Monthly Archives: November 2012

My Visit to a Pig Farm: Part I

piglets suckling

Newborn piglets suckling. (Photo, S Russo)

If you ever have to soften someone up really quickly, then take my advice and do this: Get your hands on a new-born, wrinkly, pale pink piglet. Hand it to the person you’re trying to butter up, and watch his steely exterior soften in front of your eyes.

How do I know this will work? Because at a recent pork farm tour at Wakefield Pork, Inc in Gaylord, Minnesota, about two dozen grown men and women turned into cooing, warm and fuzzy fools at the sight of piglets, yours truly included. I have to believe that the employees were secretly laughing at our endless chorus of “oooooh, they’re soooooooo cute,” except that the folks at Wakefield Pork are so ridiculously kind, I don’t think it’s possible.

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Robin Plotnik, a nutritionist on our tour, cuddles with a piglet. (Photo, J Jorgensen)

It all started in 1991 when two families and second-generation pork producers, the Langhorsts and the Peters, joined forces to open Wakefield Pork, Inc. The Langhorsts (Steve and Mary and son Lincoln) recently hosted a tour for several food writers and nutritionists, including me (see below), allowing us access to the animals, the workers, and the facilities.

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Lincoln Langhorst, far left, and his mother, Mary, far right (Photo, J Jorgensen)

“We believe in transparency, so we're thrilled to have you here today,” says Mary Langhorst, who oversees human resources, operations, and serves on multiple pork boards.

Wakefield Pork is a farrow-to-wean farm which means they breed sows, and raise piglets up to 7-months-old. Prior to my visit, my knowledge of pig farms was based on what I had read, so I wasn't sure I was going to like my experience. I was concerned that I might see animal cruelty or unclean conditions. That's not at all what I found. Indeed, I experienced many surprises during my tour that day.

When we arrived at the farm, the first thing that surprised me was the intensity of safety protocols in place to protect the animals from illness. When you enter the building, you go through several bio-security measures. First, you answer a series of questions, such as “Have you visited a zoo in the past 48 hours?” If you pass, then you go through a series of measured steps to secure you don’t carry any bacteria or viruses into the building. They include removing shoes and all clothing and changing into fresh clothing, overalls, and boots provided for you, as well as handing over cell phones for disinfecting. Upon leaving, you follow similar measures, including showering.

Lincoln Langhorst, Mary's and Steve's son, who oversees the sales and marketing aspects of the organization as well as day-to-day operations, was my group's leader. Soft-spoken, sincere, and forthright, he repeatedly encouraged us to ask him anything: “Don’t be afraid to ask me the tough questions,” he said repeatedly and stayed true to his word. Indeed, every worker with whom we came in contact was open and honest with us. They allowed us to take pictures, ask questions, and see all aspects of the production. They believe in education and want people to know how they raise pigs. “We've got nothing to hide,” said Todd Marotz, manager.

dsc_03471Sow in individual gestation stall. (Photo, J Jorgensen)

sow drinking waterSow drinking water in farrowing barn. (Photo, S Russo)

My next surprise was the barns. I was expecting whipping Minnesota winds, but instead we entered indoor, temperature-controlled, clean barns. Staff are constantly in contact with the animals, monitoring their feed intake, health, and well-being. Practices are highly routinized both for the well-being of the animals and for the workers' safety.

The first barn we visited was the farrowing barn, where sows or mama pigs go to deliver their babies. Sows are housed in individual gestation stalls that are constantly monitored in-person by staff. They come here 2 to 3 days prior to birthing then stay with their litter for 18 to 21 days. I've read my fair share of critiques of gestation stalls whose detractors consider them a form of animal cruelty. I was prepared to be disturbed by them. In actuality, the opposite was true. The sows were remarkably calm and content. They have 24-hour access to water and are on feeding schedules. Because they need extra calories and nutrition to produce milk for their litter, Lincoln explained that food is given freely: “They can pretty much each as much as they want during this period.”

sow giving birth to pigletSow giving birth. Notice the attached umbilical cord. (Photo, S Russo)

Perhaps the happiest surprise was seeing a sow give birth. I was shocked at how placid the sow remains throughout the birthing process. She lies on her side, and every 15 to 20 minutes, you’ll see her side rise and fall lightly. “That’s a contraction,” said Michelle Fuller, one of Wakefield's employees. “Any second now, you’ll see a piglet being born.”

newborn pigletNewborn piglet being cleaned up. (Photo, S Russo)

Then, sure enough, we did. A 2 to 2.5 pound of pink, slimy, squawking piglet slid out of its mother and was immediately whisked up by Amanda, one of the employees, who dried him off and placed him in a feed bin with warming lights until it was time to suckle the mother’s teat. Michelle explained that the umbilical cord remains attached because it's the final blood transfer from mama to baby that is nutrient-dense. It will come off naturally with time.

newborn pigletNewborn piglet staying warm until feeding time begins. (Photo, S Russo)

To our delight, we continued to see several more births. Michelle told us that an average sized litter is 12.5, and the average weight per piglet is 2 to 2.5 pounds. Litters can be as small as 6 to 8 piglets or as large as 20 to 21, though litters that big are uncommon.

Ideally, the piglet should start suckling immediately since the first milk produced by the sow contains the colostrum, which Michelle explained provides antibodies to the piglets, naturally fortifying them against illness. I asked her why some piglets start suckling right away and others don’t. She explained that some piglets are innately drawn to the mother’s teat while others need a little help — like this little lost guy pictured below.

newborn pigletWayward newborn piglet staying warm. (Photo, S Russo)

Also, the first 5 to 6 piglets in the litter have an advantage: Without competition for teats, they begin feeding sooner, thereby claiming a teat as their own. Yup, it’s survival of the fittest, in action. Michelle explained that they manually rotate piglets to ensure that the less assertive and later-born ones have sufficient access to feeding. She also added that in a very short time period, “a hierarchy of nipples” occurs. That is, each piglet will choose its own nipple and stay there for all feedings. In the case where a sow has fewer teats than piglets, Lincoln explained that another sow can provide milk; however, this transition must happen very soon after birth, or the sow will recognize that the piglet is not hers and reject it.

piglets sucklingNewborn piglets vying for a teat to suckle. (Photo, S Russo)

Todd explained that the sow releases milk only 20 seconds at a time, so needless to say, the piglets have to act quickly! After they feed, they rest or sleep, then about 30 to 40 minutes later, then feed again. And the cycle repeats all day and all night. It’s a life of eating and sleeping and eating and sleeping.

piglets sucklingNewborn piglets eating and sleeping. (Photo, S Russo)

To our amazement, Todd also said that the room of sows will often “synchronize.” That is, they’ll start dropping milk at the same time. How does this happen? Todd explained that the sows release the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, that triggers the let-down of milk. Just in case a sow isn’t letting down enough milk, her piglets might “nudge” her by burrowing their noses into her teat which will produce more milk. It’s the piglets’ way of saying, “Come on, Mom! We’re hungry!”

wakefield pork, inc employees, Michelle and Todd

Long-time Wakefield Pork, Inc employees, Todd Marotz and Michelle Fuller. (Photo, S Russo)

Next, we visited the gestation barn where the sows get impregnated. I'll share that in the next post. So, stay tuned!

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Can You Find These Cranberries on Pinterest? The Pork Pinterest Scavenger Hunt Continues….

I had a lot to be thankful for this year: family, friends and, most importantly, bacon. Just kidding. I'm thankful for sausage too. Though I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner, I'll admit I’m a bit turkey-ed out. If you feel the same way, then consider thinking of new ways to use all of those leftovers with pork like this Turkey Sandwich with Salami and Hot Peppers or these Bacon Mashed Potato Pancakes.

The National Pork Board Pinterest Scavenger Hunt is back again for week two! Even if you played last week, you can enter again this week by finding the full image for this week’s photo hint entry. Weekly winners will be selected to receive a $50 gift card and a Pork Party prize pack!

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HERE’S HOW TO PLAY

1. Visit us here at Pork Knife and Spoon every Monday for a photo hint, like the one we’ve included at the end of this post. This contest runs for three more weeks, so be sure to check back each week for a new photo hint and chance to win!

2. Then visit Pork Be inspired’s Pinterest page and hunt for the full image. Be sure to look on ALL of Pork Be inspired’s pin boards for the full image; you never know which board you might find it on!

Here’s an example of a photo hint and the full image solution:

pork_photohint-sample2

3. Once you’ve found the full image that corresponds to the photo hint, email us at PorkSocial@gmail.com using the subject line “I Found It” with this information:

· Your Name

· Your Mailing Address

· Your Twitter, Blog, or Facebook page

· The URL of the specific pin where the full image is located. Click on the full image to open it on your screen and then copy the link at the top of your browser. Example: http://pinterest.com/pin/76139049920472408/

*Please do not send the URL of the overall pinboard. Example: http://pinterest.com/porkbeinspired/as-seen-in-our-advertising/

The deadline for entries will be at midnight Eastern Time each Sunday. We’ll randomly select one weekly winner who has submitted the correct full image answer to win the $50 gift card and Pork Prize Pack.

For the complete official rules, please click here.

So what do you think, can you find the cranberries in the image below? Jump on over to Pork Be inspired’s pin boards and start hunting for this week’s photo!

THIS WEEK’S PHOTO HINT:

pork_pinterest_findme_week2-11

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Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Sandwich with Salami and Hot Peppers

leftover thanksgiving turkey sandwich with salami, blue cheese, and hot peppers

I'm not going Christmas shopping the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. I'm staying home (likely in my pajamas), watching a good movie (likely White Christmas), and eating a Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwich (likely with salami.) Actually, change that last one to “with salami, definitely.”

If you haven't had a leftover Thanksgiving sandwich with salami, then I suggest buying some a couple of days before Thanksgiving so you don't have to leave the house on Friday.

Here's how to make the sandwich:

1. Start with a crusty Italian or French roll. Drizzle the inside of the bread with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

2. Line the bottom of the roll with 4 to 5 slices of salami. Then eat 1 or 2 slices. Really, do it.

3. Add a few blue cheese crumbles, or favorite cheese of your choice, on top.

4. Add 5 to 6 jarred pepperoncini or hot jalapeño slices.

5. Add your favorite turkey meat.

6. Pop the sandwich under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until toasty and warm. Eat.

You'll likely thank me for it.

You might also like this Thanksgiving Leftovers recipe for Bacon Mashed Potato Pancakes.

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Let The Pork Pinterest Scavenger Hunt Begin!

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As a kid, I loved to participate in scavenger hunts. Didn't you? They’re such a fun, simple concept: you get a list of clues and have to locate items based on the clues. I still remember the thrill I felt when I found the items I had been hunting for.

That’s why we’re bringing back some of that old-school fun – and adding in a digital twist – for the holidays with a National Pork Board Pinterest Scavenger Hunt! And to up the ante, we’re picking weekly winners to receive a $50 gift card and a Pork Party prize pack!

For those of you who are new to Pinterest, it’s a virtual pin board platform that allows users to organize and share photos of all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pin boards to collect inspirational ideas for things like planning weddings, decorating homes and collecting favorite recipes… especially ones with pork. Hint hint. For instance, on my Pinterest page, I've got boards for “Styles for Me,” “Pretty Things,” “Cool Ideas,” and “We Heart Bacon” to name a few.

NOW, HERE’S HOW TO PLAY:

1. Visit us here at Pork Knife and Spoon every Monday for a photo hint, like the one we’ve included at the end of this post. This contest runs for four weeks, so be sure to check back each week for a new photo hint and chance to win!

2. Then visit Pork Be inspired’s Pinterest page and hunt for the full image. Be sure to look on ALL of Pork Be Inspired’s pin boards for the full image; you never know which board you might find it on!

Here’s an example of a photo hint and the full image solution:

pork_photohint-sample

3. Once you’ve found the full image that corresponds to the photo hint, email us at PorkSocial@gmail.com using the subject line “I Found It” with this information:

· Your Name

· Your Mailing Address

· Your Twitter, Blog, or Facebook page

· The URL of the specific pin where the full image is located. Click on the full image to open it on your screen and then copy the link at the top of your browser.
Example: http://pinterest.com/pin/76139049920472408/

*Please do not send the URL of the overall pinboard.
Example: http://pinterest.com/porkbeinspired/as-seen-in-our-advertising/

The deadline for entries will be at midnight Eastern Time each Sunday. We’ll randomly select one weekly winner who has submitted the correct full image answer to win the $50 gift card and Pork Prize Pack.

For the complete official rules, please click here.

Sounds fun, right? So, what are you waiting for?! Jump on over to Pork Be inspired’s pin boards and start hunting for this week’s photo!

THIS WEEK’S PHOTO HINT:

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Thanksgiving Leftovers: Bacon Mashed Potato Pancakes

mashed potato pancakes

I can live without mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving Day. With stuffing, turnips, squash, and greens, I don't event miss them. But I can't live without leftover mashed potato pancakes, the day after Thanksgiving, especially when they're studded with bits of chewy, crisp bacon.

These bacon mashed potato pancakes are easy to make, but be sure to follow these tips: Use real mashed potatoes instead of boxed; take them cold from the refrigerator before cooking, and if your mashed potatoes have a lot of moisture, say from heavy cream or milk, then you may need to add more cornstarch. When forming the pancakes, make sure they're not too soft or too thin, or they'll spread when cooking. When cooking in the hot oil, resist the temptation to flip them too early, otherwise a crunchy golden crust won't form. With salty, smoky bacon, you don't need much else for seasoning, but  feel free to experiment with spices and herbs such as minced garlic, chives, sage, parsley, and chili powder. Enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and serve either plain or with sour cream, applesauce, leftover cranberry sauce, maple syrup, salsa or hot sauce.

Bacon Mashed Potato Cakes

Makes 7 cakes

2 slices bacon

Canola oil

2 cups cold leftover mashed potatoes

4 to 5 tablespoons cornstarch

2 scallions, finely chopped, both green and white parts

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high and cook, flipping once or twice, until evenly browned and crisp. Remove and drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Once cool, chop into small pieces.

2. Cover the bottom of a large skillet with canola oil and place over medium-high heat.

3. Place 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, including the chopped bacon, starting with 4 tablespoons of cornstarch, and gently blend with your hands. Feel it. It should be somewhat heavy and smooth. If it's soft and sticky, then add a little more cornstarch. To make equal size pancakes, use an ice cream scoop. Then gently flatten the ball into a thick pancake. If you don't have an ice cream scoop, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup or your hands. Make sure the oil is very hot before placing the pancakes in the skillet. Once ready, cook 3 to 4 at a time, making sure to not overcrowd them. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until a golden crust forms, then flip once. Cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes until golden. If they're getting too dark, lower the heat. Place on a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat.

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Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs with Hank’s Whisky BBQ Sauce

Maker's Mark Whisky and Grandma's Molasses

What happens when you put Hank Shaw, Grandma Molasses, and Maker's Mark Whisky in the same room? You get a really good time. Actually, you'll have a really good time any time you're in the same room with Hank Shaw because the guy's love for life is contagious. Not only is Hank a personal friend and fellow native East Coaster (from Jersey, yo!), but he's also a remarkably talented chef, blogger, and cookbook author. So when I was searching for Tennessee-style whisky BBQ recipes and came across Hank's Barbecue Sauce recipe on Simply Recipes, I looked no further. You shouldn't either.

Made with ketchup, bourbon, molasses, and butter, this sauce is tantalizingly tangy and sweet. So, go on, and have a good time.

oven-baked baby back ribs

Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs with Hank's Whisky BBQ Sauce

Makes 6 servings

Ribs:

5 lbs spare ribs

1/4 cup of your favorite dry rub, or a simple blend of salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper

Barbecue Sauce:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup butter

1 chopped chile pepper

1 medium yellow or white onion, grated

1 cup Bourbon or Tennessee whisky (I used Maker's Mark whisky)

1/2 cup ketchup or tomato sauce (I used ketchup)

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup molasses (I used Grandma's molasses)

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Salt, to taste

1. Heat the butter and oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Grate the onion through the coarse grate of a box grater, or finely mince the onion if you don't have a grater. Add grated onion and chile to the oil/butter combination and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions turn translucent. You do not want the onions to turn color. Take the pan off the heat and add the bourbon. Return to the stove, turn up the heat to medium-high again and boil down the bourbon for 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, and the sugar. Mix well and return to a simmer. Cook the sauce for a few minutes to combine the flavors and then taste test it. Is it salty enough? (It should be from the Worcestershire sauce). If not, add salt. Is it spicy hot enough? If not, add a little cayenne powder. Is it sweet enough? If not, add some molasses. Let the sauce cook down slowly until it thickens, about 20 minutes. Keep it on low heat while your ribs cook. Alternatively, you can make this sauce ahead of time and reheat it when you cook the meat. It will stay good in the fridge at least a week; I've held mine for two weeks with no problem.

2. For the ribs, cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Check the back side of the ribs. If you see a thick white membrane, you’ll want to remove it. Using the tip of a knife, slide it under the membrane and pull off. Using your hands, massage the dry rub into the meat until coated all over. Cover with plastic wrap, place on the prepared sheet, and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight. Remove plastic wrap. Place ribs back on the sheet, and cover with more aluminum foil, sealing the edges closed.

3. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Bake ribs in the center of the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very tender. Be careful when opening the foil as steam will escape. The meat should be cooked through, white with no pink showing. Grab the bottom of a bone and gently tug; the meat should be tender and start to pull away from the bone. After baking, remove ribs from the foil and discard the pan juices.

4. Return ribs to oven uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble up, thicken, and brown. Transfer ribs to a large, clean platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the ribs, and serve with extra BBQ sauce and lots of napkins.

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Thai Pork and Shrimp Meatballs from The Meatball Shop Cookbook

Thai pork and shrimp meatballs

I don't make recipes that have more than 10 ingredients. I don't like meatballs other than classic Italian beef and pork meatballs. Yet, this past Sunday I made Thai meatballs from a recipe with over 20 ingredients. And, as I was eating them with my husband, I found myself saying, “We gotta make these again next weekend!”

Yes, these Thai balls made with ground pork, shrimp, lemongrass and a medley of fresh herbs including Thai basil and fresh mint, are outstanding. The recipe is from The Meatball Shop Cookbook (Random House, 2011), which is a homey collection of recipes from New York's venerable The Meatball Shop, owned and operated by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow.

While in NYC this past spring, my husband and I ate at The Meatball Shop on Stanton in the Lower East Side. We arrived an hour before they opened (they didn't take reservations), and were stunned to discover about a dozen people waiting ahead of us. In the cold and the wind. Grrrrr…. Fortunately, we waited in the cold and the wind and got in on the first round. We were seated at a snug communal table, where you actually rub elbows with your dining neighbors, which it turns out isn't a bad thing when you're freezing. Then we feasted on spicy pork meatballs, two ways: “smashed” on a toasted bri0che bun with spicy meat sauce and provolone cheese and smothered in pesto sauce and served on a plate. We had some good sides too, not nearly good enough to contend with the meatballs.

So if you get the opportunity to eat at The Meatball Shop, take it. And whether you eat there or not, get yourself a copy of the cookbook, which also includes several porkalicious recipes for BBQ Pork Meatballs, Spicy Pork Meatballs, Drunken Pork Meatballs, Viva La Mexico Meatballs, and Swedish Meatballs.

I say, “Viva, La Meatball!”

Thai Balls, recipe from The Meatball Shop Cookbook

Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch balls

For the meatballs:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground pork

1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, and roughly chopped

2 large eggs

3/4 cup  fresh Thai or Italian basil, roughly chopped

3/4 cup  fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 cup  fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons lemongrass paste or minced lemongrass

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

Juice from 1 lime

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons fish sauce

For the garnish:

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce

2 large carrots, julienned or grated

10 fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro with stems

10 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

1 teaspoon sesame seed

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil into a 9 X 13 -inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

2. Combine ground pork, shrimp, eggs, basil, cilantro, mint, bread crumbs, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and fish sauce in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Roll the mixture into round, golf size balls (about 1 1/2-inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, lining them up snugly and in even rows to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165 degrees F. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish.

3. Meanwhile, to make the garnish, place the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, carrots, basil, cilantro, mint, peanuts, and sesame seeds in a bowl and toss to combine. Spoon the garnish over the top of the meatballs and serve with peanut sauce, (pg 61), if using.

PS- The peanut sauce is addictive. But I'm not sharing it here cause I really, really want you to get the cookbook! For the record, I have no connections with this cookbook. I just believe a world with more meatballs in it is a better world for all.

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Sunday Suppers: Parppadelle with Pork Ragu Recipe

parpadelle with pork ragu

Slow, savory, sensual Sunday suppers. Flavors are intensified. Smells are intoxicating. Time seems to slow down. I adore them.

You could make this parppadelle with pork ragu recipe any day of the week, but you shouldn't. You should make it on a Sunday, a day when you've got a few hours to let the pork simmer, to let yourself soak in its rich aroma, while you nurse a glass of red wine. Pork ragu should not be rushed. Give it its time, and you'll reap the rewards.

Parppadelle with Pork Ragu

Adapted from two recipes from The Kitchn and  The New York Times Magazine.

Serves 8 to 10

Pork Ragu:
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 5 pound bone-in pork shoulder or butt*
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 celery stalks, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 fennel bulb, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juice
2 cups chicken stock
A couple of pinches of red pepper flakes
A couple of pinches of salt and black pepper
1/2 cup fresh finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 pounds parppadelle pasta

1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Using a sharp knife, trim any excess fat off the pork shoulder. Pat the meat dry and season generously with salt and black pepper.  In a large Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot, over medium heat, add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sear the pork shoulder on all sides until lightly browned. Remove and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the bacon and let some of the fat render, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel, and garlic, and cook until soft and translucent, about  5 to  7 minutes. Add the white wine; cook until slightly reduced, about 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, using a pair of kitchen scissors or your hands, cut or squish the tomatoes into large chunks. Add the tomatoes with the juices and the chicken stock to the pot. Nestle the pork into the sauce and season with red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 2 to 3 hours, turning the pork once, until the meat easily falls apart with a fork. Remove the pork and allow to cool slightly. Transfer to a large cutting board and using two large forks, begin shredding the meat. Discard any excess fat along with the bone. Place the shredded pork back into the pot with the parsley and cheese and stir well. If the sauce is too soupy, then place the pot, uncovered, over medium-low heat, until thickened. If it's too thick for your taste, then simply add some water or chicken broth and stir.

2. Cook pasta in salted water according to directions, until al dente. Add pasta to the pot and toss until well coated. Transfer to a large bowl or individual serving bowls. Garnish with extra parsley and grated cheese before serving.

Make ahead: If you want to make ahead, then cool the ragu to room temperature and refrigerate overnight which will cause the sauce to thicken. When ready to serve, reheat on medium-low until warm, adding additional chicken stock or water as necessary. Adjust seasoning, if desired.

*Pork shoulder and pork butt are the same cut of meat; they're called different names in different geographic regions.

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