“The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”
This has been a hard winter for my family. Those of you who follow these pages know that my 89-year-old mother had major surgery in January after a long period of pain and illness. She is well now. My husband, daughter and I went down to Long Island to be with her as she transitioned home from the hospital a couple of weeks ago. With round the clock care, things are stabile, for the moment the worst is behind us.
Our elderly dog died in February; my son lost a childhood friend to sudden death soon after. It was all starting to feel like a bit too much at once, but we didn’t have the luxury of deciding when these events would hit our family. Clark came home from university to be with us during his reading week, and we closed in as a family, taking some time to check what had happened, to support each other and move past the tragedies. When everything else feels out of control, the strength of our family is a weight we can hold on to, a weight we can cultivate to ground ourselves even in the darkest times. We balance the darkness with love and kindness. We are whole, grounded and creative beings, able to open up again to the world. Spring is coming, with it change and renewal. We are ready.
This Pork and Mushroom Stew is a dish I made while Clark was home. I loved how it filled our home with delicious aromas as it cooked. The earthy mushrooms have a rich flavor that is complemented by the tender meat simmered in sweet coconut milk. Serve it topped with colorful prepared potato or vegetable chips and drizzled with fresh lime juice. This light but immensely satisfying stew will warm even the coldest heart, lighten the spirits of everyone in the household.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
PORK & MUSHROOM STEW
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 thin slices pancetta, cut small dice
- 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced finely
- 1 stalk celery, cut small dice
- 1 pound pork or boneless chicken, cut for stew
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- 1/2 cup Marsala or white wine
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 bag high quality potato or vegetable chips
- 4 limes, quartered
- Fresh cilantro or Italian parsley leaves, for garnish at serving
- Place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a medium-sized, heat proof bowl. Cover with hot water. Set aside to soften while you prepare the other ingredients. Have a large, heat proof pan with lid or Dutch oven ready.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook until crispy. Add the shallot, garlic and celery and cook until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Place in the Dutch oven.
- Add the pork or chicken to the sauté pan, cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the meat is golden on all sides. Add the Herbes de provence to the pan and coat the cooked meat with the herb mixture. Transfer the seasoned meat to the dutch oven.
- Pour the white wine or Marsala and coconut milk in to the sauté pan. Bring the liquids to a gentle simmer, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits of meat and vegetables at the bottom of the pan. Pour this liquid into the Dutch oven.
- Drain the shiitake mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Pour the liquid into the sauté pan, bring to a simmer and add it to the Dutch oven. Slice the mushrooms into quarters and add them to the Dutch oven. Stir all the ingredients together, add salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cover the pan and place it in the preheated oven. Bake until the meat is tender, about 35 to 45 minutes.
- Remove the stew from the oven and divide evenly between 6 serving bowls. Top each bowl with a handful of Oven Roasted Potato Chips, then sprinkle with a bit of fresh lime juice. Finally, garnish with fresh cilantro or Italian parsley leaves.
*This recipe was adapted from Crispy and Creamy Chicken, Mushroom and Potato Bake inSmall Plates and Sweet Treatsby Aran Goyoaga.
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