Last Sunday I bought a whole pork shoulder with the idea of making it into stew, and then got a couple of pleasant surprises.
Katara came into the kitchen while I was browning the cut up pork cubes, and asked when it would be ready. I said not until tomorrow morning, because I was going to cook it overnight in the slow cooker. She said she was hungry and could she have some pork now.
I tried to figure out what to do about that, because I didn't know what you could do with a whole pork shoulder to render it suitable for immediate serving. I only know how to roast it or stew it.
My first thought was to give her some of the cubes I was browning, but I knew they wouldn't be cooked all the way through, so I planned to finish some of the browned ones for her by boiling. But while I was waiting for the water to boil I had what seemed like a better idea: I just cut some thin slices off the shoulder and fried them with a little salt and pepper. Katara gave this a thumbs up.
I don't know why it was so hard for me to think of this, and there seemed to be no reason why it wouldn't be good. But I had never done it before and I had never heard of anyone else doing it. This is a strange place to have a blind spot.
My plan for the stew changed a couple of times while I was getting it ready. My default for winter and fall is to put in a bunch of apples and build it up from that. But then I had the idea to maybe I was going to make it with adobo and black beans. I even hunted up the (Goya) adobo so as to have it ready. But while surveying the kitchen for available vegetables I discovered that we had a leftover head of bok choy nearing the end of its lifetime and decided I'd better use it up, so I adopted a vaguely Chinese theme:
The stew eventually contained:
I was concerned about what would become of the bok choy: Was I adding it too soon? Would it just vanish? Would it turn into slime? It was fine, I like the result and would do it again. I was also worried that when I put in the salt I was oversalting, because I had momentarily forgotten that I had already put in the soy sauce. But that was okay too; later I added more soy sauce. I think it would have been better to cut up the garlic a little bit, but it was fun to toss in the cloves from across the kitchen. Baby carrots do not have a lot of flavor but that was what we had; that's also why I only put in only one potato. I wanted to add some black pepper but Toph refuses to eat anything with even the smallest amount of black pepper.
I was very pleased with the result. Katara can be very fussy, but she gave the stew a passing grade also.
Sometimes these things work out, sometimes they don't. Looking for an apt quotation to express my philosophy about the situation, I found:
I believe, quite deeply, that when the stew gods hand you a slightly-wilted head of bok choy, you disdain their bounty at your own peril.