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Pork with Spicy Squash

This colorful dish dresses up winter squash with bright Asian flavors and combines it with tender shredded pork to make a light yet filling supper. Pork shoulder is well marbled, which makes it particularly flavorful. If you prefer to use leaner pork loin for this dish, reduce the braising time to 6 hours, and moisten the meat with plenty of braising liquid before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder, about 3 lb., trimmed of visible fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tbs. dry sake, dry white wine or white vermouth
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 butternut squash, about 1 lb., peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil

For the Asian lime vinaigrette:

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. sugar
  • 2 or 3 drops Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  •  
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Thai or sweet basil
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 or 2 small red serrano chilies, seeded and thinly sliced

Directions:

Season the pork generously all over with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the peanut oil. Add the pork and sear, turning as needed, until golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the pork to a slow cooker.

Pour off some of the fat from the fry pan and return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened and lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in the sake and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Stir in the stock and pour the contents of the pan over the pork. Cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the pork is very tender, about 8 hours.

About 30 minutes before the pork has finished cooking, preheat an oven to 450ºF. In a small roasting pan, stir together the squash and olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring every 5 minutes, until tender, about 15 minutes. Let the squash cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a bowl.

Meanwhile, make the Asian lime vinaigrette: In a blender or mini food processor, combine the olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, ginger, sugar, Tabasco and salt and process for 15 seconds.

Add the vinaigrette, basil, cilantro and chilies to the bowl with the squash and stir to coat evenly.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, using a large spoon, skim the fat off the braising liquid. Cut the pork into slices across the grain, then shred with 2 forks. Spoon a little of the braising liquid onto the meat to moisten.

Divide the pork and roasted squash among warm individual plates or mound onto a serving platter and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2010).