A few weekends ago my house was in full cleaning mode with minor renovations. Buckets of paint on the counter tops floors and stairs, paint brushes drying by the sink. Flower pots holding screws, switch plates, and 5 different kinds of screw drivers. Newspapers, wet rags, and drop cloths littered the floor along with flakes of dried paint, and clamp on lights. Builder’s fare was fun for a while, I had pizza, Korean fried chicken and Chinese buns, but wanted something more substantial and homier.With limited space and time to cook I settled on an Italian milk braised pork.
Milk braised pork sounds strange but it is perfectly wonderful and comforting. It is simple to prepare and looks after itself while you take care of other things. This dish would work well for a dinner party, you will have a tender roast that is moist and you can even make it earlier in the day or the day before. No anxiety about undercooked or over cooked meat. This is one of those recipes which relies on technique rather than quantities. The magic of this dish is that as the meat gently simmers in milk, the milk gently breaks down over time forming delicious curds and gravy that you serve with the meat.
1) PORK: To begin take a pork roast or a joint of pork, a cut that has some fat in it. I used a loin, but a shoulder would work too. Buy the best quality meat you can, you will notice a difference in the end result. If you want the roast in one piece at the end of cooking, tie it up using some cotton string and slip knots. Season the meat with salt.
2) FLAVOR: As this is an Italian recipe, the traditional flavors are lots of lemon zest, fresh sage, whole garlic cloves, whole peppercorns. So take some lemons and using a vegetable peeler, peel large strips of lemon zest. Gather up some garlic cloves, as many as you like, and take the skins off. Add to these a small spoonful of whole black or white peppercorns and a small handful of fresh sage, stems are fine to include. I also came across a Spanish version with a cinnamon stick and fresh bay leaves in the Moro Cookbook.
3) COOK: Heat up a heavy pot over medium heat. Choose a pot that is just big enough to accommodate the pork so that it is nice and snug. Add a good sized knob of butter. Once the butter melts and the foam subsides, add the pork and seal on all sides. Add the flavorings. Then add WHOLE MILK (3.5%) to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, place the lid on slightly ajar. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until tender. Check the dish for salt and season to taste.
4) SERVE: I served this dish up with some Sicilian Fregula pasta, tossed in sauce. You might also choose polenta, or mashed potatoes, something to take advantage of the exquisite gravy. You can make this dish a day ahead for dinner parties but keep the pork in the gravy so that it says moist. The lemon peel is completely edible and adds a delicate bright note between bites of rich pork.