INSTANT POT BRAISED PORK with CREAMY POLENTA

I woke up with determination on my mind….determination to have a productive day and accomplish many if not all of the “to do” things on my list. Things were moving right along and I was feeling good about the day. That is until I realized I had not taken anything out of the freezer for dinner. What??

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If you have an Instant Pot you know what a life-saver they are. If you don’t have one, you should order one today. By the way, I am not being paid for this endorsement in any way. That should give you an idea of how much I love it! One thing I love the most about the Instant Pot is that I can put frozen meats in, hit a button, and in just a little while I’ll have a delicious meal.

Once I realized that it was going to be an Instant Pot night, I went to the freezer to decide what we were going to have. We recently butchered a hog and my freezer is full of all types and cuts of pork. One thing the processor included was several packs of pork backbone. At first, I didn’t know what to do with them. I was thinking seasoning for beans or soups, maybe stock, but after looking at them, I realized there was a good amount of meat on them. While the amount of meat is not as much as a rib, the meat is tender and delicious.

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INGREDIENTS (FOR THE PORK)
3 pounds pork backbone (or short ribs, veal shanks, etc.)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
6 oz button mushrooms, quartered
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups red wine
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

Start the Instant Pot in saute mode. Add the onion, celery, mushrooms, and carrots to the pot and saute in 1-2 teaspoons olive oil for 2-3 minutes.

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Turn IP off and add all the remaining ingredients except the pork. Stir well to combine, scraping all the goodies off the bottom of the pot.

Add the pork and mix well. Lock the lid and close the pressure valve. Start the IP using the meat/stew function. Set the time for 45-50 minutes and walk away. I used the natural release method to finish cooking.

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While your meat cooks, prepare the Creamy Polenta.

INGREDIENTS (FOR POLENTA)
4 cups milk
4 cups water
2 cups cornmeal, coarse ground
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Bring the milk, water, butter, and thyme to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the polenta slowly, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Continue to whisk for 3-4 minutes making sure the cornmeal has few if any lumps.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes, partially covered. Stir frequently to prevent sticking and clumping.

When cooked, remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Adjust seasonings as needed.

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The sauce in this recipe could make shoe leather taste good!

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