Braising browned lamb or pork shoulder in cider renders the meat tender with just a touch of sweetness. I add crisp apples, such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith and Braeburns here, sweet red peppers and aromatic rosemary plus white beans for a creamy texture. After a couple of hours in the oven, the combination yields a creamy, golden-hued fall stew.
Lamb stew, cut from the leg or shoulder yields a fuller-flavored, less rich stew than pork. If using lamb, you might need to order it in advance or find it frozen at most supermarkets. Pork shoulder proves a less pricey option that pairs beautifully with the cider and apples.
Cider-braised stew with red pepper and white beans
Prep: 30 minutes; cook: 2 hours; makes: 8 to 10 servings
Stews always taste even better the next day, so I routinely make a large batch. If desired, this recipe can be cut in half; be sure to use a smaller Dutch oven so the liquid covers the meat during the cooking.
Slow-cooker variation: Prepare the recipe through step 3. Put apple mixture, browned meat, herbs and chicken broth into a slow-cooker. Set the slow-cooker to low and cook covered until meat is nearly tender, 4 to 6 hours. If pan juices are too thin, pour them off into a saucepan and boil hard to reduce them to the consistency of cream soup. Then finish the recipe as directed after you remove the herb sprigs.
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or lamb stew (from shoulder or leg), cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup flour
Salt, freshly ground pepper
3 to 5 tablespoons safflower or canola oil
1 large sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large red bell pepper, cored, cut into 1-inch dice
2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 large crisp-tart apples (total 12 ounces), peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bottle (12 ounces) dry sparkling cider
3 to 4 sprigs each: fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon each dried)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) white cannellini beans, drained
Chopped fresh parsley and chives for garnish
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat pork or lamb pieces dry. Mix flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a zip-close food bag. Add a few pieces of the meat at a time; shake to coat well. Transfer to a plate while you coat the rest of the pieces.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy-bottomed 6-quart Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add about one third of the flour-coated meat to the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Cook, turning occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat to brown all the meat, adding oil as needed.
Stir onion, red bell pepper and celery into pan drippings. Cook and stir, 3 minutes. Stir in apples, garlic and cider, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil gently to reduce the liquid slightly, about 5 minutes.
Return the browned meat to the pot. Stir in the herbs and chicken broth. Heat to a boil. Cover the pan tightly, and place it in the oven. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove herb sprigs. Stir in beans. Heat to a simmer over medium heat. Taste for salt, adding more as needed (usually 1/2 teaspoon).
Serve sprinkled with fresh herbs and accompanied by the potatoes.
Nutrition information per serving (for 10 servings): 393 calories, 19 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 83 mg cholesterol, 27 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 27 g protein, 638 mg sodium, 5 g fiber
SOUR CREAM AND APPLE MASHED POTATOES
Prep: 20 minutes; cook: 25 minutes; makes: 8 servings
If working in advance, cover the finished, hot mashed potatoes with plastic wrap set directly on the surface and then top with the lid of the pan. The potatoes will hold like this, off the heat, for about 30 minutes until serving time.
2 1/2 pounds golden yellow potatoes, scrubbed clean, cut into 8ths
2 medium tart green apples (total 9 ounces), peeled, cored, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup milk
4 to 6 tablespoons sour cream or mascarpone
4 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Put potatoes, apple and garlic into a large pot. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Heat to a boil, then simmer gently with lid slightly askew. Cook, checking potatoes occasionally with a knife, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well.
2. Return the drained potato mixture to the pot. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour the milk into the center. Set the heat to medium under the pot. When the milk starts to boil, reduce the heat to low, and start mashing vigorously using a potato masher. Mash in the sour cream and butter until the mixture is fairly smooth. Season to taste, usually about 1 / 2 teaspoon salt and 1 / 4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from heat. Serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 193 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 3 g protein, 164 mg sodium, 3 g fiber