17 August 2009

Perfect Pork

Today I'm finally going to get around to telling you about that pork I mentioned last week. Before that, however, I have a few things to share. None of them are terribly exciting, but seeing as if I have a fantasy that thousands of you log onto your computers every Monday just to see what I have to say this week, indulge me.
  1. I saw Julie & Julia this weekend. I read the Julie book a couple of years ago. It mostly ticked me off that I didn't think of it first, reinforcing the idea that any blog is nothing more than unpublished writer's haven (except of course if you're Julie Powell and you get a book deal followed by a blockbuster movie deal). The movie, however, was lots of fun, especially the half about Julia.
  2. I made the potato salad from last week again last night. I just wanted to mention that this batch seemed to soak up more dressing that last week's. I did use a different potato variety, but it, too, was a low-starch type. Please note that if your potatoes look a little dry, give 'em just a bit more dressing love. I'd hate to lead you astray with this lovely salad.
  3. When I was back home last month, I spotted a book on my mother-in-law's shelf that I knew I had to read: Heloise's Kitchen Hints. I borrowed it, promising Janet I'd return it to her some day. I've been reading bits of it before bed each night. While there are some outdated bits of advice like, say, baking cakes in coffee cans (I mean really, who buys coffee in cans these days?), I've got to say there are more than a few handy tips. Like how to dry lettuce before the salad spinner became a ubiquitous kitchen tool -- the washing machine on the spin cycle. I tried it myself this weekend, and it worked like a charm. (My salad spinner was a casualty in the don't-put-cheap-plastic-on-the-bottom-rack-of-the-dishwasher war.) Wash your greens, wrap them gently in a large kitchen towel or pillowcase. Then spin away. Genius.
OK, the pork. This is more of a cooking technique than a recipe. I love cooking those huge hunks of pork, the cheap cuts, often going by names like shoulder, butt and picnic. They can be somewhat intimidating, just a huge lump of flesh, and, if not cooked properly, they seize up and turn so tough that it just might break the glass on the window you try to heave it through.

That point when it's really tough is typically when you might begin to curse yourself for overcooking the meat. But this cheap pork thing is tricky. The meat does get icky tough, but then, you cook it longer and it relents, yielding to the slightest pressure from the back of a fork. It's done when you can make it look like this just using your hands.

Given my love for huge chunks of pork, I've cooked them in the slow cooker, on the stove top, in the oven and on the grill. Some methods work better than others. This method, produces the best results given it takes so little work. You get tender pork that still has enough structure -- something I can't seem to get from the slow cooker methods.

Here's what you need to know:

(Just one second. Remember I said this was easy? It is. It just looks like a long description. For those of you out there who are more visual like I am, just look at the picture below.)

Sprinkle about two tablespoons of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper into a dry roasting pan. Shake the pan a bit to evenly spread the salt and pepper. Take the meat (dry, please) and roll it in the pan, so that every cranny of it gets a little salt and pepper love. Set aside. Take two strings of kitchen twine, at least 12 inches long and lay them parallel to each other about four inches apart. Then, take a heap of herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme and parsley and pile them in a layer atop the twine, running perpendicular, probably about eight to 10 inches wide. Then place your seasoned pork smack in the middle of the herbs, positioned so the stems of the herbs are running lengthwise with the meat. Next, using the kitchen twine as your guide, roll the pork slowly, pulling the herbs around it as you go and tie the twine to secure. Then wrap the whole thing tightly in foil, place it in that roasting pan and pop it into a 325 degree oven. Set a timer for an hour and a half. Depending on the size of your cut, it could take longer. Once the timer goes off, check the meat. If it does not easily yield to a little pressure, it's not done. Wrap it back up, put it in the oven and check it in another 40 minutes or so, continuing to cook and checking every so often until it's done. When it is done, unwrap the foil, cut the twine, and remove and discard the herbs. Pull the pork into chunks and serve. Delicious.

And just in case you have leftovers, you could add some saucy sauce and make it look like this. Enjoy.

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