonful of beef "Better Than Boullion"--adds salt and flavor--but I am a broth fanatic.)

I also like at this point to pull out the pork and shred it well (removing any bones) and put it back in for a while to meld everything together. Serve with crusty bread and you'll immediately wish you made a lot more! (I sprinkle green onions on top and add good vinegar.)

What to do with leftovers: the soup is even better the next day!
If the beans aren't tooo soupy it is great spooned into fresh corn tortillas, with cilantro, salsa and grated cheese. They are also super mixed with rice for a sort of casserole. I ate them for breakfast for days and I was very happy. Freeze the soup if you get tired of it before it's gone.

Tasty, inexpensive, and fairly good for you!

** full disclosure: I haven't tried any really bizarre pig parts, but we once roasted a whole pig on a spit for my mother's birthday....

A pork butt haiku:

Oh, lonely pork butt,
waiting there in the crockpot,
beans will be here soon.

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