Traditional New England dishes are given a modern twist by Top Chef contestant and Boston chef Stacy Cogswell. These recipes, like these pork shanks and spinach dumplings, are designed to help you withstand the cold, harsh New England winters.
Pork shanks are an underrated cut of meat, but they have a fantastic porky flavor, and they’re actually pretty lean — the best of both worlds. After hours of braising, the pork is tender and warmly flavored by the apples, ginger, star anise and cinnamon. Their Flintstones-approved size makes them immediately impressive, so they’re perfect for entertaining. If you happen to have any leftovers, just pick the pork off the bone and put it back into the glaze; you’ll have a great sauce for pasta or polenta.
- 4 (1 to 1 1/2 pound) Pork Shanks
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 4 onions, sliced
- 3 green apples, with their cores removed
- 12 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 pound ginger, sliced
- 4 (16 ounce) bottles of winter lager beer
- 10 cups chicken stock
- 4 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 pound fresh ricotta
- 1 pound spinach
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup flour
- 20 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups canola oil
For the pork shanks
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Season each pork shank with cumin, salt and pepper.
Heat a rondeau, or a wide and shallow pot, on high heat. Add the canola oil and sear the pork shanks until brown on all sides, 8 minutes. Place in a braising pan and set aside.
In the same rondeau, sauté the onions, apples, garlic and ginger until they begin to caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the beer and cook until it’s almost reduced completely, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, star anise and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the liquid over the pork shanks in the braising pan. Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, check the shanks to make sure they’re tender. If they aren’t tender enough, cook for another 45 minutes. Their internal temperature should be 165°F when done. Take the braising pan out of the oven and carefully remove the shanks. Set aside and allow them to rest, 15 to 20 minutes.
Strain the braising liquid to remove any solids. In a stockpot, bring the liquid to a boil and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until it’s reduced to a glaze. Add the shanks to the stockpot to warm them up. Serve immediately with the dumplings and garlic chips.
For the spinach dumplings
Strain the ricotta overnight in the refrigerator to get as much moisture out of it as possible. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with water and ice, and set aside. Remove the stems from the spinach and discard. Blanch the spinach leaves in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and drop into the ice water to stop the cooking process.
Using your hands, squeeze as much water from the spinach as you can. Then place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring it out to remove all excess liquid. Once the spinach is as dry as you can get it, pulse it in a food processor to finely chop it.
In a large bowl, combine the strained ricotta and spinach, Parmesan, yolks, egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Gently incorporate the flour, being careful not to overmix. Using a small ice cream scoop, or two spoons, form the mixture into 1 ½ ounce (43 g) dumplings. Carefully drop the dumplings into boiling water and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from water and serve.
For the garlic chips
Slice the garlic cloves as thinly as possible. I highly recommend using a mandoline.
Heat the milk and salt in a small saucepan until simmering. Poach the garlic in the simmering milk for 5 minutes. Strain the milk and dry the garlic on paper towels.
Heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan until it reaches 300°F. Gently place the garlic into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Place the chips on a paper towel to strain the grease.