M. Andrew Gordon

Pork, Pumpkin, and Peanut Stew

In Main Dish, Soups and Stews on November 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm

I realized how ridiculous I sometimes sound when I was trying to describe the main course at a beer tasting and I pulled out this line: “it’s a kind of riff on a North African theme.”  What the hell gave me the right to comment on the culinary traditions of North Africa, I thought to myself as I said it.  And in fact, I don’t have any right to be spouting off about this sort of thing.  But somewhere along the way I have absorbed enough ancillary knowledge to understand the constituent ingredients to some dishes from that region.  This disclaimer needs to be said again, however, in that I make no claims that this is indicative of traditional North African cuisine.  It is merely my interpretation.

Yet again I need to pull out several tired themes that come up on this blog fairly regularly, namely squashes and pork.  The former is purely a product of the season – good squashes are still readily available and so I am taking advantage of that.  The latter is a product of taste and costs.  When I can pick up a seven-pound pork butt (shoulder) for somewhere just north of a dollar per pound, it is tough to pass up.  Factor in an appreciation for pork’s versatility and it becomes a staple in the repertoire.  Just to pause for a moment to comment on the versatility of the swine, it seems to me that pork perfectly straddles the world of terrestrial meats.  It is more flavorful and substantive than most fowl (I’ll give the nod to the waterfowls any day) and it is less hearty than beef.  At home in a stew or a roast, grilled or braised, it is just pretty damn good.  I digress.

Because of that ability to buy pork shoulders cheap, I had stockpiled a few shoulder bones in the freezer and I figured this past weekend would be the perfect opportunity to make a pork stock.  Pork stock, you say?  Never heard of it?  I wasn’t sure I had either, but what the hell.  Stock is pretty easy to make but it is time consuming.  For a really good read on it, check out Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food, Version 2.0.  Long story short is that you want to bring water/bone mixture to a boil and scoop out foam as it rises to the surface.  After about five minutes the stock should be fairly clear.  Reduce to a simmer and add some onions, carrots, celery, and black peppercorns.  Cook for several hours, at least four or five.  Unfortunately there is no way to shorten this process which is why making stock isn’t an everyday activity.

I’m not sure how much the pork stock really added to the flavor of this dish and I would think that chicken stock would suffice just fine.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty straight forward, for once.

While almost certainly not what the brewer’s intended, I paired this with Mayflower Brewing’s Thanksgiving Ale, their take on a combination of an Old Ale and a Strong Ale.

Pork, Pumpkin and Peanut Stew

  • 1 pumpkin, quartered
  • 7 lb pork shoulder, bone and skin removed, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon asoefitada
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large kubocha squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups pork stock, or chicken stock
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • Sea Salt, to taste
  • 2 red onions, cut into eighths
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Set pumpkin quarters in baking dish and add a cup of water.  Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes or until flesh is tender.
  2. Place pork in a large bowl.  Combine kosher salt, 1 teaspoon each of the pepper, cumin, paprika, and turmeric, the cinnamon and asoefitada in a separate bowl.  Pour over pork and turn to coat.
  3. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Cook pork in batches until browned and reserve.
  4. Add more oil and cook onion and garlic until soft.  Add remaining  spices and chile powder and stir.  Add pork and any accumulated juices.
  5. Scoop pumpkin flesh into large bowl and stir in two cups of the stock and the peanut butter.  Mix thoroughly.  Add mixture to pot with pork.  Stir in the sweet potatoes, squash, and two cups of stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours.
  6. Coat onions with olive oil and roast in oven for 30 minutes.  Season stew with salt and ladle into bowls.  Top each with some red onion and serve.

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