Slow Cooked Pork with Figs and Kabocha Polenta

by Marina Chotzinoff

I did it. I made a quick, simple, delectable meal. I know this will not necessarily be quick or simple for everyone, but for me it took under an hour so I call that a success. I heard the crazy voices starting yesterday when I brought home a pork shoulder, but one by one I killed the complicated visions until I was left with something wonderful. Something I could easily accomplish being home only 45 minutes before receiving two ya-ya little girls for a sleepover. Something that would still be wonderful heated up when my husband came home from yet another long day at work building all the fine things he builds. Now if I could only make it a habit…

Slow Cooked Pork with Figs and Kabocha Polenta

Serves 6

1 medium boneless pork shoulder
1 small yellow onion
2 sweet-tart apples (I used Honeycrisp)
1 pint fresh figs
6 garlic cloves
1/4 cup madeira, port, or other fortified purply wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 t dijon
thyme & chives

1 small kabocha squash
some cream
1 cup coarse polenta
some paremsan
1/4 t nutmeg
white pepper


Heat some oil in a pan. Season pork all over with salt and pepper. Brown fat side down, then turn to brown all sides. Pour off most of the fat (reserve if you wish for another use). Add winey beverage and deglaze pan, simmering for several minutes. Add broth and stir to combine. Cut onion into slivers, cut apples into eight wedges each, trim stems from figs and peel garlic. Place them all in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place pork on top of onion pile, pour broth on top and cook low for eight hours.

Use a pairing knife to remove stem from squash. Cover top with plastic wrap and microwave about 10 minutes or until soft (use a towel as it will be hot!) checking after about 5-6 minutes. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Cut in half, gently remove seeds and scoop flesh into bowl (if you wish to use an immersion blender) or blender. Add some cream, about 1/2 cup, to get a thick and very smooth purée. Season with salt. Can be made ahead.

Remove pork from slow cooker to a plate. Pour sauce into a pan and heat mashing garlic and a few figs with a spoon. Stir in mustard and herbs and season to taste with salt. Swirl in a tablespoon or two of butter.

Bring 3 cups water to a boil with 1 t salt. Stir in polenta and stir until your arm wants to fall off- about 30 minutes. You can run briefly amok in between stirs, but try to stir as much as possible as it makes it creamier. At around the 20 minutes mark stir in the kabocha and cheese. Season with nutmeg and white pepper and salt to taste.

Heat oven to 425º.

Cut broccoli into florets. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in oven about 20 minutes or until brown, tossing twice.

Place polenta on a plate, top with pork and sauce with broccoli on the side.

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