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Summer Pork, Pepper, Tomato and Eggplant Stew

Yield: 4 generous servings, probably with some leftovers

  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder (or 2 ½ lbs. bone-in)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. Marash or Aleppo pepper (or other deep flavored, medium-hot flaked pepper)*
  • 4 long sweet red peppers, such as lipstick or Jimmy Nardello, to make about 1 ½ cups cut pieces (if you use red bells, use only one!)
  • 1 medium-large eggplant
  • 2 large tomatoes

Cut the bacon into lardons (small pieces). Trim and discard any large chunks of fat from the meat, without being too fastidious — you’ll have a chance to skim the stew later. Cut the pork into 1 ½ “ cubes (it will shrink during cooking so don’t make the cubes smaller).

Halve, peel and dice the onion, peel and mince the garlic, and seed and dice the peppers. Remove the stem end of the eggplant, and cut into approximately one-inch dice. Cut an X in the base of the tomatoes, remove the stem, and either blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water to loosen the peels, or rest them on a burner, over open flame, turning with a tongs until the skin loosens. Skin, halve, and dice the tomatoes. If they are very seedy, you can first de-seed them but hold over a strainer on a bowl to do so, so you save the juices. Set each ingredient aside separately.

Render the bacon slowly in a heavy non-reactive 4-quart sauteuse pan (straight-sided pan with a cover, not too deep; if you don’t have one, an enameled cast-iron casserole, or a tri-ply large frying pan with a lid, will be fine).  Cook the bacon until it is starting to crisp.

Season the pork cubes well with salt and pepper, and add to the rendered bacon and fat, making sure they are in one layer and not too crowded (or do two batches). Turn the heat to HIGH and brown the pieces, without turning or moving them, until one side is nicely caramelized; stir the contents of the pan, making sure the meat has turned so the browned side is facing up, and continue over high heat until the second side is brown. Add the onions, stir the pot and let cook 2 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and red peppers, and cook another minute or so; add the eggplant and tomatoes, including their juices, and stir well. Add ½ cup water, cover the pan, and cook over low heat for 1 ½ hours, until the meat is tender. Stir every ten minutes or so, and add a bit more water if needed to keep the contents from sticking. Taste, re-season, skim extra fat from the sauce, and serve. The dish goes well with any starch.

*A great local source for spices is Oaktown Spice Shop on Grand Avenue.