Sunday supper is the best meal of the week. I relax into the routine of planning and prep work, often enthusiastically deciding to devote the whole day to the kitchen. I might try a new recipe or technique requiring extra effort, ie. more time than I am willing to spend on a weeknight: lasagne, stuffed cabbage rolls, gnocchi, pot stickers. In the summer, I might splurge on a nice steak or fish fillet to grill and spend my extra time prepping vegetables for an exuberant salad, or kebabs. Often, Sunday supper is shared with friends or family; we gather to catch up over baked chicken, a big pot of soup, or a dish from a favorite cookbook I’m eager to make for a crowd. In the colder months, I like nothing more than warming the house with an hours-long braise; it takes time, yes, but so little effort, and the resulting meal is worth forcing yourself to lounge around the house for a lazy Sunday afternoon… I promise. With a few easy ingredients, and a little bit of patience, this cider-braised pork roast with tender and sweet root vegetables is guaranteed to make people scramble for a seat at your supper table.
Don’t save this recipe just for a large family gathering– after your lovely Sunday supper, you are going to want to have some leftover pork. It’s half the reason I make this dish! Meltingly tender, just barely sweet from the apples and cider, it is absolutely delicious, and so easy to repurpose. The roast will almost shred itself by the end of the cook time, so think about making an open-faced sandwich with your favorite barbecue sauce and a crisp slaw. Leftover pork is great on tostadas, or in tacos, with shredded cabbage, sliced radishes and tomatillo salsa to hold everything together. And let’s not discount these root vegetables– I can’t think of a way I would rather cook rutabaga. The sweetness of the cider tempers the innate bitterness (which I love) of the rutabaga, and gives it and the sweet potatoes a candied-but-not-candied flavor. I am content with a reheated bowl of vegetables and pork as my leftovers, no revisions needed.
This is the time of year to get fresh cider and abundant root vegetables from every farm stand and grocery store around. If you can’t find fresh cider, hard cider is also terrific in this recipe; you can replace the 2 c. with a 12 oz. bottle and call it good. You’ll miss some of the sweetness but none of the flavor. I love the ease of this meal; it’s comfort food, perfect to share, delicious and versatile enough that you welcome the leftovers. Cider-braised pork roast with root vegetables is the epitome of Sunday supper, for me, and I hope you will have the time to try it for yourself someday soon.
Cider-Braised Pork Roast with Root Vegetables
- 3 – 4 lb. pork shoulder roast, boneless preferred, trimmed judiciously
- kosher salt & pepper
- 1 small yellow onion, roughly sliced
- 1 crisp apple, seeded and cut into large pieces (no need to peel)
- 2 c. fresh cider
- 2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb. rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 T. grainy mustard (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In your largest, beefiest, oven-proof, covered (use foil if necessary) Dutch oven or cast-iron cook pot, heat a tablespoon or so of neutral oil over medium to medium-high heat. Don’t be afraid of a high temperature, but respect your pot of choice; some cookware conducts heat so efficiently it does well at a lower temperature. Also, the pot should be as deep as double the height of your pork roast. Salt and pepper the roast liberally and place in the pot carefully, being mindful of splashing hot oil. Do not touch the roast for at least 5 mins., sometimes longer. Let it brown! It will spit and hiss and everything, but don’t touch it. Cover it if it makes a mess, leaving a vent for steam.
When you can turn the pork without having to pry it off the bottom of the pan, it is ready to be turned. Brown the other side for the same amount of time you used on the first side. Add the onion to the pan just after flipping the pork.
When the roast is golden brown on both sides, add the cut apple, bay leaves, cider and broth. Cover the pot and carefully transfer to the oven. Braise the roast for 3 hours, turning carefully after 1 1/2 hours to ensure even cooking.
Add the chunked rutabaga and sweet potatoes to the pot and cook for another hour. That’s 4 hours total for the pork, 1 for the vegetables.
Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a serving dish. Discard the bay leaves. Transfer the pork roast to a plate or cutting board and loosely tent with foil.
Whisk the mustard into the pan juices and boil vigorously, over high heat, until reduced to a luxurious, dark brown sauce. Watch closely as it gets near the end; it is such a shame to burn it onto your pan because you got distracted checking football scores or national polls. (Trust me.) It won’t be as thick as a traditional gravy, but I’ve tried adding thickener and just like this way better. This step is optional but delicious.
Serve immediately. Leftovers can be used any way you see fit, and will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.