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A Spring Stew of Pork, Mushroom and Peas on Parmesan Croutons

        A stew for Spring may seem counter-intuitive but this one is quick and easy to prepare—to say nothing of how delicious it is. After starting with a quick sauté of diced pancetta and shallots,  I was quite surprised at how quickly the pork cooked and how much juice it released as I cooked it.  It made this recipe a perfect candidate for a weeknight.   It’s also quite adaptable.  You can go stop your cooking once you’ve got the pan sauce to the right consistency.  Or you can forge ahead and add the tiny bit of cream that enriches the dish even further. 

Baby Bellas

        The other ingredients that say Spring are, of course, the peas.  Trader Joe’s have been featuring wonderful fresh English peas that are irresistible. I know this because I’ve watched how many shoppers are attracted to them and toss them zealously into their shopping carts. But equally good in this dish are frozen peas, added at the last minute so they keep their color.   As far as the mushrooms go, I love Baby Bellas for their texture and flavor.  They are, as you may know, baby Portabellas which is why they are far more flavorful that their white Button mushroom cousins.  And why not get all the flavor you can?   


        The other surprise hidden under the stew is the delicious Parmesan crouton.  This came about when I spied an artisanal loaf of Parmesan-crusted ciabata at our local Farmer’s market.  This crisp loaf, lightly toasted and, yes, buttered was the ideal foundation for the stew, sopping up the sauce and crunching under our forks.  You could just as easily serve this stew on egg noodles or a broad pasta or even rice.  But do try the crouton—with or without the butter.  It’s such a great way to get your carb fix.  You don’t need to search out my Parmesan crusted loaf.  Any good boule or peasant loaf will do.  Just toast first and taste later.  I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the crunch factor will do for the dish.
Here’s the recipe:

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