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Fabulous Fall In (Italy and) New Castle - Maiale al Latte With Braised Celery and Wild Rice

Sigh. There’s so much going on, isn’t there? My typical escape is travel abroad, but as we know, that’s just not in the cards for a while. So, I occupy my time with my second favorite thing - cooking.

Milk sounds like a strange braising liquid, but trust me on this one.

The braised celery (which I’ve written about before) is not entirely necessary - you can use any veggie. But it was the wonderful resulting broth I was after. It goes so well with the wild rice. Should you choose to skip that part of the dish, simply use your favorite stock for the rice liquid.



1 boneless pork shoulder, 3 1/2-4 lb., trimmed of excess fat

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 Tbs. olive oil

25 fresh sage leaves

4 bay leaves

4 cups whole milk

The peel from 1 lemon, removed in wide strips with a vegetable peeler (No pith)


Remove the pork shoulder from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325.

Season the roast generously all over with salt and pepper.

In a Dutch oven or other large, oven-proof pot over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the oil. Add the pork, fat side down, and sear for 3-4 minutes.

Repeat to brown all sides, about 15 minutes total. Adjust the heat level so that the meat sizzles actively but does not scorch. Transfer the pork to a platter and pour off the fat from the pan.

Return the pot to medium heat and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the sage leaves. Cook for 1 minute. Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the milk. Return the pork to the pot, fat side up, and add the bay leaves, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon salt. Season generously with pepper. When the liquid begins to steam, partially cover the pot and transfer to the oven.

Cook the pork, turning it every 30 minutes, for 2 hours. Uncover and continue to cook until very tender, 30-60 more, again turning after 30 minutes if cooking for longer than 30 minutes more. Transfer the pork to a platter and let the pan sauce settle.

Some people will tell you to remove the curds or to blend them with a roux to make a sauce, but try it this rustic Italian way first - I enjoy it much more.


4 cups filtered water

10 ounces smoked bacon

4-5 cloves of garlic

3-4 scallions, lightest part

6 full celery stalks

2 tablespoons butter


In a saucepan on medium heat, bring the bacon slices, scallions and garlic to a boil in the water.

Let the mixture cook down, uncovered until it’s reduced by about half.

Cut the root and leaves off the celery stalks. Using a peeler, remove the stringy parts of the celery. Then cut them in half on the bias.

Place the celery into the saucepan, making sure that the celery is covered.

Reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 10 minutes, testing with a knife to make sure it’s tender but not mushy.

Remove the celery carefully and place onto a clean kitchen towel.

Sear both sides of the celery in butter just to caramelize the edges.

Strain the stock from the celery, using the liquid it to cook your rice. Use whatever you have, but I chose an organic wild and brown rice mix, with a few diced carrots thrown in for color. Just substitute the stock for water in your rice’s cooking directions.

Cut the pork into thick chunks and serve over the celery with some of the curds and jus, rice on the side.

Maybe I’m going quarantine crazy, but the colors of this dish reminded me of a photo I took here a few years ago in fall.

I didn’t think to add the color of the lovely Rioja I paired with it, however. Have a safe and warming week.

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