It's Not Supposed to be Pretty, It's Supposed to Taste Good

"It's not supposed to be pretty, it's supposed to taste good." -words from my boyfriend as I struggled to make collard greens, bourbon glazed pork shoulder and corn bread look pretty for my blog pictures. It's true. This really isn't the prettiest dish, but good ole' southern cooking sure is tasty.

I have exciting news!! I was inspired to make a bourbon glazed-something this weekend because of my new job!! I've recently accepted a job at Beam Global Spirits & Wine. So bring on the bourbon people! It was time for me to say farewell to my old consulting gig. While it has been a great experience, it's time for me to move on. And I'm moving on to a really cool new job at a fun company with lots of perks (free booze).

I'm no pro on southern cooking, so I used a little inspiration from the professionals. I originally wanted to make a pork belly, but it was a little difficult to find that cut of meat on short notice. Pork shoulder is really cheap, and pretty fatty so it makes for a fantastic slow cooked meal. If you can get pork belly, use that! Warning: this meal takes time to prepare. So make sure to plan accordingly!

Bourbon Glazed Pork Shoulder

For the roast:
2 lb pork shoulder (or belly)
2 stalks celery (diced)
2 medium organic carrots (diced)
1/2 yellow onion (diced)
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups organic low-sodium chicken broth
4 bay leaves
7-10 sprigs fresh thyme
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Bourbon Glaze: 
2 tsp whole peppercorns (white and black)
4 whole cloves
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup bourbon (use a Beam Bourbon like Makers Mark)
1/2 fresh Naval orange (juice)
1/2 lemon (juice and zest)

Let pork shoulder sit out for about 30 minutes prior to cooking to bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

Heat a large saute pan or cast iron skillet with olive oil over medium high heat. Cover the pork in salt, pepper and cumin seeds. Drop the pork into the sizzling (but not burning) oil. Cook on both sides for about 5 minutes each (10 minutes total) until both sides have a nice seared crust. Remove the meat to a plate or cutting board.

Lower the heat to medium and add celery, carrots, garlic, onion, salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 12-15 minutes until caramelized. Mix in tomato paste and cook for another 3 minutes until the mixture is nice and moist. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, bay leaves and thyme to the pan. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the pork shoulder to the simmering stock and place in oven. Cover loosely with foil. After 1 hour, add the rest of the chicken broth and cook for 1 more hour. 

While the pork is cooking, make the glaze. Toast the peppercorns and cloves over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Let the mixture cool then grind them with the cinnamon to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or food processor. Mix the pepper mixture with the bourbon, brown sugar, soy sauce, orange juice, lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan. Bring the glaze to a slow boil over medium heat and reduce for about 20 minutes, until thick and fragrant.

After the pork has been in the oven for 2 hours, remove the vegetables and pan juices and transfer to a small pot. Place over medium heat to thicken up for a sauce.

Remove the foil and slather the meat with the bourbon glaze. Crank the heat up to 375 degrees and place the meat in the pan back in the oven uncovered. Cook for 15 minutes so the glaze caramelizes.

Let the pork rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve the pork slices over the thickened vegetables and juices. The meat is so flavorful and tender, and the sauce is really just amazing.

Collard Greens with Smoked Ham Hock
2 large bunches collard greens (cleans, remove stems and tough spine in center)
5 cups low sodium organic chicken broth
1 smoked ham hock
1 onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp granulated sugar
olive oil 
2 tbsp unsalted butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Collard greens take quite a while to cook down until they are tender enough to eat. It's not like spinach or other greens you're used to cooking. It takes a little time and love. Give yourself about an hour to make these, so start it while the pork is roasting.

In a large pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, ham hock, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Cook for 10-12 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.

Add the collard greens to the pot and stuff them down. Pour the broth, vinegar and sugar over the greens and give them a turn in the liquid. Cover the pot and cook the greens for 45 minutes. Turn the greens in the liquid occasionally. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the greens and cook for 15 more minutes.

If you've never had collard greens, I really suggest you give it a try. They are so very delightfully different from other greens with the vinegar and smokiness from the ham hock.

Jalapeno Jack Corn Bread
(Still testing the recipe, not perfect yet. Suggestions for a great recipe are welcome!)

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