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Cider Braised Pork with Butternut Squash and Spaetzle

The days are getting shorter and colder. Even on a gloriously sunny, clear day, that crisp chill is in the air. It is the perfect time cook the kind of dishes that take all day to make and fill your kitchen with warmth and incredible smells. This dish is sweet, seasonal, filling and incredibly delicious. I think of it as the autumnal cousin of pulled pork.

Our braising liquid is hard cider and apple cider vinegar. The hard cider is sweet and reduces into an almost syrupy glaze, while the vinegar complements the fatty pork. Sage is pork’s best herb friend, and marries perfectly with apple.

Butternut squash is in season, roasts easily in the oven, and also tastes delicious with sage and apple. The spaetzle is a fun, easy to make fresh noodle; I think it goes well with pork dishes so I used it here. The glazey-sauce clings to it beautifully.

All credit here goes to Chef John, my culinary sherpa. I do cook my pork longer than he recommends since I want it to be falling apart and not just fork tender, but that choice is yours. Enjoy!

4 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper to coat meat generously
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, cut into strips
1/4 cup of thyme
2 16 ounce bottles of hard cider
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
3 tablespoons milk
water, for boiling
1 tablespoon butter, for frying
Butternut squash:
Butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil

Generously salt and pepper your pork cubes. 

In a large dutch oven over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil. When it shimmers, add the pork cubes and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per. Remove the meat to a plate and add the onion, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is soft. Add the cider and apple cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add the sage leaves, thyme and meat in the pot and cover. Cook covered on a gentle simmer for an hour; turn the meat, and then cook another hour or so until the meat is falling apart. 

Remove the meat, and reduce the sauce to 1/4 its volume, skimming the fat as needed. Add in the creme fraiche and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the meat back in and cook a further 30 minutes to reheat the meat and generously glaze it in the sauce. 

While you do this, make the sides. Toss the butternut squash with salt, pepper and olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking dish. Put in a preheated 400 degree oven and roast for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.

While the squash is roasting and the meat is glazing, make the spaetzle. Beat the egg, salt, cream fresh and milk together. Stir in the flour. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Use a spaetzle press or a colander with large holes or a coarse cheese grater to make the spaetzle noodles. Put the dough in your device, then run a knife underneath the holes where the dough is dripping out to make little noodles. Cook in the boiling water until the noodles float to the surface. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Remove the spaetzle from the boiling water and place into the pan. Fry until golden brown.

To assemble: place a layer of spaetzle in a bowl, followed by squash, pork and extra glaze. Garnish with more creme fraiche and green onions. Enjoy!


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