braised pork with pepperoni sauce

Hello, Spring?  Did you forget you were supposed to stick around for a while?  While I do love your friend, Summer, quite a bit, I was planning on spending a little more time with you.  But you’ve run off and instead 90 degree temperatures have crept into our weekends.  Ok, so it was still too hot to make the pepperoni sauce.  But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

The recent finale of Top Chef All Stars saw the judges enamored over a dish of braised pork with pepperoni sauce from Chef Mike Isabella.  I was intrigued.  I’ve had plenty of pepperoni on my pizza but I’ve never had it in a sauce.  The next morning, as I browsed the internet looking for clues as to how to make it, I stumbled across a very high-level overview of the general ingredients and directions.  I was off to the races. 

The braised pork and the sauce are easy enough – not much chopping, not much prep, but certainly a bit of cooking time.  Normally, running an oven at 375 degrees for 3 hours isn’t that big of a deal.  It is a big deal when it is 86 degrees out.  And yes, this was the cooler day of our weekend.  So the oven went on, along with the newly repaired air conditioner and soon the house apartment was filled with the aromas of pork, pepperoni, fennel and tomato.  It smelled exactly the way you would want it too when coming in from the brisk outdoors.  Oh wait…

Soon enough, the timer sounded and as I stood at the counter shredding pork and sneaking bites when B wasn’t looking, I knew this would be the last hearty meal we’d see in our kitchen for a while.  As I alternated between shredding pork and wiping sweat from my brow, I hoped the sauce was worth the added heat.  I plated pillows of golden polenta and piled shards of pork across the top.  As I ladled the bubbling pepperoni sauce over the pork, wisps of steam danced up to my nose and suddenly, I was very hungry. 

We tucked into our meal with fans blowing around us and as our bellies filled with the warm, meaty sauce and juicy pork, our foreheads glistened with sweat.  It may have been from the hot spring/summer day, it could have been due to the warm filling dish, or it could have been from that, uh, second/third glass of red wine we guzzled, but it was worth it.  This dish was a great way to send Winter packing and if it is still cold enough near you to crank up the oven, I’d say go for it.  If like us you are enjoying the start to Summer, go for it anyway, but turn the AC down a few notches before you do!

braised pork with pepperoni sauce

recipe:  jb’s pour house


1/3 lb. pepperoni, thinly sliced and diced into small pieces

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, seasoned liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns

1 c. dry white wine

2 c. water

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 24 oz. whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed (reserve tomato sauce for another use)

3 c. chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place about 1/4 of the diced pepperoni in a large oven-proof casserole with a tight fitting lid.  Heat over medium high heat until pepperoni starts to crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove pepperoni and set aside.  Add onions and olive oil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook onions until caramelized, about 12-15 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove onions and set aside.  Place pork shoulder in pan, fat side down, and increase heat to medium high.  Sear on all sides until golden brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add garlic cloves, 2 tsp. fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper and 1/4 tsp. smoked black peppercorns.  Stir constantly until garlic is golden, about 1 minute.  Add white wine and water.  Return pepperoni, onions and pork to pan.  Cover and braise for three hours, turning roast over once halfway through cooking time.

As pork braises, place olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, remaining fennel seeds and crushed red pepper.  Saute for about 3 minutes or until onion starts to become translucent.  Add pepperoni and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add crushed San Marzano tomatoes and chicken stock.  Let simmer on medium low for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pepperoni has softened.  Remove from heat and working in batches, puree.  (Note, if using a blender/food processor, very carefully puree in small batches as liquid expands when hot and will spill out of blender/processor)  Return sauce to sauce pan and continue to simmer until sauce has reduced and has thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove pork from oven and shred using two forks.  To serve, place pork over polenta or pasta and drizzle with pepperoni sauce.

Here’s to a whole new world of pepperoni!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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