Pork and Miso Cream Stew

This stew is me throwing almost every umami-developing technique I have in the book(minus dried mushrooms, tomatoes, or cheese rinds) into a pot of Japanese-styled cream stew. I have made pork cream stews in the past, but I was always disappointed by the color of the cream. I had envisioned this light, pale color, but instead I get this brown, almost muddy color. The cause of this is how I cooked the pork. Instead of searing then braising the pork, which does create a beautiful caramelization and nice flavor, but mars the color, I went with poaching the pork first, which prevents all of that coagulated blood from marring the color of the cream. In this recipe, I wanted to use pork shoulder specifically because it holds well to being cooked twice. That and I bought a frozen pork shoulder, so it was surprisingly easier to cut that into sliced compared to a belly, which would be a not as ideal cut for this preparation since you are not rendering out the fat over direct heat, so using pork belly in this recipe instead would result in just chewy, tough, and inedible fat-studded pork pieces.

The rationale behind using creme fraiche instead of cream cheese is that it adds a stronger tang that offsets any of the sweeter notes of the dish, and the cultures in creme fraiche add a bit more umami to the final product as well. I also used miso(my favorite thing ever) to add another complimentary creamy texture, but also a nutty, salty, umami bomb that gives the cream a lot more depth than you would initially expect. I added in koji, mirin, dashi, and kombu as well to really add more punches of that savory umami throughout the dish, just to guarantee that it tastes delicious. Garlic confit, and garlic confit oil, give the stew a pleasant garlicky flavor that makes it distinctively savory. The worst thing you can experience when eating a cream stew is thinking it tastes like melted ice cream with chunks of meat and vegetables floating in it. Luckily, the addition of the creme fraiche, and the other umami-ingredients really gives it a distinct savory flavor, while the confit garlic brings it to another level. Cream stew is something that I love to make every single winter, and this particular recipe is probably my best version of it!

For the garlic confit:
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil

Heat the garlic cloves and oil in a pot on low heat for 1 hour. Allow the oil to completely cool before transferring to an airtight container.

For the stew:
2 tbsp confit garlic oil
3 rainbow carrots, peeled and oblique cut
4 stalks celery, medium diced
1 onions, medium diced
1 bay leaf
1 juniper berry*
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
a generous pinch of salt
1/2 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1/8-inch sliced
4g kombu
Stew cream base*
1/2 cup small diced sweet potato
1/4 cup small diced purple yam

In a very large and deep pan, start by sweating out the rainbow carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf, juniper berry, and dried herbs in the garlic confit oil until the onions and celery are translucent. In a pot with boiling salted water, blanch the pork shoulder in the salt water until the exterior is no longer red or pink. Place the pork and kombu on top of the vegetables and pour on top of that the stew cream base, making sure that the meat is fully submerged in the liquid. Simmer everything together, covered, on low heat for 45 minutes. In the mean time, boil your sweet potato and purple yam in the same water you blanched the pork shoulder in until fork tender. Hold the sweet potato and yams at room temperature until the pork belly is done braising for 45 minutes, then add them in, allowing them to cook together with everything else for just another 10 minutes.

For the stew cream base:
4 cloves of confit garlic
3 tbsp miso paste
3oz creme fraiche
3 tbsp mirin
1 tsp instant dashi
1 tbsp rice koji*
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a blender, puree everything together. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps.

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