I can see the wheels turning in your head. “Another pork recipe?” you ask. Yes, yes indeed, another pork recipe. I promise that this will be the last one for a stretch but I offer no apologies. Pork, apples, and fennel, are such a happy trio that there have been zero complaints at the dinner table over the frequency of their appearance this fall.

The fennel was feeling camera shy.

This recipe was the result of a early Spring brainstorming session which created such delectable results that I promptly wrote down the process and vowed to make it again when the season was a bit more appropriate. Now that apples are in season and fennel is fresh, it is the perfect time of year to make a big savory batch of comfort food. My love for braised dishes is well documented, and this dish is a happy reward for mastering the technique and being able to introduce a playful mix of flavors to the pot.

A big hunk of pork shoulder is browned, and then placed atop a bed of sauteed fennel, leeks, onion, and garlic. Fresh apple slices are scattered around the pork and token bay leaf is tossed in for flavor. Marsala wine and chicken broth add deep savory notes to the braise while a splash of apple cider vinegar keeps everything lively. Slowly braised over three hours, the oven works magic on the meat, turning the pork and apples into tender, fall-apart-on-your-plate chunks. Nestled above a pile of pureed parsnips, creamy mashed potatoes, or soft polenta, this dish is nothing short of superb. The flavors are comforting and fresh- celebrating the best fall has to offer with style. If like me, you have been waiting all summer to turn on the oven and create slow cooked magic, wait no longer!

Braised Pork Shoulder with Fennel and Leeks (Printable Recipe)
Serves 4
Note: This recipe can easily be increased to accommodate a larger piece of pork shoulder.

2 1/2 lb. bone-in pork shoulder
4 Tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 fennel bulb, top trimmed off, bulb thinly sliced
2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 head garlic, peeled and diced (this is a lot but it mellows out in the dish)
1 cup dry marsala wine, divided
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper
1 bay leaf

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Season the pork shoulder on both sides with salt and pepper. Place a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tablespoons of oil once the pot is warm. Add the pork shoulder and sear until a golden brown crust begins to form, flip and sear the other side, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the pork shoulder from the pot and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil along with the fennel, leeks, onion, and garlic. Stir and then add 1/2 cup of marsala wine, scraping the bottom to loosen any stuck bits. Cook the veggies for about 8 minutes, or until they are soft. Return the pork shoulder to the pot, nestling it among the vegetables. Add the chicken broth, remaining marsala wine, apple cider vinegar, slices of apple, and the bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a strong simmer, then turn off the heat and cover the pot with a tightly fitting lid. Place the pot in the oven and braise for three hours.

Once the pork shoulder is finished cooking, remove it from the oven and return the pot to the stove. Carefully lift the pork shoulder out of the pot (it will be falling apart, so gently use a spatula and tongs). Discard the bay leaf. If the liquid is too “saucy” turn on the stove and simmer for a few minutes until it reduces to your desired consistency. Remove any big chunks of fat from the pork, and cut the pork shoulder into large chunks. Then either return them to the sauce, or plate them and spoon the sauce on top. Serve on top of pureed root vegetables, mashed potatoes, or soft polenta.

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