Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pork braised with Surprizing Fruit

A reader of my column accidentally challenged me to create an unusual dish when he referred to the paper I publish in as the "Athens Banana-Herald."

Bananas are used in plenty of sweet dishes from fruit salad to fried bananas to banana bread and, of course, banana cream pie. But what about savory dishes?

I'm not referring to plantains, which must be cooked and are often part of savory dishes, particularly in tropical countries. I was challenged to cook with the sweet, tender fruit that are usually eaten raw.

I checked my fruit cookbooks then online for savory recipes made with bananas, and only found a couple of random stews from places like Sri Lanka. There are also some chutneys made from bananas to accompany curries.

So at that fairly vague starting point, I sought to make a spicy, though not exactly curry-like dish with the meat that seems to cook best with fruit, pork.

My trial produced a dish I quite like. We ate it with brown rice. I need to experiment with it more to see what the possibilities are. It seems most suited for rice as an accompaniment.

I haven't figured out what wines might go, but a rich white wine with at least some acidity would be where I'd start, maybe an AlbariƱo or Chenin Blanc or Viognier.

The recipe will serve six or more.

Pork braised with Banana and Apple

2 1/2 pounds lean pork (butt or country "ribs") in 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil or rendered pork fat
1 medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut up
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water

In heavy Dutch oven or casserole, fry pork, half at a time until seared on the outside.

With all the meat back in the pot, add and fry onions over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions soften.

Reduce heat and add spices and herbs. Fry, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.

Add bananas, apples, salt and water. Simmer, covered, but stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot, until pork is tender and fruits have fully broken down. The sauce becomes a little stickier after the fruit disintegrates. Add a little water if sauce is too thick.

Taste as the mixture cooks and add a little salt, if needed.

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