Monday, August 22, 2011

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder With Chianti Reduction over Pan Fried Polenta Paired with 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder with Polenta Paired with 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico-2

When was the last time you used Chianti three times in the same sentence?  Just repeat the title of this blog, and you are admitted into the club.  Now you should click your heals together and repeat “I love braised meat” three times.  By now you are in the frame of mind that brought me to this wine pairing.  I love the fall-off-the-bone tender and rich flavors of braised meat.  Just point your mouse to the handy search bar at the upper left of this page and type in braised and you will find the evidence.  I also love cooking with Chianti with it’s rich layered flavors coming from the blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Malvasia Bianca grapes.  However, my experience with drinking Chianti is not quite so admirable.  I believe that the most readily available Chiantis in the U.S. are not the best representation of the breed.  Fortunately, the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico broke the mold in my string of poor selection.

2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico-1

Sticking to the mantra that you should not cook with anything you are unwilling to drink, this meal was prepared with the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico and then paired with the same wine.  The beauty of this approach is reflecting the flavors imparted to the meat with the wine pairing.  Pretty simple formula right?  No need to answer – trust me, it works extremely well!

Similar to the idea of using the same cooking wine as the pairing wine, the braising method of cooking allows all the flavors of the dish to meld into something extremely cohesive.  In other words, the slow cooking method of braising results in not only ridiculously tender meat, but but flavors that have combined and transformed into something completely new, cohesive, and subtly layered.  To top it off, this is all extremely easy.  I make this last comment for the benefit of the nice people that work with my daughter – City Girl Dana who is now working as locations coordinator on the move “Gods Behaving Badly.”  Dana tells me that everyone in her office reads this blog and have commented that “your dad is a “fancy” cook.”  Trust me when I tell you that this wine pairing is the Italian version of Midwest meat and potatoes.  Can you be more simple than searing a big hunk of meat, throwing it in a pot with a bottle of wine and some vegetables, and letting it sit in the oven for a few hours?  This is easy stuff that I could teach my boil-things-to-death mother to prepare in minutes (plus a few hours in the oven).

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder-2

So now we have established the cooking with Chianti, pairing with Chianti rationale along with the “this is sooooo easy” parts.  Lets talk about the wine.  Chianti Classico wines tend to be medium-bodied with firm tannins and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes are characteristic aromas with the wines expressing more notes on the mid-palate and finish than at the front of the mouth.  The 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico is true to this tradition as a medium bodied wine with a nice balance between black cherry fruits and oak layered with a bit of complexity and hints of chocolate and toasted nuts.  The tannins were not hidden and contributed to the nice body of the wine and a full, silky mouth feel.  At $14 per bottle, this is a great value.

2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico

The pairing was an exceptional with all the flavors forming a solid compliment.  The real beauty of the pairing was the harmonious melding of the Chianti reduction and the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico.  It was such pleasure to have the flavors of the reduction and the wine running in an endless loop of echoes.

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder with Polenta Paired with 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico




  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 oz. finely grated parmesan cheese


  1. Bring milk to a simmer, stir constantly while gradually adding cornmeal. When all the cornmeal is incorporated and swimming happily it will being to thicken.
  2. As it thickens, add 1 oz of finely grated parmesan cheese.
  3. Remove from heat and scoop onto a sheet pan covered with parchment. Like Norwegians running from the sauna to the snow, place in the fridge to harden for about 1/2 hour (or you can wait until tomorrow). Once hardened, cut into your favorite shape.  I recommend staying away from your child’s playdough cutters unless they have been thoroughly ridden of child grime.
  4. Pan fry polenta in butter over medium heat until one side is browned - about 5 min. Flip and repeat until bottom is crispy.

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder

Chianti Braised Pork Shoulder-3


  • 1 Pork shoulder (usually 6 to 8 pounds) - no worries, leftovers are great, and with a little home made barbeque sauce, this makes awesome pulled pork sandwiches especially if the pork lingers with the Chianti reduction overnight in the fridge!  I am speaking from experience.
  • 1 bottle of Chianti (I used 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico)
  • Chicken stock; amount will vary based on the size of your roasting pan
  • Water to supplement the chicken stock and Chianti only if necessary.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 pound finely diced pancetta, or bacon if you are on a budget
  • 2 diced onions
  • 5 stalks diced celery
  • 3 peeled and diced carrots
  • 3 ripe tomatoes diced (conserve and use the juice)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Dice vegetables.
  3. Trim the pork of any silver skin, but leave the fat.
  4. Season all sides of the pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
  5. Select a roasting pan or pot just a bit larger than the pork shoulder and heat 1/4 cup of olive oil on medium high heat.
  6. Sear the pork shoulder on all sides.
  7. While searing the pork shoulders add a couple ounces of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium flame.
  8. Add pancetta (or bacon) and render until the pancetta just begins to crisp.
  9. Remove the pancetta and set aside while keeping the rendered goodness in the skillet. Add onions, cloves, a generous pinch of salt, celery and carrots and sauté over medium-low heat until onions are translucent.
  10. Add one bottle of Chianti to the pork shoulder gradually over a couple of minutes and bring to a boil. Keep at a boil for two minutes (mas o menos).
  11. Add the vegetable sauté to the pork shoulder along with the diced tomatoes.  Oh, and don’t forget to add the pancetta or bacon – what could go wrong?
  12. Add chicken stock and water to bring liquid up to about 1 inch below the top of the pork shoulder. This is why the size of the pan is important - too large, and you will have a diluted watery mess. Too small and you may be challenged for space. If you are pot challenged, go with a larger pan and add three cups of chicken stock and no more than an additional cup of water – we just want everyone swimming in the same pool.
  13. Bring to a boil then cover and place in your nicely preheated oven for two hours.
  14. At the two hour mark, slide the lid to the side by an inch or so and continue to cook for another hour.
  15. When the braise is done (3 hours total), remove from the oven then remove the pork shoulder and cover in foil.
  16. Strain the braising liquid into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil and reduce for one hour.  the final reduction should be about 1/2 to one third the volume. Have a glass of wine.  I recommend the 2008 Ruffino Aziano DOCG Chianti Classico; you have one hour to contemplate the wonderful flavors.
  17. Slice the pork shoulder, serve over pan seared polenta, and drizzle with the Chianti reduction.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.


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