This is a warming winter stew filled with all that is good in life: pancetta, pork shoulder, wild mushrooms, chestnuts, fingerling potatoes, a little Marsala, a little chopped fennel.
I made this using pork shoulder bought from John Bledsoe, an excellent hog farmer outside Sacramento, but I’ve also done it with shoulder of wild boar and venison.
This is one of my better stews in terms of sheer “yum” factor: You’ll want some crusty bread to go with it, as you will find yourself wanting to soak up the juices when you’ve eaten all the mushrooms, potatoes, pork and chestnuts.
- 2 pounds pork or wild boar shoulder, or venison stew meat
- 1 pound shelled, peeled chestnuts
- 1 pound fingerling potatoes
- 1/2 pound assorted mushrooms
- 1 chopped onion
- 1/4 pound pancetta or bacon
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup Marsala wine
- 1 quart pork, vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons thyme honey (you can use regular)
- 1/2 cup chopped fennel fronds
- 3 chopped green onions
- Juice of a lemon
- Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat until its hot, then turn the heat to low and fry the pancetta or bacon slowly. Remove when crispy.
- Turn the heat back up to medium-high and brown the pork or venison well on all sides. Take your time and do this in batches. Do not crowd the pot. Remove when browned and set aside.
- Add the onion and cook until it begins to brown. Add back the pork or venison and add the mushrooms, thyme, bay leaves, some salt and the Marsala wine.
- Bring this to a rolling boil and cook the wine down by half. Add the pork stock just to cover the meat and mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and cover. Let this simmer for 45 minutes for pork, up to 2 hours for wild boar or venison; you want the meat to be almost tender.
- Add the potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Add the chestnuts and simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Test for salt and add if needed.
- When everything is tender, add the thyme honey, chopped fennel and green onions and serve at once. Top with the crumbled bacon or the pancetta, and serve with a rich white wine (if using pork), or a fruity red such as a California Zinfandel.