Pork Coddled in Olive Oil with Tuscan Beans and Arugula

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    8

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

This dish from Arezzo originated in a time of great poverty and drought, when pigs had to be slaughtered because there was nothing to feed them. The pigs' legs, of course, were preserved in the form of prosciutto. The local farmers devised a method of preserving the rest of the pork similar to the way fresh tuna is preserved in Sicily: they salted it, cooked it very slowly in olive oil along with some seasonings and a little bit of unfiltered vin brusco, and then preserved the meat sott’olio, literally “under olive oil.”

I guarantee you'll enjoy making this dish, as it will fill your kitchen with a wonderful aroma. When served, the meat is broken apart into small chunks, exposing a juicy pink interior. The chunks are presented on a bed of Tuscan white beans tossed with intense pan drippings from the meat. Thinly sliced vinegared red onions are sprinkled on top.

Ingredients

  • pounds lean boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 2 imported bay leaves, crushed to a powder
  • ½ teaspoon bruised fennel seeds
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small head of garlic, halved
  • 1 small red onion, sliced paper thin
  • tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Tuscan Beans
  • 2 large bunches of arugula

Method

  1. Trim away all fat, sinew, and membrane from the pork. Cut the meat into 2-inch chunks. In a large sealable bag or bowl, toss the meat with a mixture of the salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel, and thyme. Massage the seasonings into the pork, seal or cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Without draining the meat, squeeze the pieces into a medium ceramic or enameled cast-iron casserole in a single layer. Pour on 2 cups of the olive oil. Cover with a sheet of crumpled parchment and a lid, set over very low heat, and cook until the oil comes to a boil, 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Transfer the pan to the oven. Add the halved head of garlic and cook for 2½ hours longer. Check that the oil bubbles only a little; the meat should not brown. To test if the pork is ready, scoop out one piece and tap it lightly; it should break into smaller chunks and be a soft pink color. Remove from the oven and let stand until completely cool. Refrigerate for up to 5 days. (Be sure the pork is completely covered in oil; add additional fresh oil, if necessary)
  4. Reheat the pork slowly. At the same time, soak the red onion in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar for 30 minutes. Drain the pork into a colander set over a bowl; discard the garlic and thyme. Allow all the juices in the bowl to settle, then pour off the oil and reserve it for future use; reserve the meat juices at the bottom of the bowl separately.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and tablespoons vinegar with the reserved meat juices. Add the room temperature beans and toss to mix.
  6. To serve, mound the beans on a large platter. Scatter the red onion slices and chunks of warm pork on top. Garnish with the arugula.
  7. With thanks to Chez Panisse Café chef Russell Moore for sharing this recipe.

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