As a transplant from Illinois, I am often somewhat taken aback by this time of year in New Mexico. I spend the late summer months craving the chill evenings of all, the time of year for stewing and braising and roasting.
Instead, as often as not mid-December rolls around and it’s still shirtsleeve weather – at least during the day. when I plan what to make for dinner. It’s disorienting. And no matter how warm the weather, the CSA send out winter vegetables – squash, kale, sweet potatoes. Things that beg for braising or roasting.
Fortunately, in the desert, the temperature falls a lot when the sun goes down, so by the time dinner is on the table a hearty stew like this doesn’t feel so out of place. It’s not really German, as far as I know, but the pork and potatoes and mustard and cider sure make it feel German. The pork is meltingly savory, the cider sweet, the mustard warm with an earthy tang. The kale is not at its prettiest after stewing for half an hour, but it is rich and tender. And the potatoes just suck up all those flavors and give them back to you.
This is stick-to-your ribs dining for a cold, dark evening. Break out the pretzels and lederhosen and celebrate!
German Pork Stew with Mustard
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
10 medium cloves garlic, crushed with the flat of a knife and peeled
1.5 pounds Boston butt or other good stew pork, in 3/4-inch cubes*
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 (12 oz) bottle hard apple cider
1.5 pounds potatoes, washed and cur in 1/2-inch dice*
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 bunch curly green kale, washed and roughly chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in an oven-safe large pot or Dutch oven. When hot, add the onions and cook until limp, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Add remaining oil and sear the pork – you may have to do this in two batches.
Return onion mixture to pot and add salt and pepper, broth, and cider. Bring to a boil, cover, and place pot in oven. Bake 30 minutes.
Remove pot from oven and place over low heat on the stove; add potatoes and mustard. Add kale in batches, stirring it in until all is thoroughly wilted and incorporated in the stew. Return pot to oven for 30 more minutes.
Get pot back out of oven. Taste for seasoning – you may well want more mustard, possibly a lot more. If the broth has reduced too much, add a little water until it’s how you like it.
Serve hot, with crusty bread (or soft pretzels!) to dunk in the mustardy broth.
* Don’t be too fussy about this! I’m not in the kitchen with a measuring tape, nor should you be. These aren’t really cubes, they’re just chunks that average 3/4 inch or 1/2 inch or whatever on a side. Heck, the things we’re cutting up aren’t square! Perfect cubes are for restaurants with sous-chefs to do the fiddly work and constantly bubbling pots of stock to throw the amazing amount of waste into.