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There’s nothing like a large piece of meat to inspire creative cooking. When faced with 4 lbs. of pork shoulder, instead of making way too much of one dish–I split it up into three amazing dishes: Braised Pork Shoulder, Pork Ragu Pasta, and BBQ Pork Pizza. (Well, really four dishes, if you could the 3 lbs I used initially to make Christmas Tamales).

The genius part of this was that I only had to cook the meat once: braising it for 3 hours in onions, a HEAD of garlic, and a bottle of beer. The result was a tender, full of flavor bite of meat that will take me awhile to forget. It also froze back well—after a month in the freezer while I took my Jordan trip, the meat was still awesome.

Try one, or all three when you have a few hours to braise:

Pork Shoulder ready to braise

Braised Pork Shoulder
Martha Stewart
* 6 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
* 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
* 1 bone-in pork shoulder (6 to 7 pounds), room temperature
* Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 head garlic, minced
* 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted and ground
* 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
* 2 cups Belgian-style ale
* 1 cup homemade chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Crisp pancetta in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, until fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.
2. Add onions to Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Transfer to plate using slotted spoon.
3. Season pork with salt and pepper. Add oil to Dutch oven, and sear pork, fat side down, until golden, about 5 minutes. Flip, and repeat.
4. Add garlic and spices to pot. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ale, stock, pancetta, and onions; bring to a simmer. Transfer to oven, and braise pork, covered, basting every hour, until meat is falling off the bone, 3-4 hours.
5. Shred only the meat you are using for dinner using 2 forks, and drizzle with warm skimmed jus. (We served ours with mashed potatoes and stuffing)

Basting the meat after two hours

The oh-so-delicious jus

The pasta dish below would be a great next-day meal, but as I was flying to the Middle East, I choose instead of freeze back both the cooked pork and jus until my return. The following was insanely easy and took maybe 10 minutes of prep. The light egg noodles make it a fantastic pairing to the somewhat heavy braised meat already served.

Pork Ragu Pasta with Sage
Martha Stewart

* 1 pound egg noodles
* 2 cups jus, heated and reduced (from above)
* 2 cups shredded pork, heated
* 2 tablespoons fresh sage, thinly sliced
* Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 1 pound ribbon pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving some cooking water.
2. Toss pasta with reserved jus, reserved shredded pork, and sage, adding reserved cooking water as needed.
3. Divide among 4 bowls. Garnish with finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Pork Ragu

So the next recipe has a funny story to it. I wanted to use the last cup of pork to make pizza, so I glanced in the pantry—saw A1 Steak Sauce, and in my head went ‘ah, Chris has BBQ sauce.’ Come two hours later, when the pizza dough is on the piping hot pizza stone and all the ingredients are ready—I realize steak sauce is NOT barbecue sauce. (Head Slap).

BBQ Pork Pizza

BBQ Pork Pizza

But such errors make for the best creativity–and within minutes I had whipped together my own special sauce: one part A1, one part tomato sauce, and two heaping spoonfuls of adobo sauce (I had the chipotles in adobo in the fridge from tamales last month). What turned out was amazing: smokey, sharp, and a perfect compliment to the pork.

The recipe is my standard dough recipe , topped with the leftover meat, sauce, and a mixture of cheese. Cook at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, and serve.

Finished product

The best part about all of these was that the final recipe–the pizza–made almost a month after I initially braised the meat was just as good as the first thing I made. I take that as a sign of both delicious recipes AND a good product. It’s a lot of pork, and the variety of recipes really shows off it’s versatility. So what do you think? Do you have a go-to recipe that can pull out three amazing meals? Let me know!