Every time fall rolls around I start to get the hankering for soups and stews. At one point I was pretty sure my beef stew was the best you could get.
Then one year when I was in Alaska, I made baked stuffed rabbit with apple dressing, for a bunch of my friends. We had a big feast in the dayroom That was pretty awesome, but I had a lot of leftovers.
I decided the best thing to do with the leftovers was to make a stew, and that was how my roast pork stew came to be. Well, actually, that was how my baked stuffed rabbit stew came to be… but whatever!
See, pork is much easier to attain than rabbit. Oh, sure, I COULD raise meat rabbits, and slaughter them for food, but being the big tough guy that I am, I just cant bring myself to kill poor defenseless rabbits from a hutch, to fill my freezer. And them being soft, cute and furry has NOTHING to do with it…OK…Probably it has everything to do with it, and I would appreciate it if you got off my back about it!
ANYWAY! One day I decided that my rabbit stew would be just as tasty if I made it with pork, so I decided to try it, and as usual, I was right!
I’ll share the recipe with you, but if you can’t already cook…You might have a hard time. See… I don’t really HAVE recipes for ANYTHING. I just know how to make stuff. So if you know how to make stuff too, I’ll tell you how to make this!
The first thing you do, is cut up some pork. I typically use ribs, or chops. A nice fatty cut makes for a great stew! Cut it into chunks that are as big or small as you like. Once you have a good pile, toss it into a ziplock baggie, and dredge it in flour. To the flour, add the following…(this is the part where you fancy cooks are going to ask me for measurements. Sorry, I don’t have any! I tried measuring stuff once to come up with an actual recipe, and not only did I destroy the kitchen, I ruined whatever it was I was trying to make) Chuck in some garlic powder, sage, or poultry seasoning, I use Bell’s, a good amount of cinnamon, and some pepper. Give the baggie a good shake so that all the pork pieces get covered nicely. Then set the baggie aside and move on to the next step. This will ensure that the flour and seasonings form a nice goo on the chunks of pork.
I like my stews to have a very thick broth, I cant make gravy to save my life. I know you all have methods that even a child can make. Trust me, I cant make gravy. Well, actually, I have had a lot of success in making gravy with corn starch, but don’t put that in this stew. Just do this next step the way I tell you, it works fine for making a thick broth!
Peel a large potato, and cut it into very small pieces… what do I mean by small? Well? Think of a niblet of corn, that has been cut into quarters. That should work nicely. Once you have your tater chopped up, do the same thing with a peeled apple. I don’t recommend using sweet apples like red or golden delicious. Think tart…Macintosh or granny smith…chuck both into some water and boil it down.
Now if you were making this as you are reading it, you may have discovered that your taters are starting to turn black, and your apples are turning brown…Yeah…You should have cut them into a pan of water, sorry.
While this is coming to a boil, go back to your baggie of meat. Start taking chunks of meat and toss it into a hot stew pot that has a couple tablespoons or so of vegetable oil in it. (That is likely to be the only measurement you will get…Too much oil is GROSS! Too little, and you are going to burn your flour.) Make sure to shake off the excess flour, or you will have a mess. Oh yeah…Those of you cooking along? I should have mentioned that a no stick, or heavily seasoned cast iron pan is best for this…Sorry.
Once you have your pork all cooked up you should see that your pot of apple and potatoes is boiling nicely. If so, pour it into your cooked pork, nice and slow so the flour doesn’t boil off the meat instantly.
Once you have the first batch of potato and apple in with the meat, you’ll want to add some more water…Maybe like to the half way mark on your pot, you basically want to double the volume of what you have so far.
Next, rough chop a yellow, or purple turnip into the pot, working quickly to stay just ahead of the boil. Next comes more potato, followed by carrots, and celery. You might also want to toss in some cabbage, maybe some squash? I don’t like squash. I’ve considered adding dried cranberries, or cherries, but my in-laws would call that “Douging it up”.
That’s what they say when somebody takes something that is perfectly good the way it is, and adds other good things to it to make it better…The term was born the day I made mashed potatoes for them, and I added garlic, and sage to them. The next time we had mashed potatoes at their house, they told me to be sure not to Doug them up. They are lucky I EVER cook for them!
OK! So if you are a good chopper, you have rough cut all your veggies over the pot, and the water has just begun to boil. If that is the case! NICE JOB! Turn down the heat, and let everything simmer!
If you are NOT a good chopper, and you have been cooking along as you read, you have now boiled off too much of your liquid, and you will need to add more.
At this stage of the game, the pot should be just about 3/4’s full. This is a good time to taste your broth. If you have seasoned your meat well, you wont need to add any more seasonings. If your broth tastes watery at this point you will need to be sure to add more garlic, sage, and cinnamon…In that order of priority. If one thing is to stand out over the others, it should be the garlic, or sage.
Cinnamon is the “secret” flavor in there. It should be just a hint of flavor, and it REALLY should be locked in the pork slices, and not so much in the broth. And trust me, even if you don’t taste it in the broth at this step, you WILL taste it in the pork, and you will LOVE IT! If you are cooking along as you read, sneak a piece! What did I tell you? Pretty awesome huh?
OK…So as I said, this should be the last time you want to season your broth. Your taters are going to take on the flavor of the broth, your turnip is going to release its flavor into it, and the carrots and other fruits and veggies are just going to do their own thing.
Once everything is simmering, cover it, and leave it alone. Go finish reading the Bangor daily news, check out Mitch Littlefiled’s blog, check out the want ads. Soon you will forget about your stew, and that is a good thing.
After you have forgotten about it, you will smell it! That means you are ready for the final act! A box of stuffing mix! Basically, you will want the top half inch of your stew to be stuffing. Be careful not to add so much that it absorbs all of your broth, or you will end up with some mush. It will be GOOD mush, but it wont be stew, and you wont want to make it again.
I used to add a few more apples at this stage, because they mush up really easy if they cook too long, but I found their taste and texture to be out of place. If you want a little more apple flavor, you can add them in just as you shut every thing down to simmer. If you have been cooking along, you are probably pretty angry with me, because your stew wont be anything like what it should be, with all the after thoughts I keep having. Sorry.
Once the stuffing mix is hot, grab yourself a HUGE bowl, and the salt shaker! You will need salt. I was trained in the United States Air Force as a cook by a little black man from New Orleans, named Herbie Kennard who once told me that if I was cooking for the military to put in whatever the recipe card called for. Nothing more, nothing less, but when cooking on my own, EVERYTHING I make should need salt. He said the best praise a cook can get is when they ask somebody how a dish tastes, is when they say that it needs salt. Salt can always be added to taste, but it cant be removed.
There it is! My roast pork stew! There is no roasting involved, unless you used left over pork roast, and you happen to make it with seasoned apples. My wife used to watch a bunch of cooking shows, and in the past few years cooks have been cranking stews like this one out. I can assure you, I have been making this for over 20 years. Long before I ever saw any cooking shows, and I never read it in a cooking magazine, or saw a recipe.
My son wants to become a hunter…Thursday starts the season on snowshoe hares here in Maine…Maybe on Friday, he and I will make the dish that all started it! Baked stuffed rabbit!