..maybe the most important abbreviation in Italian cuisine, q.b., ‘quanto basta’ – or: as much as needed. No more, no less. We’re not talkin’ about football qb’s, quarterbacks, though this q.b. is a sort of qb of Italian home recipes. Q.B. is an implication, a presumption, a step away from procedure, a fixed dialog with a beginning, at least something of a middle, and an end. And likely the most frequent words found in almost every ancient familial recipe folder on the peninsula. (You know: those thick, yellowing notebooks filled with the cursive writing of your grandma, made with pre-80’s better quality paper and oh-so-60’s, 70’s and 80’s magazine clippings, page ears folded over then back again on the more well-eaten or show-off occassion recipies.)
That of course is simply the result of being human, not a commodity, dealing with ingredients and tools made by other humans, not robots or in some strictly controlled room. In that 2 letter acronym you get all the complexity of uncountable variables dealt with in the past. Memory. How does it sound, the soffritto in the pan, how does it taste an hour later, what does it look like, the browning meat, and even what did we eat yesterday – let’s not repeat the same flavors too much, or what do we have in the cubbard to use, honey, cinnamon, nothing, rosemary, and on. Anyway.
This is such a marvel of a plate. Deep, satisfying flavors perfect for any cool eve – despite its humble market consideration. You can alter the flavors by fiddling with the marinade and sudes and any sauces. The meat the next day is even better in sandwiches and the cooking pot remains perfect to be blended and mixed into noodles for a pasta dish the following eve. QB.
Beer Braised Pork Shank
- 1 pork shank, the meatier the better ..check the color and firmness, of course
- 1 liter beer, the hopier the better …by and large. But anything will work from milk to …ginger ale. Apple cider (fermented), ecc.
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
- 1 tbsp apple vinegar (or whatever flavor acidic you perefer. Ie , fresh lemon juice, clementine…. ) Or not. Up to you but the apple vinegar or some fermented cider works well.
- 1 tbsp or so mixed aromatic erbs, mix and match to taste. For the marinade… …in which I often use bay leaf, rosemary, sometimes dried oregano, sage would fit but important to add in the marinade
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger …recall: if the roots are really thick and juicy- it's probably not natural. You want firm and well-articulated, a clean scent but a 'normal' size. Usually Brazilian ones are Ok, usually Chinese ginger isn't.
- 1 apple, not sour but firm and at least somewhat sweet like Gala or Red Delicious.
- 2 spring onions, sweet and red if possible
- 1 liter broth, preferably a meat broth but suit to personal taste
- 2 carrots
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 2 arms celery
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp honey, deep flavored like chestnut rather than acacia-like sweet
- Make a fresh broth if you don't have one already frozen (just in case: unsalted broth freezes perfectly.) If not, warmed water will do fine as needed. When used, you'll want the broth to be near boiling hot.
- Marinade the thing. At least over night… mix in the flavorings first and rub them in a bit – the 2 or 3 crushed garlic cloves, the herbs, the grated ginger. Then the liquids: beer and soy and apple vinegar or cidre. Cover and shove in the fridge. Note: if you don't wear impermeable gloves while mixing, your hands will have a divine, elegant scent for a few hours – the marinade smells marvelously.
- The next day about 3 1/2 – 4 hours before dinner, start in: either by knife or using the pulse function on your food proccesor, slice the carrots, celery and onion and maybe a bit of garlic after. I prefer usually to leave the soffritto slices rustic, a bit larger than customary but it's mostly a matter of personal taste. In a heat-maintaining pan, add some butter before turning on the burner(if preferred, replace or add some ev olive oil. If you want to use medium high heat instead of low, then using the oil, which has a higher burning temperature point, is a good idea)(Yes, you can alter the timing, putting in some elements after to avoid any chance of burning. But if you do, as I, this on low heat… it really won't matter.) Once melted, add the veggie bits and stir from time to time, at least 15 minutes but you want the soffritto to dry a bit and condense its flavor. Add a dash of salt.As the thing gently sizzles, peel and apple cut in half and cleaned of the seeds and finrous parts inside. Clean as well 2 spring onions.
- Remove the now lovely flavored bit and place aside, clean the inside of the pan-casserole with a paper towel to remove any bits remaining, turn up the heat to medium. After removing the shank from the mariade and drying, rub in some salt and pepper, then plop it into the hot pan. You'll be wanting to brown it well everywhere, all 6 sides, use a wooden spoon or two iìthey help when lifting to brown the ends. It'll take something like 6-10 minutes.
- Once browned, lower the heat, add the back the soffritto, and pour in some strained marinade to deglaze, a cup or two, then up the heat again for a few minutes.
- Now add the rest of the strained marinade or-and the broth until the meat is just under half covered or so, add the apple halves and onions, and if you want to use a veggie side like romano beans, add them as well.
- Cover and move to a back burner on the lowest of heats, turn from time to time over the next 3 hours or so until the meat is about to fall off the bone. Make sure some liquis always remains in the pan. Then add some honey over top, a tablespoon or less, and turn of the heat to let it rest 10 minutes or so, always covered. Plate and serve with the mash or whatever else you like, polenta, rice, ecc. And it merits a good red…