RAGOUT DE PORC, CHASSEUR (French “hunter’s style” pork and mushroom stew, for six)
2-1/2 pounds lean boneless shoulder of pork or blade end of loin, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
For the marinade:
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon thyme
2 to 3 large cloves of garlic, pureed
For the stew:
2 or more tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 to 2 cups thinly sliced onions
½ cup dry white wine or dry French vermouth
3 or 4 ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cups (1 pint) fresh mushrooms, or more
1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon butter for simmering the mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons wine to thicken the sauce
¼ cup or more heavy cream
fresh minced parsley
1. Place the pork in an enameled or stainless steel mixing bowl, add the marinade ingredients, and stir vigorously with a rubber spatula to be sure all pieces are well covered. Let stand, turning occasionally (or cover and refrigerate) for between 20 minutes and 1 or 2 days.
2. If the pork has exuded its juices during the marinade, dry it in paper towels and reserve the juices. Film a large frying pan with oil, heat to very hot but not smoking, add as many pieces of pork as will fit comfortably in one layer, and brown lightly on all sides. Remove the browned pieces and add fresh until all are browned. Tilt the pan and spoon out the browning fat.
3. Stir in the sliced onions and toss with the pork for several minutes to brown lightly. Transfer the meat and onions to a casserole. Deglaze the frying pan with wine and pour over the pork.
4. Stir the tomatoes into the pork and onions, as well as any marinade juices, turning and tossing the meat to blend the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer slowly on top of the stove. The meat will exude juices as it cooks, turn and baste every 15 minutes or so. It will take 1 to 1-1/2 hours, depending on the cut and its initial tenderness, and it is done when a fork pierces it fairly easily. Do not overcook.
5. While the pork is cooking, trim and wash the mushrooms, quarter them and place in a small saucepan with the lemon juice, butter and a pinch of salt. Add ¼ cup of water, cover the pan and simmer for 3 minutes. Pour the juices into the simmering pork and reserve the mushrooms for later.
6. Skim off any fat and thicken the sauce with cornstarch and wine if necessary. To do so, blend some of the hot juices into the cornstarch and wine mixture, then pour this back into the ragout. Add the mushrooms, set over moderate heat and simmer, basting meat with juices for several minutes until the sauce thickens and the starch cooks. Taste very carefully for seasoning and then, still simmering, add the cream. This will not noticeably lighten the color of the sauce, it will simply enrich it nicely. The ragout may be cooked ahead and reheated for 5 minutes or so before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.