We had friends coming in from California plus in-laws for dinner and I knew exactly what I wanted to make: braised pork shoulder from SmithMeadows Meats.
I started braising the meat the day before the guests were to arrive and there in the recipe (Mario Batali) noticed that the meat was supposed to be marinated for three days. I'm not a huge fan of marinating meat anyway, so I just plowed ahead. And if this sounds suspiciously like the braised beef I served the week before--well, it was. Brown the pork, brown aromatic vegetables, braise with red wine at 250 degrees for about three hours. Then strain out the marinade, reduce it, add chicken broth and thicken with some corn starch for a sauce.
With or without the three-day marinade, it was awfully good, which I attribute largely to the local nature of the pasture-raised pork.
We also served a salad from our garden, spruced up with some sliced local apples and toasted walnuts. With the pork I served braised kale sauteed with onions. Buying greens for a crowd at the farmers market is always a crap shoot. You stuff a ton of greens into a bag and hope it is enough. I wanted two pounds--they always cook down to almost nothing--but the vendor looked at me like I was crazy. So I walked away with one-and-a-half, and realized later--sure enough--I should have gotten the other half-pound.
I confess we did cheat a little: we borrowed the idea for sweet potato and Swiss chard mash, as well as the pumpkin creme brulee, from the week previous. We're caterers, so we often think in terms of shortcuts, especially when cooking for large groups. But we did serve radishes from the garden with hors d'oeuvres, as well as bruschetta with caramelized mushrooms. I can't vouch for the provenience of the mushrooms, but the bread, a rustic loaf, was baked at the local Whole Foods.
People inevitably go wild for the bruschetta, which is grilled on the Jenn-air (a built-in grill, for those of you unfamiliar) at the kitchen island where everyone is gathered for cocktails. Then the bread gets a thorough rub-down with a garlic clove before it is heaped with mushrooms, drizzled with olive oil and smothered with finely grated Pecorino cheese.
I've misplaced the photo of the entree dish, but these nighttime flash photos taken in a great rush usually look pretty awful anyway. No great loss. Suffice to say, everyone walked (or crawled) away from the table very happy.