Roasting anything except vegetables intimidates me. It all started when I cooked a roast shortly after my son was born. I took a couple of weeks off from work and thought I’d play housewife and mommy. I chose to surprise Richard with a roast; all I remember is that the recipe called for sticking six cloves into the meat.
The only type of clove I knew then were of the garlic variety. So I peeled six garlic cloves, and with our sharpest paring knife, proceeded to meticulously chisel perfect indents in the meat to inlay the garlic cloves. The tradewinds in our tiny rental beach cottage could not curtail my profuse sweating, and I stopped at four cone-shaped holes. I carefully inserted the garlic and proudly displayed the finished dish to Richard when he got home from work.
“What’s that?” he asked, pointing to the white inlays. “Cloves,” I responded. “They weren’t that easy to stick in the meat. I got tired and only used 4, not 6.” Richard is a kind person, and he explained what kind of cloves were needed with just a little twinkle in his eye. “But these look really nice,” he added, consolingly.
Henceforth, Richard roasted all turkeys, prime ribs, and pork butts over the next 30+ years.
In the spirit of getting back on the bicycle, I decided that it’s time to try a roast again. I surfed the net and found Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder at americastestkitchen.com. I picked this one because, not only were there pictures, but a video that entertained my short attention span.
Next, I shopped for a bone-in pork shoulder, a cut that has plenty of intramuscular fat that melts and bastes the meat during cooking. The bone apparently acts an insulator against heat and has a lot of connective tissue that eventually breaks down into gelatin. There were 5 pieces of pork shoulder at Central Market, and the butcher noted these indeed have bones. I picked the biggest one – a 3.6 pounder at $2.69 a pound.
I realized my first glitch when the meat I purchased didn’t have a bone. I should have double-checked at the market. But it still looked fatty with lots of tendon, so no big deal. I prepared the roast by cross-hatching through the fat, coated it with a salt – brown sugar mixture, wrapped it in clear wrap and refrigerated it overnight.
LET THE ROASTING BEGIN
On Sunday afternoon, I took the roast out of the fridge, and glitch #2 occurred. The wrapped roast was on a plate on the top shelf and its sugary “juice” spilled all over the floor when I took it out of the refrigerator; I guess I didn’t wrap it tightly enough (the floor is still a little sticky). I brushed off the residual coating, and put some fresh ground pepper on all sides. I prepared the new pan and rack and preheated the oven.
When the oven was ready, I opened the door and . . . uh-oh. Glitch #3: the new pan didn’t fit in my oven! Luckily the V-rack fit into another roasting pan. I sprayed with pan with vegetable oil and added almost a quart of water.
I had to adjust the 5-6 hour recipe time given the smaller piece and the lack of a bone. With the help of a calculator; I thought 2.5 hours would be okay.
A seasoned cook would probably go to the movies or clean out the attic while the roast was in the oven. I fretted with the rest of the preparations the entire time.
I gathered the ingredients for the peach sauce. The recipe called for either 10 ounces of frozen peaches or two fresh peaches. It’s summer, so fresh peaches were a no-brainer. The peaches in the video seemed to have no skin, so I attempted to peel one. Richard said he never heard of peeled peaches, so I didn’t peel the second one.
I basted the meat with the drippings, and added more water. The smells were enticing; our dogs were in pre-dinner frenzy every time I opened the oven.
Finally, the thermometer read 190 degrees and I put the roast on the carving board and tented it with foil.
I added natural rice vinegar, white wine, sugar, and a small amount of drippings to the peaches and topped it off with thyme from my garden. The fragrance of the peach sauce required frequent taste tests.
As the peach sauce simmered, I cooked a mixture of barley, basmati and brown rice. I roasted yellow squash and zucchini topped with sweet marigold from my garden and drizzled it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Finally, the rice, peach sauce and vegetables were ready.
The meat was carved and we sat for a feast. This roast was very moist and the most flavorful pork roast I have ever had! Somehow the peach sauce accentuated the taste of the meat.
A post script: Halfway through the meal, I realized Glitch #4. I forgot to add a tablespoon each of whole grain mustard and rice vinegar to the peach sauce at the very end. I can only assume it would have improved the taste, but, frankly, if my palate were any more delighted, it would surely be a sin!
Note: The success of this recipe is not mine. The recipe itself is the hero, and I profusely thank America’s Test Kitchen for helping me believe that I just might be able to cook!