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Pork Roast: Dreaming Backward, Dreaming Forward


How to make a great roast and hardly lift a finger

It’s 4:00 a.m. I’m awake, in the kitchen, still not quite on local time since coming home from Italy. Times like these, I think about pork roast. It’s  a way of dreaming back to Italy. Yesterday I bought a three pounder—pork butt, bone in—from Nick, my local butcher pal. What’s there to do at 4:00 a.m.? Get to work on lunch. Dream backward and forward.

“If you’d rather, I could cut you some pork steaks,” he says. “I like them better than pork chops.”

“Me too, Nick,” I tell him. “Way better. But I’ve been dreaming of a roast.”

And so, this beauty:

How industrious do I feel at 4:00 a.m.?  How much noise do I risk making? (My wife, after all, is still asleep, but lightly, lightly. A fork clattering on the countertop is all it all it takes.)

Lately I’ve been doing a long, slow roast in a clay crock, what the Italians call coccio. It’s a big devil, 12 inches in diameter, 4 inches deep, and must weight 5-7 pounds.

The beauty of coccio is the fragrance of the pot commingling with the fragrance of the food. We have 4-5 of these things. When I do a sauce or a stew or cook some beans in one, as soon as my wife comes in the house she says, “Coccio!” It takes her back to her childhood. Coccio also takes you to culinary heights.

My other option is a stainless steel food pan that came with a chafing dish we bought thirty years ago. I can season the roast, roll it in olive oil in the pan, and slide it into the oven.

This morning, the latter option feels a little faster, a little cleaner. Sear the meat, turn it a few times, add wine, cover it, and get on with my life.

What makes this roast good is salt and pepper, a lot of black pepper, fine ground; also garlic, dill, and rosemary. At 350 degrees I let it sear for 30 minutes, turn it and sear the other side another 30 minutes, then add a cup or so of white wine (I had some leftover champagne in the fridge). Cover it.  Lower the temperature to 250. After an hour roasting covered, I’ll turn the roast, cover it again, and return it to the oven. After 4 hours or so, I’ll lower it to 175 and let it go another couple hours.

The meat falls off the bone.

We’ll eat about half of this roast for lunch today, along with some oven roasted potatoes. A boiled potato would be a good companion to the roast as well.  In the bottom of the pan you have a great sauce. Drag a bite of potato through that sauce.

Save the sauce with your leftover roast.  In the fridge the sauce will coagulate and transmute into a blond oozy greasy horror. Almost too gross for words.  Damn the cholesterol. Save the sauce and reheat the roast the next day, in its sauce. You will not be sorry.

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