Cabin Fever and a Recipe for Pork Ragu


In this column, Katherine Knowles divulges recipes you can make in your tiny New York City kitchen. 

Fall. Season of mists, mellow fruitfulness, and cabins in the woods. Afternoons sitting on the porch with a mug of hot apple cider watching leaves spiral in the crisp air.

“It all sounds delightful,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” sighed my friend Josh, “delightful.”

So it turns out Josh has been thinking twice about having a cabin. Ever since spring, in fact, when he drove out on a beautiful sunny morning to un-shutter and generally spruce it up for the family. The first thing he noticed was the door, swinging jauntily in the breeze. The second thing he noticed were the footprints. Bear footprints.

The third thing he noticed was that a bear had shit in his bed.

Like a reverse Goldilocks, apparently his Tempur-Pedic mattress had been juuuuust right.

It solves an age-old mystery, I suppose:

Yes, a bear does, rhetorically speaking, shit in the woods. Unless it could shit in Josh’s cabin. In which case, yeah, you know, it’s going to go there instead.

Apple Cider Pork Ragu
(serves 6 – 8)
This is a dead-easy one-pot recipe that makes the house smell like Platonic Autumn, and looks more glamorous than a regular braise with its topping of sweet, tart pomegranate jewels.

3 – 4 lb skinless, trimmed pork shoulder
1 large red onion
1 tsp crushed garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 small can tomatoes
1 cup apple cider
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp paprika
1 sprig rosemary
1 star anise
1 large pomegranate

Slice the onions and cook gently in a cast-iron pan (Le Creuset rules here) with a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil. Stir occasionally until the onions are a sweet brown tangle (15 minutes).

Season the pork and place on top of the onion mixture. Add the crushed garlic, cocoa, paprika, rosemary, and star anise. Pour over the tomatoes, apple cider, wine, and vinegar, and add enough water to just cover the pork if necessary.

Put the lid on and cook really, really gently for 4 hours either on the stove or in a 300°F-ish oven. Turn the meat occasionally to keep it moist.

Take the lid off for the last half-hour to let the sauce reduce to a thick gravy.

Fish out the rosemary and star anise. Pull the pork into bite-size pieces with 2 forks. Scatter pomegranate seeds over the meat.

This is fantastic with polenta, or papardelle, and the leftovers make insane sandwiches.