This hearty beer-and-onion stew is a national dish of Belgium. It was very fashionable in the United States in the 1970s and is popular again today thanks to the rise of the craft-beer movement. It's commonly made with beef, but this pork version is every bit as delicious. Choose a hoppy ale or lager--and bring home a few extras to tide you over during the three-hour braise. Serve over generously buttered egg noodles. The optional fresh horseradish root is worth seeking out.
8 ounces thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces, divided
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt, divided, plus extra to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to taste
4 medium-size yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken or beef broth
12 ounces Belgian-style beer
1 (14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
Garnish: 1/2 cup grated fresh horseradish root (optional)
Preheat oven to 300°. Cook bacon and 1 thyme sprig in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned and crisped; with a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in a separate bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat and 1 tablespoon olive oil in the now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Dry pork shoulder thoroughly with paper towels, and season with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook half the pork, without moving the pieces, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes, lowering heat if necessary to prevent burning. Using tongs, flip pieces and cook until second side is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer pork and all juices to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 tablespoon bacon fat, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and remaining pork.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the now-empty pot; add onions, sugar, and remaining salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon. Add garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add flour and cook until flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes more. Stir in broth, then beer, scraping bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add pork, tomatoes, vinegar, bay leaves, bacon, and remaining 5 thyme sprigs. Bring to a vigorous simmer, cover, and transfer to your oven's lower-middle rack.
Cook 1 hour; remove cover, stir, and continue cooking, uncovered, until pork is fork-tender and sauce is thick, about 2 hours more. Let rest at least 20 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve over buttered egg noodles. Garnish with horseradish, if you like.6