People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
03/11/2009 Claypot* braised pork with fennel and black olives(Porc mitonné au fenouil et aux olives) Clay pot
2-2.5 lbs. bone-in pork loin blade roast or shoulder** 3 T. olive oil 4 cloves garlic 1.5 t. coarse seasalt 1 t. black peppercorns 1.5 t. fennel seed (wild black fennel seed if possible) 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut into 2" lengths 3-4 heads of fennel, cut into fourths. Chop and reserve 3 T. fennel greens for garnish or substitute 3 T. chopped wild fennel 1 c. juicy black olives, pitted
**In this and all my pork recipes, please use organic, farm-raised pork and not industrial grocery store pork. The results are just not the same with industrial pork.
Two to twelve hours before serving, crush the black pepper and fennel seeds in a mortar with the salt. Add the garlic and crush to a paste. Add 1 T. olive oil and use this mixture to smear all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight. Bring the meat to room temperature.
Heat a clay pot (daubiere or other) over a flame tamer on medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil and the pork. Lightly brown the pork on all sides. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 30 minutes. Add the leeks and fennel, stir, cover, and cook another hour to an hour and a half, or until the meat is very tender. Stir and turn the meat every 20 minutes. Ten minutes before serving, gently stir in the olives. Strew with the fresh chopped fennel greens and serve with the pan juices.
*A clay cooking pot is essential to the melting texture and rich flavor of this dish, which uses no added liquid. If you make the dish in a cast-iron, Creuset-style pot, you will have to add water or meat broth and watch that the pot doesn't become dry. The clay pot, on the other hand, conserves the natural juices of the meat and vegetables so completely that no added liquid is needed.
Note: Sometimes necessity is the mother of the best inventions. A couple of nights ago, after a long day of tree planting in Provence, all I had in the refrigerator was a piece of pork échine and a couple of fennel bulbs. As I always have excellent olive oil and olives on hand, I was able to concoct this dish, which surprised me with its unctuous goodness. It's cheap, easy, and utterly delicious--providing you have a claypot handy!