How fortunate I was when I moved to Erie, PA to have as a neighbor and friend someone who not only cooked but was an accomplished cook. Everything Francesca made was neither ordinary nor complicated and always delicious. Francesca was a doctor, as was her husband, Tony, but when she moved to Erie, shortly after I did, she was a dedicated homemaker to her husband and their 3 boys. Cooking was her pleasure and over the years that we were neighbors, she shared recipes, foods and even gave me and a few friends occasional cooking lessons. However, I was a young mother with 4 children and a husband who was always traveling. Having to juggle sporting events, school activities and carpooling, I never really had the time to take advantage of her culinary wisdom. My meals were always simple and usually spur of the moment. However, I did save all of her recipes for the “someday when I have time to cook”! This is one Francesca shared with me and I love to make it and think of the times we spent together. Another recipe that I make so often that I now know it by heart is in my cookbook and called Francesca’s Sugar Sticks. I don’t live in Erie any longer and sadly Francesca is no longer with us. But I, happily have recipes.
- olive oil
- 4 ½ lbs boneless pork shoulder
- bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf, tied with a string
- 3 cups spanish wine
- 3 cups peeled carrots
- 1 can (about 18 oz) chickpeas – drained & rinsed
- salt and pepper – to taste
- 2 onions – chopped
- ½ cup olive oil
- 4 large tomatoes – grated
- 4-5 garlic cloves – finely chopped
- 1 tsp hot paprika
- 1 slice day old crusty bread – fried in olive oil
- 1 tb almonds – blanched & toasted
- 1 tb hazelnuts – toasted
- 2 cloves garlic – crushed
- 1 oz chocolate – bittersweet
- olive oil
- To make the sofregit, put the onions and oil in a large heat-proof casserole and place over medium-high heat.
- Cook stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and continue to cook for another 10-20 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.
- Add the tomatoes which have been grated with the skins and cores removed and discarded.
- When the tomatoes and their juices have been added, add the garlic and paprika and increase the heat and continue to simmer, stirring for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced to a pulp and start to give off the oil they have absorbed.
- Preheat the oven to 325º.
- Pour a thin layer of oil into a casserole and heat over medium high heat.
- Add the pork which has been cut into 3-inch cubes, and brown on all sides.
- Stir the pork to turn and facilitate the browning on all sides.
- Add pork in batches with additional oil as needed. Pour off any excess fat.
- Return the pork to the pan.
- Stir in the sofregit, herbs, salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
- Pour in the wine and enough water to cover all the meat.
- Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the pre-heated oven.
- After about 1 ½ hours, stir in the carrots, recover the pan and return to the oven for about 30 minutes or until the pork and carrots are tender.
- Meanwhile, make the picada by tearing the bread into pieces and adding to a food processor.
- Then add the almonds, hazelnuts, garlic and chocolate.
- Pulse until fully blended and with the motor running, slowly pour in enough olive oil to form a thick paste.
- Transfer the casserole to the stovetop. Remove the pork and carrots and set aside and keep warm.
- Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and place several ladlesful into a heatproof bowl.
- Stir in the picada and continue stirring until well blended.
- Next stir this mixture into the cooking liquid and continue to let it boil for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat and add the pork, carrots and chickpeas.
- Simmer for about 5 minutes to let the stew thicken and the chickpeas get hot.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve while hot with some crusty bread.
As you follow along with me I’ll have a few other Francesca recipes to share.