French Pork Stew

Today, I am posting my 400th recipe. At times, my life as I live it today bears almost no resemblance to my life when I posted my first recipe; this Creole Fried Chicken on New Year’s day 2010. That was a lifetime ago; so much has happened, so many recipes cooked, and so many lessons learned. Just as Chris Kimball has forever transformed my daily cuisine, this blog has taught me patience at a time when patience is what I most needed.

Well-Balanced, good, but a bit mild disappointment.

Well-Balanced, good, but a bit mild disappointment.

When this recipe was first published a few months ago, I was very excited to make it during peak “stew season”; that time of year when chilly outdoor temperatures make my warm, aroma-filled kitchen feel like the most inviting place on earth. In that sense, this recipe was a complete success. But while the hours of wonderful smells evoked the expected Pavlovian response, the actual stew was a bit of a disappointment. The stew was very well balance, but I had expected it to be more flavorful. After going to the trouble (and expense) of finding 3 kinds of pork I was not excepting it to be so mild. The hints of smokiness were barely discernible (using ham hocks). Overall, the stew makes a nice meal, but I cannot help but feel a bit disappointed in the outcome. Beef stew is still your best bet. 3-1/2 stars.


  1. While the recipe calls for either 1-1/4 lbs of meaty smoked ham shank or 2 to 3 smoked ham hocks, I would recommend against the ham hocks. I used 3 ham hocks, but it yielded so little edible meat that I question if it’s worth the effort. I wish I could have found a smoked ham shank (whatever that is).
  2. Chris Kimball says that this recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance. In fact, the recipe gets better the second day.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 2:00 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Herb Bundle:
10″ square of triple-thickness cheesecloth
6 parsley sprigs fresh parsley
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 whole cloves

Stew Ingredients:
4-lbs boneless pork butt roast
2 onions
5 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1 meaty smoked ham shank (1-1/4 lbs) or 3 smoked ham hocks (2-lbs)
4 carrots
1-lb Yukon Gold potatoes
12 ounces kielbasa sausage, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded (8 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Cut a square 10″ piece of cheesecloth (triple-thickness, as customarily packaged). Add parsley springs, thyme sprigs, unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns and whole cloves. Fold or break parsley and thyme so that it fits, then tie the herb bundle using kitchen twine.
  2. Prepare pork butt by pulling apart at its seems. Trim away and discard any hard or excess fat, and cut into 1″-to-1-1/2″ chunks.  Cut the onions in half, and cut away the non-root end, but leave the root-end attached.
  3. Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 325-degrees and set an oven rack to the middle of the oven, making sure there is enough room for the covered Dutch oven.
  4. In a large Dutch oven, add 5 cups water, 4 cups chicken broth, ham chunks and whole smoked ham (or ham hocks). Place over medium-high burner until it comes up to a simmer. Use a spoon to skim off any of the scum that rises to the top.
  5. Bake for 1-1/2 hours at 325-degrees, until the pork is tender.
  6. Meanwhile, peel carrots and cut off the narrow end, and cut the thick end in half lengthwise. This will leave you with three equally thick pieces per carrot, which you can then cut into 1/2″ pieces. Scrub your potatoes and cut into 3/4″ pieces.
  7. Use a slotted spoon to fish out and discard the onion and herb bundle. Remove the ham (or ham hocks) to a plate. Add carrots and potatoes to pot, cover and continue to bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, once cooled, use two forks to shred the ham into bite-size pieces. Throw away the bones, skin and any large chunks of fat (esp from ham hocks). Cut the kielbasa in half lengthwise (it will probably break into two or three pieces), and cut into 1/2″-thick slices. Shred the cabbage which should yield about 8 cups (even though that seems like a lot), and chop 1/4-cup of fresh parsley.
  9. After vegetables have cooked for 20 minutes, add shredded ham, kielbasa and shredded cabbage to pot. Stir briefly, cover pot, and return to oven for a final 20-minutes.
  10. Season with salt and pepper, and add chopped parsley. Serve.

10 Responses to French Pork Stew

  1. rhijulbec says:

    Congratulations on your 400th post! Now thats dedication! I’ve been following for awhile now and find your blog entertaining, visual, interesting and very, very hunger inducing! I am also interested in your explanations detailing why you were happy/unhappy with a recipe and the steps or substitutions you make to perfect it even further. Thank you for this. Your time and effort are appreciated.

  2. Katie C. says:

    Happy 400th!

    Isn’t it amazing how 3 years can make such a difference. Both my guy and I have improved vastly in the past three years too. He says that I now talk back to the cooking shows when they are not doing things right. I’ve become pickier about the shows too. I don’t like it when the chefs just throw things around and offer no explanations about why their way is the “right” way to do something so I still watch ATK and CC. As Jacques Pepin says, happy cooking!

  3. Jonny Rashid says:

    Interesting, I didn’t think mine was lacking flavor. But I did work on it awhile so maybe my appetite was the difference.

  4. Judith Adams says:

    I just made this yesterday and am looking forward to leftovers for lunch. I thought this stew was very flavorful, but I did use a ham bone I had in my freezer.

  5. jensenly says:

    I agree with you. A little on the bland side, but I find this to be the case with many of Kimball’s recipes. My theory is that they purposely go light on seasonings, letting people adjust according to their own taste. (I secretly think they are afraid of people criticizing them over using too much salt) The only problem is that you can’t adjust until after the dish is prepared, which doesn’t allow for a more robust flavor profile to develop while cooking. And you are right about the ham hocks – I think I got about 3 morsels of meat from them. All-in-all, a nice change of pace from a traditional beef stew and I liked it.

    I am looking forward to tasting it after 2-3 days.

    Congrats on your 400th post, although I am sure by now you are closing in on 500!

  6. jensenly says:

    Back again, after letting the stew sit for about 2 days. The flavor improvement was remarkable. I gave some away to family members and they loved it. So make it ahead of time and eat it 2-3 days later!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I know this is YEARS late, but a smoked ham shank is the bone from a smoked bone-in ham. The amount of meat you’d get from it depends on whether you had been thinking of reusing the bone for a soup or whether you were determined to wrest every possible scrap of ham from it before tossing.

    Thanks for the recipe – can’t wait to give it a try!

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