Hours of slow cooking create intense flavor and a tender pork roast that falls apart with the touch of a fork. The original recipe calls for constant attention, but I discovered that you can get the same results with a minimum of effort if you let your crock pot do most of the work. After browning the meat, the sauce is reduced until it’s nut-brown and then poured over the meat to cook all day, with a final reduction on the stove top just before serving. Hands on cooking time is about 30 minutes total, plus all day in the crock pot.
The first time I made this I planned to cook it as the recipe directed, but I had to work late two days in a row and there wasn’t time for a three-hour braise that required frequent stirring. Out of time, I started to put the roast in the crock pot when It occurred to me that if I browned the meat first and reduced the sauce before serving I might be able to recreate the original recipe. It worked like a charm, producing a rich, mahogany sauce with incredible depth of flavor. The sauce tastes so complex that it’s hard to believe there are only four main ingredients in this recipe, but it’s proof that simple preparations are often the most rewarding, especially if there are hours of slow cooking involved.
I’ve tried this recipe with lactose-free as well as regular milk and it’s delicious either way, but I think the sauce is smoother when made with lactose-free milk. I don’t know why this is, but since lactose-free milk tastes sweeter than the regular version, there may be more sugars available for caramelizing when the sauce is reduced. Which ever milk you use, you’re in for a treat with this recipe.
Braised Pork Roast Bolognese in Crock Pot
Serves 6, adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
3 pound pork butt roast with bone in, visible fat removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 cups whole milk (lactose-free or regular)
Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is completely melted and the foam subsides, add the pork and brown it on all sides. Transfer the meat to the crock pot. Add 1 cup of milk to the pan and stir constantly, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Let the milk boil and reduce it to a thick, nutty brown paste, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add another cup of milk and continue stirring until the sauce returns to a boil and reduces slightly. Pour the sauce over the roast and put the last 1/2 cup of milk into the pan on the stove. Use the milk to loosen the bits of sauce remaining in the pan and pour it over the roast. Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.
To finish the sauce, carefully remove the roast from the crock pot. It will probably fall to pieces as you do this. Cover it with a piece of foil. Skim off the fat on the surface of the liquid in the crock pot, then pour the juices into a sauce pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, and reduce it to the consistency of a medium white sauce. Cook until it turns nut-brown. If it thickens too much before this happens, add a few tablespoons of water and whisk it smooth.When done, cover with a lid and set aside.
Slice the meat, and remove the bone, fat and gristle. The meat will be in pieces. Arrange them on a plate and pour the sauce over the top and serve.