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Pork with figs 4b

The last time I was at the library, this cookbook “The Breakaway Cook” by Eric Gower caught my eye. I was intrigued by his use of Asian ingredients such as matcha powder, plum wine, and umeboshi in everyday recipes like poached eggs and scallops. The pictures looked so good and the flavor pairings so unique, I just had to give this cookbook a try.

If you want to look up the actual recipe in the cookbook, its really called “Clay-Pot Ginger Pork with Figs and Pickled Fennel.” However, I didn’t use a clay-pot or pickled fennel, so I thought naming this post with the original recipe name would be a little misleading. I was drawn to this recipe by the picture, simply thinking that pork over rice might not be bad. Little did I know I was in for a treat. During the cooking process, the aroma of slow-roasted pork, mingled with the sweet smell of plum wine, caramelized onions and black mission figs was out of this world. The flavors were amazing. All the fat seemed to have melted off the pork (melted, I tell you!), yielding meat that was lean, juicy and falling-apart tender. It was lightly sweet, savory, slightly fruity and just plain delicious.

I did change a few things to suit my tastes and what I had on hand.  The original recipe called for 1 cup of minced ginger, which I thought was too much.  One-fourth of a cup was enough to give the dish a nice gingery undertone without tasting too strongly of it.  I also added more figs and changed the cooking times a bit.  This was also my first time using plum wine.  I actually couldn’t find it at first and had to visit Ranch 99 twice.  Turns out, its next to the sake. (Of course.)  To my surprise, plum wine is actually really good.  Its comparable to a dessert wine.  Will definitely be using it again in the future.

Last thing…the original recipe uses a clay pot.  I have one, but I’m afraid to use it on our electric range because I don’t have a diffuser.  I’m afraid it will crack and become useless.  But don’t worry, this recipe works well with an enameled cast iron pot or a Dutch oven.  To be safe, make sure that the entire pot, handle and lid included, is oven safe up to 375 degrees F.

Slow-Roasted Pork with Ginger, Figs and Plum Wine, adapted from “The Breakaway Cook”

2 lbs. pork butt (AKA pork shoulder), fat trimmed off, and remaining meat cut into 1-inch cubes
1 T. unsalted butter
1 T. vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
1/4 c. peeled fresh ginger, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 c. plum wine (umeshu)
15 dried black Mission figs, chopped
1/2 c. carrot juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Melt butter and vegetable oil together in a large enameled cast iron over medium heat.  Once the butter has begun to brown slightly, add the onion and ginger and cook until the onion softens, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the pork, seasoning liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Stir and cook for another 5-6 minutes.

Add the plum wine and chopped figs to the pan, stir to ensure the ingredients are well-combined, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Cover and transfer to the oven.  Roast at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.  Then, carefully remove from the oven and using a wooden spoon, stir in the carrot juice. Cover and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.  Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.  Serve over rice.

Serves 4.