Today’s dish will transport you to a Greek taverna in the mountains. The sea is never more than three hours away in Greece but mountains are everywhere. I have a cousin in Greece, Stefanos and let’s just say he’s another “Kalofaga” or gourmet. Stefano once told me he loves winter! I find this odd coming from a Greek guy and our (Greeks) bias to the summer months. Stefanos loves winters for the fireplaces, the appetite for wine and the food that goes with the wine. In Greece, tavernas are full of people huddled near the heat source and many tavernas and inns will have a fireplace in the middle of the room (often used for some cooking as well).
A dish like the one I’ve prepared today could be served to you at a taverna in Greece. Pork is a fave amongst Greeks and it’s served up in many ways in the winter: oven-roasted, grilled and today’s method – on the stove-top. This dish is a “tigania” and it refers to something (often a protein) cooked in a “tigani” or skillet. There’s beef, chicken, lamb tigania but the most popular seems to be the pork tigania.
With this dish, you want a tender, juicy chunk of meat to enter your mouth and the most important factor is your cut of pork. For pork tigania, you need pork butt (from the shoulder) or pork belly. Either will work but you’ll probably have to trim some more fat off the belly cut – your choice. I cut the pork into 1-inch cubes, season with salt and pepper and place the chunks of pork in the tigani (skillet) without any oil. The fat content in the pork will render and soon the pork will brown in it’s own fat.
Once the pork is browned on all sides, the meat is reserved, excess fat is removed from the skillet and some stock (or water), wine are added as the pan is deglazed. The pork is added back into the liquid, some sweet paprika is added and the skillet is covered as the meat simmers until fork-tender. All that’s left is to uncover the skillet, reduce the sauce and adjust seasoning and finish with dried Greek oregano and some lemon juice.
While the pork is simmering, one can get a move on with the sides: some cabbage and some sauteed mushrooms. Another winter fave for Greeks is cabbage – an abundant and cheap winter vegetable and one that’s often paired with pork. I’ve simply simmered the cabbage in some water spiked with salt and vinegar and then I simply strain, toss in some olive oil and butter and season with some fresh ground peppers, chives and any additional salt.
Mushrooms complete the triangle in this taverna feast: I used some button and oyster mushrooms and sauteed them in olive oil, scallions, garlic and finished with some dried thyme and a squeeze of lemon juice. Pork goes well with cabbage, mushrooms pair well with meat and this winter trio delivers taverna memories right in your own home!
Pork Tigania With Cabbage & Mushrooms (Χοιρινό Τηγανιά με Λάχανο & Μανιτάρια)
1 kg. of pork or belly, trimmed of excess fat & cubed
2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 tsp. of sweet paprika
2-3 strips of lemon peel
1 cup hot stock (chicken, vegetable or water)
1 cup dry red wine
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
Warm Cabbage with Olive oil, Chives & Butter
1/2 white cabbage (I like Savoy), root removed and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 chopped fresh chives (or scallions)
1lb. of mushrooms (I use sliced Cremini and Oyster)
1/2 red/orange bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sliced scallions
2 cloves garlic, smashed
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. thyme leaves
- After having removed any excess skin from the pork, cut into 1-inch cubes and place your large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown your pork on all sides (brown in batches if necessary). Reserve the pork and drain-off any excess fat. Now add the stock, wine, sliced lemon peel, paprika and the reserved pork meat and bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes. At this point, remove the lid and continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced to 1/2 the present amount. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and sprinkle the dried Greek oregano.
- In the meantime, cut your cabbage in half and remove the outer leaves. Remove the tough root and discard then coarsely chop. Place a large pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. Season the water with a good amount of salt and the wine vinegar and add the cabbage. Bring the water back to a boil and then simmer the cabbage for 5 minutes. Strain well and add back into your pot with the butter, olive oil and chopped chives (or scallions). Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground pepper, cover and keep warm.
- For the mushrooms, wipe any excess dirt with a damp cloth and chop any larger mushrooms. Place another skillet on your stove-top over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, mushrooms, peppers, scallions and garlic. Stir often until the mushrooms take some colour (add more olive if needed). Season with salt and pepper and and stir. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and allow most of the liquid released from the mushrooms to evaporate. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, sprinkle the thyme and squeeze some lemon juice over the mushrooms.
- Time for plating, spread the cabbage on the bottom of a large platter and then place the pork over half the platter’s surface and the mushrooms over the remaining half. Pour over any remaning pan juices from the pork and squeeze lemon juice over the meat and mushrooms. Serve with some good, crusty bread and a Kir Yanni Paranga red.
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