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Roasted Pork Ragu is hearty fall fare
photo by Amanda Miller Roasted Pork Ragu can be made in large amounts to serve a crowd.

Especially in cooking magazines but in other publications as well, sometimes people like to ask celebrities what’s in their fridge. Often the feature comes with a full- or half-page picture of an open refrigerator, providing a visual fridge-scape and glimpse into their dining habits.

While I suppose it’s an interesting idea – we all have fridges and can relate – I can’t believe their fridges haven’t been at least some curated for the project, and even if they haven’t, do I really need to know what brand of yogurt Beyonce prefers or what vegetables Alec Baldwin likes to have on hand?

Also, while my fridge basically is always full, perhaps precariously so, it rarely ever has the same things in it, besides the staples (milk, homemade ricotta, a bunch of random fresh produce, a thousand condiments for my 2-year-old). A single glimpse won’t tell you much about our eating habits, except that we do eat and it’s almost always homemade. Oh, and that I like storing things in jars, or at least glass pyrex – because we all know what happens to too many leftovers in non-see-through containers. All that said, it might have been interesting for me to take before and after photos of my refrigerator this week. We actually have two fridges; the one in the garage is for large items, overflow produce, and long-term storage, like apples from our tree, a gallon of refrigerator pickles, and the maple syrup refilling jar.

The difference between what our refrigerators looked like a week ago versus today is rather drastic.

While it’s not unusual for me to do catering for events, once a month would be about the most often I typically have them scheduled. But last week I had two fairly large events (for me) in a span of three days, coming in right after and right before an influx of more cooking classes than usual. There was just plain a lot of food being planned for, and large quantities of food coming in and going out of our house.

Just in those two events, I fed about a hundred people, so you can see why our fridge space looks very different than it had recently. The garage fridge feels almost eerily empty, and while the kitchen fridge had been full yet simultaneously awkwardly empty of food available for my poor guys to eat, it’s now replenished with desultory leftover tidbits of this and that. If you want one egg salad wrap, 12 red grapes, pork ragu but nothing to eat it on, or a whole bunch of sandwich-size-trimmed romaine, you’re in business.

Like I said, maybe I should have taken before and after photos. But while I absolutely love being able to cater and to connect with people through food in that way, those fridges were not a glimpse into our normal life. Thank goodness. This week was not a sustainable pace for our household, but Brian and Benson handled it like champs.

It’s a true gift to do what I love in my own kitchen that I love on our own farm that I love, more often than not with the 2-year-old I love – it’s gotten so bad I literally can’t peel an orange in the kitchen workspace before my son has clambered onto a stool and is sitting on the counter to see what I’m doing and how he can “help.” But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now here’s to hoping we have enough leftovers to last us a few days before I need to cook again.

Roasted Pork Ragu

For some reason, while I’d never made pork ragu before, I really wanted to serve it for the regenerative ag field school lunch I prepared. Thank goodness my intuition was correct, and paired with a cheesy baked polenta, this dish went over extremely well. The heartiness and warmth of this rich stew feels right at home for these incoming cooler days, and is a perfect transition between summer and fall meals. The pork gets fall-apart tender during the long oven cook, so don’t skimp on time there.

Prep tips: I made an extra-large batch of this ... so know that you can multiply amounts as necessary.

Source local/farm-raised pork if you can, and you won’t be disappointed at the quality of your final dish. I’ve slightly abridged this recipe, so if you want the full version or recipe for the cheesy polenta, just email me.

2 pounds pork shoulder/butt, in 2” chunks (if using bone-in, just add some extra poundage)

1-2 onions, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

3 garlic cloves, smashed/minced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 bay leaves

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

2 anchovies

1 cup red wine or chicken broth

1 [28 oz] can diced tomatoes

fresh parsley

Sprinkle salt and pepper on pork, and brown in oil on two sides. Transfer to a baking dish.

Cook onion in same skillet, adding oil if necessary; then add in carrots/celery/garlic until browned. Add to pork in pan along with all remaining ingredients but parsley. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350° for 2 ½ - 3 hours, or until pork is very tender. Pull out the pork and shred it – mine was tender enough that I just had to press it and it fell apart. Season and garnish with parsley; serve over polenta, rice, or pasta.

Amanda Miller lives with her husband, almost-two-years-old son, and whoever else God brings them through foster care on the family dairy farm in Hutchinson. She enjoys doing some catering, teaching cooking classes, and freelancing, but mostly chasing after her kid(s). Reach her