Kung Pao Pork Cassoulet

I debated with myself what exactly to name this recipe. It has Asian-inspired seasonings but is baked in a slow oven ala a French cassoulet. But whatever you call it, you’re going to be calling it delicious! I have struggled with cooking very lean pork loin as it is so easily overcooked/dried out/ruined. This recipe comes out moist and flavorful, in short, everything you want! And it comes out even more delicious with really cheap cuts of pork. Double win! Tip: It tastes even better the next day so be sure to make twice the amount so you have leftovers!

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Kung Pao Pork Cassoulet Serves 4

1 pound pork loin or a boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
1 cup cornstarch
salt and pepper
olive oil

1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
2 red jalapenos, cleaned out, de-veined and minced (Omit if you don’t like heat.)
5 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 pound shitake mushrooms, sliced (Can also use button or cremini mushroom.)

1 orange, skin cut off and chopped into 1″ chunks (Save the juice off the cutting board!)

1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons tamari (Or low-sodium soy sauce)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed well

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place the cornstarch into a gallon zip-lock bag and add salt and pepper to season. Add the cut-up pork in batches, shaking to coat. Meanwhile, place a large cast iron skillet over a medium-high flame and heat. When you can feel the heat rising off the surface of the pan, add the olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add in the pork that has been coated in the seasoned cornstarch. Cook the cubes of pork turning them as they brown until all sides are browned more-or-less evenly. Move the cubes into a large casserole dish/pot that has a lid. You will probably have to work in batches. If the cornstarch that remains in the pan gets too brown, wipe the cast iron pan out with a paper towel, add more olive oil and continue until all the pork cubes have been browned.

Wipe out the pan after all the pork cubes are browned (and now placed into the large casserole dish.) Add a small amount of olive oil (2 teaspoons is plenty), and add the onions, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms to the hot pan. Saute until slightly limp and add into the casserole dish with the pork cubes. Add into the casserole dish the cut-up orange and any juice that you saved from cutting it up.

In a small bowl, add the orange juice, sugar, tamari, rice vinegar, sweet chili sauce, and dark sesame oil and whisk to combine with a fork. Pour the sauce mixture over the top of the pork and sauteed veggies. Gently stir to combine. Put the lid on top of the casserole (or cover the dish with aluminum foil) and place in the preheated oven.

Bake covered for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir being sure to move any pieces of pork that have been on top of the liquid to the bottom of the dish. Cover the casserole once again and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and gently stir in cranberries. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the pork is fork-tender.

Serve over hot rice, quinoa or other grain.

Not sure how to cook quinoa? It’s easy! The proportions are one part quinoa to two parts liquid. This translates as….
Rinse one cup of quinoa with cold running water. Quinoa has an naturally occurring substance which is bitter and although it is washed before packaging, it never hurts to give it another rinse. I use a simple mesh strainer and rinse it under cold running water for 30 seconds. Place the rinsed ONE cup of quinoa into a sauce pan. Add two cups chicken broth (or water). Place the pan over a medium-high flame and wait until it starts to boil. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and put a lid on the pot. Set your timer for 20 minutes. All the liquid should be absorbed but you can check buy simply giving it a stir and looking. It should be soft to the bite and easy to “fluff”. It has a bland flavor similar to rice which makes it good for a base to other dishes. One really amazing fact about quinoa is that it is the ONLY grain which is a complete protein. And for the sake of the native Bolivians, be sure to look for “Free Trade” quinoa. 🙂

For the love of moist, tender pork! nomnomnom!
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