Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder over Polenta

A rich, smoked ham hock stock anchors Chef Robin Bentley's recipe for Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder, which he serves over cheesy, herbed polenta
braised pork over polenta
Photography by Alison Conklin

Chef Robin Bentley prepared this hearty, Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder served over cheesy, herbed polenta for an all-day, autumn feast at his family’s Philadelphia home. Robin’s recipe starts with a delicious, make-ahead, Smoked Ham Hock Stock that adds rich flavor to the pork and the polenta. The Polenta with Grana Padano and Herbs balances the pork beautifully, but with the flavors of buttery, salty cheese, and chives, the dish makes a nice accompaniment for many plates.

Smoked Ham Hock Stock​

Yield: 10-12 cups

Plan to make the ham stock ahead. It will keep well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or freeze it if making earlier.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 1 large onion (rough chop)
  • 1 leek (rough chop)
  • 2-3 carrots (rough chop)
  • 14-16 cups water
  • 10-12 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme
  • 1-2 sprigs rosemary


  1. Using a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add both ham hocks, onion, leek, and carrots. Cook gently allowing vegetables to lightly caramelize.
  2. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  3. Add peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary sprigs.
  4. Simmer stock for 6-8 hours, skimming fat and impurities as necessary, (stock will reduce).
  5. Remove from heat and cool. Strain through a fine chinois and set aside.

Bourbon Braised Pork Shoulder with Sage


  • 8-12 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • 5-6 spring onions, chopped, bulbs and greens separated
  • 1 pound vidalia onions (peeled whole & halved)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 23 cup Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 8 cups Smoked Ham Hock Stock (recipe above)
  • ½ cup sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper flakes
  • ½ cup creme fraiche
  • Salt to taste


  1. Cut pork shoulder into portion sized chunks, trimming fat as necessary. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside in fridge.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice spring onions into ¼ inch rounds, separating the whites of the onions from the greens. Set aside ½ cup onion greens for garnish. Peel vidalia onions and cut them vertically into bite size halves. Mince garlic and chop sage. Set aside.
  3. Using a wide dutch oven or rondeaux, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add pork shoulder in batches, browning thoroughly on all sides. Remove pork shoulder and set aside.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add in sliced spring onions, vidalia onions and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Carefully deglaze pan with Maker’s Mark bourbon.
  5. Add pork shoulder back into dutch oven, then add Smoked Ham Hock Stock until meat is just barely covered. Bring to a simmer and cook covered on low for 2-3 hours until meat is fork tender, skimming excess pork fat as necessary.
  6. Add chopped sage, Aleppo pepper and cook for 5-10 more minutes.
  7. Add crème fraiche.
  8. Salt to taste.
  9. Serve over polenta.
  10. Garnish with spring onion greens and herbs.

Polenta with Grana Padano and Herbs


  • 2 cups coarse cornmeal (polenta)
  • 4 cups Smoked Ham Hock Stock (see recipe above)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped)
  • Salt


  1. Bring 4 cups Smoked Ham Hock Stock and 4 cups water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer in a sauce pot.
  2. Slowly whisk polenta into simmering liquid a little bit at a time. Continue whisking until mixture begins to thicken.
  3. Cook polenta on low for 45 minutes to an hour until grains are extremely tender, stirring occasionally. Add more water as necessary if polenta becomes too thick.
  4. Before serving, fold the unsalted butter, 2 cups grated Grana Padano cheese, and finely chopped chives into polenta.
  5. Salt to taste.

More Recipes from Robin Bentley & Lidey Heuck’s Fall Party Menu