Braised Pork with Prunes and Pears

Makes about 8 servings

Pears substitute for the more traditional apples in this recipe, where pork is slowly braised with prunes. Both fruits partly disintegrate, enriching the sauce along with the subtle, elusive spices. Like all stews, this is best made ahead of time, perfect for a chilly fall day.

     3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, more

        as needed

     4 pounds pork, trimmed and cut in 1-inch cubes

       (country-style ribs work well here)

     1 large onion, coarsely chopped

     2 cloves garlic, minced

     4 cups or more chicken stock, preferably home


     ¼ cup dry sherry (optional)

     1 3-inch sprig rosemary

     1 3-inch strip lemon zest stuck with 3 whole cloves

     4 allspice berries

     ¼ teaspoon coriander berries

     8 pitted prunes (unsulfured), halved

     2 firm pears, peeled, cored and cut in ½-inch cubes

     Salt and pepper to taste

Put the olive oil in a deep pot and over medium heat brown the pork cubes in one layer without crowding, turning them and adding oil as needed. Transfer them to a bowl and continue until all the pork is browned. Lower the heat and add the onions to the pot, stirring, and cook until translucent, then add the garlic. Return the pork and any juices to the pot. Pour in the stock and optional sherry; there should be just enough to cover the meat (add water or more stock if needed). Bring the liquid to a gentle boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the rosemary, lemon zest, allspice and coriander berries, and prunes and very gently simmer, partially covered, until the pork is tender, about 30 minutes more.

With a slotted spoon, transfer all the solids from the pot into the bowl, discarding the lemon zest, rosemary twig, allspice, and coriander. Boil to reduce the liquid in the pot until it is thickened and concentrated. Return the pork to the pot and add the pear cubes to cook in the residual heat. Let the dish cool, then cover and chill overnight. The next day you can scoop off any solidified fat on top.

To serve, reheat the stew gently, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with noodles or rice.