by Julie Van Rosendaal

“The other white meat” has come a long way in the last generation or two, since excessive recommended cooking times meant many of us grew up on dry, Overcooked pork. A better understanding of pork-related pathogens and improved processing practices means the next generation will not grow up with the same association. Pork is – or should be – wonderfully moist and flavourful, even when you pick up the leaner cuts. And while there’s nothing wrong with a good pork chop, there are so many interesting things to do with pork – cuts can be quick and affordable for daily dinners, or more extravagant when you’re looking for something fancy. A crown roast of pork is stunning, delicious, fun to serve, and comes with a natural well in the middle to fill with stuffing and other good things – it really needs to make a comeback.

The biggest obstacle with pork, now that the overcooking issue has been addressed and people are accustomed to the idea of their pork a little pink, is thinking beyond the usual; quick-cooking tenderloin makes amazing satay, and though pork shoulder is made for cooking low and slow, it has much potential beyond pulled pork. Braise it with oranges and milk, chilies for tacos, or red wine and tomatoes for the most satisfying ragu. Fall-off-the-bone ribs are easy (and not as messy) if you pre-roast them first on a rimmed sheet pan in the oven, covered with foil, at around 300°F for 2-1/2 hours; you can then wrap them in their cooking foil to refrigerate until they’re ready to slather with sauce and finish on the barbecue. And if you love a good chop, buy them on the bone and try cooking them like a steak: in a blazinghot cast-iron pan, flipping often (the only difference between a beef steak and pork chop) so that it doesn’t begin to curl. An inch-thick chop should take 6-8 minutes; while it rests, swirl a pat of butter around the pan to loosen any of those flavourful browned bits, and pour it overtop.

Crispy Pork Belly

If you’re a fan of crispy bits and can find yourself a slab of pork belly, knowing how to cook it will make any carnivores in the immediate vicinity very, very happy. (Presuming you plan to share, that is.) It’s a cinch to cook, and a prime example of what happens when you take a good piece of meat and apply heat.

  • 2 lb. pork belly
  • canola or olive oil
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 1-2 small garlic bulbs, left whole and halved crosswise
  • 1/2 lb. (250 g) new potatoes, halved if needed)

Pat the pork belly dry and score the skin and fat with a sharp knife in both directions, without cutting all the way through to the meat underneath. Rub the garlic clove over the surface of the pork, drizzle with oil and rub all over. Pull the leaves off a couple sprigs of thyme and sprinkle overtop; drizzle with a little more oil. Let the meat stand for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F and place the onions in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the pork belly on top and place a sprig or two of thyme and the halved garlicaround it; drizzle the exposed garlic with a little oil and roast for 30 minutes.

Turn the heat down to 300°F and continue to roast for 2-1/2 hours, until the meat is tender and the skin is crisp. If you like, toss a few new potatoes into the pan around the meat, shaking it up to coat them with the rendered fat, about three quarters of the way through the cooking time. Let rest on a cutting board before slicing. Serves 4-6.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary One Ingredient 2019 01 02 Crispy Pork Belly

Sesame Noodles with Pork

While ground beef provides the baseline for so many weeknight meals, even more affordable ground pork is often overlooked. Here’s what to do with it: cook it until crispy with green onions, ginger, garlic and cilantro, and toss it with

  • canola or other vegetable oil, for cooking
  • sesame oil, for cooking
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro, plus some extra leaves for garnish
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed (divided)
  • 2 t. grated fresh ginger (divided)
  • 1/3 c. soy sauce (or to taste – divided)
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar (divided)
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1-2 T. peanut butter (optional)
  • 1 t. chili-garlic paste or Sriracha (optional)
  • 3/4-1 lb. fresh Shanghai or other Asian noodles

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of canola and sesame oil and cook the pork, breaking it up with a spoon, until it’s no longer pink. Add the green onions, cilantro, a clove or two of garlic and a good grating of ginger somewhere along the way, along with half the soy sauce and vinegar. As you add half of each ingredient, put the other half into a small bowl or measuring cup, along with the peanut butter, chili paste and a tablespoon or two of sesame oil. Continue to cook the pork until it’s nice and crispy, with any excess moisture cooked off.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles for a few minutes, or until tender. Drain well.

Spoon the meat out of the skillet to a bowl, add a little more oil to the skillet and add the noodles (half at a time, if all of them makes it too full to handle), and pour over the soy-vinegar-sugar-peanut butter mixture. Toss with tongs to coat well, leaving it over the heat for a minute or two, until any excess moisture has cooked off. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the pork mixture and some extra cilantro, if you like. Serves 4-6.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary One Ingredient 2019 01 02 Sesame Noodles with Pork

Oven Pulled Pork

It’s possible to make a tasty pile of pulled pork even without a smoker. Browning pieces will add more flavour; use your favourite barbecue spice rub, if you have one, in place of the brown sugar and spices.

  • olive or canola oil, for cooking
  • 3-4 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
  • 3 T. chili powder
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 c. chicken stock or beer
  • bottled barbecue sauce, to taste
  • soft white buns or biscuits, for serving

Drizzle some oil into a heavy, ovenproof pot set over medium-high heat. Place the pork shoulder in a large bowl and toss with the chili powder, paprika, brown sugar, cumin, and enough salt and pepper to suit your taste. Brown the meat in batches, transferring it to another bowl or plate as you go. Add the onion to the pan and cook for a few minutes, until it starts to soften and loosen any browned bits in the bottom of the pan.

Return all the pork to the pan and add the chicken stock or beer – there should be enough to come about halfway up the side of the meat. Cover and cook at 300°F for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or until the pork is very tender. Pull the meat apart with two forks, adding enough barbecue sauce to moisten. Serve on soft buns or biscuits. Serves 10.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary One Ingredient 2019 01 02 Oven Pulled Pork

Braised Pork Shoulder Ragu

The cut most famously used for long-smoked or braised pulled pork makes for an amazing pot of ragu – add fennel seed too, if you like, and some crushed tomatoes or passata at the end if you like it saucier.

  • 1 lb. boneless pork shoulder
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • olive or canola oil, for cooking
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 28 oz. (796 mL) can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 t. crushed dry chilies or a squirt of Sriracha
  • freshly cooked pasta and grated Parmesan, for serving

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towel and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. Heat a drizzle of oil in an ovenproof shallow pot or braising dish set over medium-high heat and brown the meat on all sides. Move it to one side and add the onion to the pan; cook for 3-4 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the butter, tomatoes, wine, thyme and chilies or Sriracha to the pot, stir to combine, cover and braise for 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Pull the pork apart with two forks and serve with the pasta, topped with freshly grated Parmesan. Serves 4-6.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary One Ingredient 2019 01 02 Braised Pork Shoulder Ragu

Crown Roast of Pork with Rosemary Stuffing and Roasted Apples

Crown roast of pork – a bone-in pork loin shaped in a circle with the bones sticking up to resemble the points of a crown – is making a comeback. It’s impressive to serve, easy to carve, and a perfect alternative to turkey when you’re making a special dinner for a small crowd. And it’s far easier to stuff than a turkey; simply mound the stuffing in the middle.


  • 5-6 lb. crown roast of pork (about 10 bones)
  • olive oil, for cooking
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tart apples, cored and cut into thick wedges, or ripe but firm pears, cored and quartered lengthwise


  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, with leaves, chopped
  • 1 small tart apple or pear, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 c. fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
  • 1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 small, day-old loaf of round crusty bread
  • 1 c. chicken stock

If the butcher hasn’t already done so, separate the bones by cutting between them with a sharp knife. If you like, French the bones by carefully scraping off any bits of meat with the tip of your knife.

Place the pork in a roasting pan or large cast-iron pan and drizzle with oil. Rub the oil all over the meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the apples or pears and cranberries in the pan around the pork. Drizzle with a little oil.

To make the stuffing, heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet. When the foam subsides, add the onion and celery and cook for 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add the apple or pear and rosemary and cook for another minute. Cut or tear the bread into a large bowl and add the onion mixture. Pour the stock overtop and toss with your hands to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Mound the stuffing in the middle of the crown roast; place whatever doesn’t fit into a small baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Roast the pork for 2 to 2-1/2 hours – covering the stuffing and bones with foil if they are browning too quickly – until it reaches an internal temperature of 155°F -160°F. (Insert your thermometer into the meatiest part of the roast, ensuring it doesn’t touch the bone, which conducts heat more efficiently than the meat.) The extra dish of stuffing can be roasted alongside the pork, but will only need about an hour.

Tent the roast with foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving by cutting between each bone into a thick chop. Serve with roasted apples or pears and stuffing. Serves 10.

City Palate, guide to the good life in Calgary One Ingredient 2019 01 02 Crown Roast of Pork with Rosemary Stuffing and Roasted Apples

Julie Van Rosendaal is a cookbook author and blogs at dinnerwithjulie.com