Maiale in agrodolce - Italian sweet & sour pork

by Ray McVinne | Cuisine issue #155
Serves: 8I am a big fan of Italian sweet and sour dishes. This is my version of a dish from the Enciclopedia della Cucina Regionale Italiano (Encyclopedia of Regional Italian Food), an excellent cookbook I found in Rome.

The dish comes from Lazio, the province in which Rome is situated in central Italy. It is traditionally made with wild boar, but also works well with farmed pork. The pork needs to marinate for 24 hours, so start a day in advance.

250ml red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 bay leaves
2 large sprigs thyme
500ml full-flavoured red wine
2 red onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled, diced 1cm
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5kg boned pork shoulder
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup sultanas
1⁄4 cup diced candied orange
250ml beef jus
1 tablespoon finely chopped dark chocolate
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Put the red wine vinegar, 250ml water, sugar, bay leaves and thyme in a saucepan. Add half the wine, half the onions, half the carrots, half the celery and half the garlic. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. This is the marinade.

Put the pork in a deep non-reactive dish or bowl and pour the marinade over it. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove the pork from the marinade, discarding the marinade, and pat the pork dry. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Heat the oil in a metal casserole dish over moderate heat then add the remaining onion, carrot, celery and garlic, along with the sultanas and candied orange. Fry gently, without browning, for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft. Place the pork on top of the vegetables. Turn up the heat and add the remaining wine. Let it bubble for 30 seconds then add 250ml water, the jus and the chocolate.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then cover and cook for 3 hours, basting occasionally, or until the pork is very tender.

Remove the pork to a serving platter. Skim some of the fat from the cooking liquid then place the casserole over high heat. Boil until slightly syrupy then taste and add enough balsamic vinegar to sharpen the flavour. Taste again and season. Pour this sauce over the pork then sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley. Serve with the potatoes.

Wine - A lively Waipara pinot noir.

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