Pork Ragu al Maialino

Monday nights are the night when I cook for my family, because I am the only one who is home on Monday night. So I made this, with some eventual assistance from my brother Michael. We are a good team. I like Monday night. I like them because no one bothers me an I can waste time doing nothing in particular while I putter around the kitchen and pretend to be VERY BUSY. But it was nice to have some brotherly help. I love sitting down to a meal. It's such a beautiful habit. Because often dinner is the only time my family gets to gather together and share a meal. It just feels so special. I also like that because I cook, I don't have to wash dishes. That ranks high on my list of good things in life. I don't want a maid, I want a personal dishwasher.

This recipe is from The New York Times. The idea was to recreate this pasta dish, which is famous at some restaurant somewhere. The only thing that makes it particularily restauranty is the fact that it has half a stick of butter in it. (Butter is really what makes restaurant food so lovely. Chefs don't care if you have a heart attack.) The recipe is all about indulgence. And good pasta. I used regular lasagne noodles, but wouldn't recommend it. Use the best pasta noodles you can get your hands on, I'm going to go out on a limb and tell you that you should really make this dish with homemade pasta noodles, because the texture of homemade pasta is so superior. But if you have a brand of noodles that are extraordinarily good, use them by all means.

I liked this dish. It could be heavy and rich because of the pork and butter, but the heaviness and richness is cut by the lemon and arugula. It's a very interesting dish and one I'd like to play with again. Definately give it a try.

Pork Ragu al Maialino

from The New York Times

1 pork shoulder, bone in, roughly 4 pounds

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium white onion, peeled and cut into large pieces

1 rib celery, cut into large pieces

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into large pieces

1 quart chicken stock (or enough to almost cover the pork)

3 sprigs fresh thyme

Freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 9-ounce boxes dry lasagna, broken into 3-inch shards

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons grated grana Padano cheese

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Small handful arugula leaves, cleaned.

1. Using a sharp knife, remove the thick skin from the pork, leaving a sheen of fat on top of the meat. Season aggressively with salt and place in the refrigerator until ready to use, as long as overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When it shimmers, gently cook the onion, celery and fennel until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the stock and thyme and bring to a simmer, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Rinse pork to remove excess salt, dry with a paper towel and add to seasoned broth. Cover and place in the oven for 90 minutes or more, until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone.

3. Allow both meat and broth to cool on the stove top for 30 minutes, or until you can touch the meat with your hands. Remove the pork and gently pull the meat from the bone, then tear the chunks into bite-size shreds. Place these in a large bowl.

4. Strain the liquid into a separate bowl and then pour enough of it over the meat to barely cover. (Use the rest for soup.) Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

5. Put a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.

6. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and add the pork and braising liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the butter and stir to emulsify.

7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water according to the directions on the package, 10 to 12 minutes. When it is finished, drain and add to the sauce along with a splash of pasta water. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the lemon juice, half of the cheese, a tablespoon of olive oil and the parsley. Stir to incorporate.

8. Serve immediately, topped with arugula and the remaining cheese. Serves 4. Adapted from Nick Anderer at Maialino in New York