Braising pork in milk is a traditional method in Italian cuisine; the acidity in the dairy tenderizes the pork and the half & half slowly caramelizes during cooking. Don’t worry if the sauce separates; all is forgiven once you mix in the kale, which results in a creamed-spinach-like base for the tender meat. Leftovers can be stored in single-serving portions for 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
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- 1½ lbs (24 oz) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3-inch piece
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup sliced shallot
- 2 large ribs celery, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, cut into 1/8-inch thin slices
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 sprig fresh thyme or very generous pinch of dried thyme
- 2 cups half & half
- 8 fresh sage leaves, divided
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 3 wide strips of lemon zest
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1 bunch kale, ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C). Generously season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a medium oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter. When the butter stops foaming, add the pork, in batches if necessary, so it’s in one layer with space in between. Sear, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove the pork to a plate, reduce the heat to medium, then add the shallot, celery, fennel, garlic powder, thyme sprig, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots and fennel are wilting, about 5 minutes.
- Add the half & half, 1 of the sage leaves, and the bay leaves, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, and baking soda; stir to combine. Return the pork to the pot, along with any collected juices. Cover and bring to a simmer. Transfer to the oven, and cook, covered, for 2 hours, turning the pork a few times along the way.
- Remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid, and gently remove the pork to a plate. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, thyme sprig, and bay leaves. Add to the pot of sauce the kale and the water. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat and toss the kale to coat. Cover and let simmer until the kale is very tender and wilted, stirring a few times during cooking, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a small plate with a paper towel. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add a 1/4-inch layer of olive oil and heat until the oil starts shimmering. Add the remaining sage leaves and fry for 45 seconds, turning them with a fork after 30 seconds. Immediately remove to the paper towel to drain and crisp.
- Rough-shred the pork using 2 forks to pull the meat apart. Divide the creamy kale among dinner plates, top each with equal portions of the pork, garnish with the crispy sage leaves, and enjoy.