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Friday, August 14, 2009

Anatomy of a Pork Roast

Pork by Ray Bradley, recipe by Zuni. It's Mock Porchetta, kiddies, and now you can make it!
Start with a 3 Pound boneless pork butt. (Don't settle for anything but this, the most flavorful and well-marbled cut of pork shoulder.)
It already looks great, and you haven't even done anything yet!
Set aside (clockwise, from top left) a generous teaspoon of fresh Rosemary and Sage leaves, 4 or so fresh garlic cloves, rind from a small lemon, a few teaspoons of fennel seeds, and (not pictured) about one Tablespoon of rinsed, dried caper berries. If you want to accentuate one of these flavors, now is the time to add more. (Or less.)
Grind the seasoning in a spice grinder, or chop by hand. Or leave it course if you don't want to bother. Meanwhile, cut the pork shoulder along the seams of the fat. You SHOULD keep the meat intact as one piece. In other words, DON'T cut it into pieces, just open it up flat so you can coat as much of the surface as possible with your aromatic seasonings. A thin sharp knife works best.
Once the pork is cut, coat generously with the seasoning. Don't forget to hit those nooks and crannies; nooks and crannies need seasoning love too.
Now comes a relatively tricky part. Roll the meat back up so that it looks like it did when it came out of the package. (This is easier than it sounds.) Once re-formed, tie it with twine to hold it in place. Your string should be relatively taught, as the meat will shrink when cooking. If you have any seasoning mix left over, rub it on the outside of your pork roll. If you're going to be awhile, throw it (covered) in the fridge.
Now. Preheat your oven to around 225°. (The recipe suggests 350°, but lower – and slower – cooking will yield significantly more tender meat.) In the meanwhile, prepare your vegetables. We used (clockwise, from top left) parsnips, carrots, pearl onions, celery and German butterball potatoes. Fennel would work great if you have it handy. Wash, peel, etc. the veggies and cut into relatively even chunks – small enough that they will cook through and caramelize, but big enough that they wont burn after hours in the oven.
When done, toss the veggies with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a good quality olive oil, and let stand.
Meanwhile, heat a heavy oven-proof pan that will accommodate both meat and vegetables. (We used a broad Le Creuset braiser.) Get the pan nice and hot, and add a little olive oil. (The oil should immediately ball up; if not, you need more heat.) Proceed to sear your tied pork shoulder on each side on medium-high heat, just until browned. If you smell burning or see smoking turn the heat down a touch. But stick with it; browning helps develop a lovely deep crust and delicious seared flavor. Note: tongs help greatly to turn and hold the meat in place.
You're almost there, champ. Remove the pork from the pan, and check the pan for overly burned bits. If it smells too charred give the pan a quick rub with a paper towel (to remove bitter residue) and add a little more olive oil. Place the browned pork shoulder back in the pan's center, and surround it with your vegetable medley. Add a few rosemary sprigs if you're feeling festive.
Place the pot in the oven (uncovered) and open a bottle of wine (to drink while you wait). Every hour or so you should turn the meat and toss the vegetables carefully, adding stock or water for moisture if things are looking dry. Eventually (hours and hours) the meat will reach an internal temperature of about 185°; when it does, it is done. (Note: if you get impatient just turn up the heat. But be warned, faster cooking = decreased tenderness.) Remove the meat and veggies and cover, taking a good whiff of the irresistible smells emanating from your creation. If you have the self-discipline not to start immediately grinding the pork, take this time to make a pan sauce with the oven drippings, stock, and white wine. Either way, you really should allow the meat to rest for at least 15 minutes to let the juices settle.
And that's it! So simple. And delicious. Slice and marvel at the succulent porcine goodness. If you're eating alone, forego utensils. Have a nice bottle of, say, Montelpulciano handy, and enjoy – you've earned it!

– J. Slab

Recipe adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant by Judy Rodgers copyright © 2002 by Judy Rodgers. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Mykonos said...

I've made this recipe before and it's great. If you're worried about tying up the meat- just bring your spice mixture to your butcher- have him butterfly the pork and let him let you rub the spices on yourself and then he'll tie it up for you.

This is seriously good stuff. I made a gravy with some left over pork stock I had. Damn fine meal.

12:24 PM  

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