Our local public library has a used-book store with an outstanding, ever changing, selection of cookbooks, usually in near-perfect condition and at extraordinarily low prices. I used to visit it at least once a week and buy one or two books each time I went. For the last couple of months, however, I’ve cut back on all my cookbook purchases primarily because of space. My shelves are literally full.
But a few weeks ago my husband, who works close to the library, came home one evening and presented me with, you guessed it, another find. It was a pristine copy of Michael Lomonaco’s Nightly Specials. “Where are we going to put it?” I asked. I’m sure that was not the response my better half expected, since he knew I had enjoyed the author’s cooking both at Windows on the World and more recently at Porterhouse Bar and Grill at the Time-Warner Center. “It only cost $2,” he replied. Just look through it and. . .”
Sometimes a recipe doesn’t turn out the way you hope. Such was the case this weekend when, inspired by a post by friend and expert food writer, Diane Darrow, about a stuffed pork-shoulder roast, I set out to make one. That our local Whole Foods was having a sale on pork butt motivated me even more to attempt to replicate Diane’s success. Attributing her recipe to one in an old issue of “Saveur,” she provided an illustrated account of her adaptation of the recipe capped with a photo of the finished roast. It looked so good.
Whenever my skeptical aunt was underwhelmed by somebody’s claim of having made an earth-shattering discovery, she’d make the sardonic aside “Beh! Ha fatto la scoperta di Cristoforo Colombo.” (“Eh! He made the discovery of Christopher Columbus.”) Well yesterday, which just happened to be Columbus Day, I was similarly underwhelmed by my discovery in the fridge of a pork roast that had reached its use-by date. First off, it meant that I would have to abandon the pasta recipe I had planned on for today’s post. Moreover, I had already done my shopping for the day and wasn’t up for a return trip to the market to look for any special ingredients that might be required by a pork-roast recipe.
Having moved from New York City to San Diego a little more than a year ago, I’m amazed by the frequent sales my local Ralph’s grocery has on meat: sales like 2 for 1 on chicken, 50% off on shell steak, and the one responsible for this post $1.99/pound on fresh pork shoulder.
When I saw a well cut four-and-a-half-pound shoulder roast for a $9 and change, I couldn’t resist. Although I’ve never made one before, I’ve often read how tasty they are especially when cooked low and slow.
Because my husband had been asking me for a porchetta-style roast and thinking that I could fulfill his request with this bargain pork shoulder, when I got home I started to look through Italian cookbooks for a recipe, but had little success. Perhaps this cut of meat isn’t popular in Italy. I then went online and found several recipes using pork shoulder that were based on this popular Italian street food.
A true porchetta, like those seen in Rome’s Piazza Navona during the holidays, is a gargantuan spectacle. Its made from the full carcass of a 100 pound pig and stuffed with its prepared entrails along with herbs like rosemary and sage, wild fennel, garlic, citrus, salt and pepper. Roasted whole, typically in huge bread ovens, it’s often served cold at street fairs in central Italy, especially in the regions of Umbria and Lazio
Scaled-down home versions of porchetta are typically made with a pork loin rolled into pork belly and seasoned with herbs and citrus. You can find a video of one being made here.
The roast I made yesterday, however, is a much simpler version that only approximates a true porchetta but nonetheless does deliver a lot of its intoxicatingly delicious flavors. I adapted my version from a New York Timesrecipe as well as one from Food and Wine.
There’s minimal preparation, but with the overnight marinating and more than four hours of cooking, it’s a two-day affair. Indeed, the only difficulty with this dish is waiting patiently for so long while the enticing aromas whet your appetite as the meat roasts.
It wasn’t that long ago when I was eating steak four or five nights a week. Excessive? Yes. But I was single then, often on the road, and a simple strip or sliced steak was my comfort food as well as the perfect foil for the Italian wines I was representing at the time. Alas, my quasi Paleo diet caught up with me when my cholesterol level neared 300 and my doctor, along with my spouse, said basta.
Now on a more healthful diet, which has brought my cholesterol way down to normal levels, I enjoy red meat at most once a week. More often than not, when indulging, I still opt for steak, but once in a while I go for grilled, roasted, or braised dishes like short ribs or lamb shanks or, as I did the other night, a roast beef.
This roast, however, was not the typical rib, sirloin, chuck, or round roast. It was a tri-tip roast. I had never heard of this cut before, but a quick search on my phone informed me that it’s a popular west-coast cut and so tender that it’s sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s prime rib or filet mignon.” I was still hesitant to try it, but when my better half pointed out that it was on sale at 60% off, I thought I’d give it a go.
When we returned home, I went back online to search for a recipe and found many. I finally settled on what was perhaps the easiest and fastest, which I found on the New York Times “Cooking” website, Grilled or Oven-Roasted Santa Maria Tri-tip. It had two ingredients: a tri-tip roast and a beef-rub of your choice. As I’m not much into grilling or rubs, I opted for the oven-roasted version and followed the recipe’s link to an All-Purpose California Rub.
This roast proved to be perfect for a weeknight meal, taking around 40 minutes to cook, or a little more if you prefer your beef more cooked. The rub takes only minutes to prepare. After it’s massaged into the meat, the roast should be covered and refrigerated for at least an hour or even better overnight.
I think our tri-tip lived up to its reputation for being tender and I would say had more flavor than a filet mignon. I served the roast with steamed herbed potatoes and peas. A few days later, we enjoyed it sliced thin at room temperature accompanied by a salad.
Below is the recipe for the oven-roasted version of this dish. If you prefer grilling, click on the New York Times link above for the full recipe.
1 whole tri-tip, about 2 pounds
3 tablespoons beef rub of your choice
2 tablespoons finely ground coffee
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons granulated garlic
1 heaping teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container
1. Trim silver skin. The meat may have a thick layer of fat, some of which can be sliced off, but keep a good amount to help baste meat.
2. Sprinkle meat with rub and massage lightly all over.
3. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour or as long as overnight. Remove from refrigerator an hour before cooking.
4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or other cooking oil to a large, heavy ovenproof pan. On stove top, heat on high until pan is very hot, then add tri-tip, fat side down. Turn heat to medium-high and sear roast for about 4 minutes.
5. Turn the roast and put it in the oven. Cook it for about 10 minutes a pound, checking with an instant-read thermometer until it reaches 130 degrees for medium-rare.
6. Rest roast on a cutting board 10 to 20 minutes. Slice against the grain. The roast is shaped like a boomerang, so either cut it in half at the center of the angle, or slice against the grain on one side, turn the roast and slice against the grain on the other side.
Two days later, the roast made its way back to our table.
Wine Pairing: Rosso di Montalcino, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon
Last night we entertained several friends and decided to keep things simple. It was going to be a busy day for me and the forecast was for a chilly night. So I turned to my slow cooker to free me from the kitchen. I thought a pot roast would be perfect. For a recipe, I turned to Martha Stewart’s collection of one-pot recipes, one of which called for beef chuck roast that didn’t need to be browned before braising. Even better–more free time. The recipe along with a video is also available here online.
I particularly like this recipe because, without any herbs and a minimum of seasoning, it really lets the flavor of meat shine. My only changes to the recipe were the addition of a bay leaf, a few more carrots and potatoes as well as a slightly larger roast than called for. I also opted for 8 hours on low rather than 5 on high since I think it makes for a more tender roast.
I served the meat with egg noodles tossed with chopped flat leaf parsley and olive oil.
Our guests must have enjoyed this dish as much as we do as there were no leftovers whatsoever.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste (I recommend the Italian imported paste in a tube.)
1.5 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and halved
3 large carrots, quartered and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 beef roast (3 pounds), preferably chuck, trimmed of excess fat and well tied
4 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons broth until smooth.(I prefer to make this slurry in a small dish and then add it to the cooker.) Add remaining broth, tomato paste, potatoes, carrots, onion, bay leaf, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
Season roast with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and rub with garlic.
Place on top of vegetables. Cover and cook on high until roast is fork-tender, 5 hours (or 8 hours on low).
Transfer roast to a cutting board; thinly slice against the grain. Place vegetables in a serving dish; skim fat from pan juices, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. Serve roast and vegetables drizzled with juices.
More often than not, I let what’s available or on sale at my market determine what I will be making for dinner that night. When I found pork loins on sale for $4 off a pound at my local Whole Foods, my menu was set. Knowing that I would be cooking only for two, I chose a small two-pound center-cut roast.
Originally, I though I would prepare it braised in milk, a recipe that I have previously posted on this blog. But when I returned home, a bottle of Chianti Classico that we had received as a Christmas gift caught my eye and it brought to mind the many times I enjoyed this wine with a classic roasted pork loin whenever I was in Tuscany, where it is commonly known as arista.
In the past, I’ve always made this roast for a get together and used a larger piece of meat. But mind was now set on having arista even if it would be a diminutive aristina.
The recipe I chose was from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook. Although the recipe called for a five-pound roast, I didn’t adjust the amount of herbs or oil for my two pounder. I did, however, reduce the number of garlic cloves to three, and not having any fresh sage at home, I doubled the amount of rosemary. Because it was quite late when the roast was done and we were both starving, I skipped the pan sauce. The roasted onions were enough of a condiment.
I also served Italian roasted potatoes, which I cooked at the same time as the roast. Although the recipe I used called for much hotter oven (425°F), I simply let the potatoes cook at the same temperature as the roast (325°F) and they were perfectly done at the same time as the meat.
As you probably noticed, there are no photos in this post. I can only say that while I was cooking, my photographer was at work, and by the time the food was on the table, neither of us was thinking about the blog. But despite not having any photos, I thought this dish was so good, I had to write it up.
Herb-Roasted Pork Loin from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian
Ingredients 4 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bone-in pork loin roast, about 5 lb
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Directions Preheat an oven to 325°F.
Using a chef’s knife, very finely chop together the garlic, rosemary and sage. Transfer to a small bowl, add the fennel seeds, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Make slits 1/2 inch deep all over the pork roast and insert some of the mixture into each slit. Rub the roast with the remaining seasoning, then rub with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place the meat in a roasting pan just large enough to hold it.
Roast the meat for 1 hour. In a bowl, toss the onion slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and scatter them around the meat. Continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, away from the bone, registers 155°F, or the meat is pale pink when cut into at the center, about 1 1/4 hours more. Transfer to a warmed platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Note: I cooked my two pound roast for two hours. Although it was very good, the next time I cook such a small roast, I might reduce the cooking time slightly.
Meanwhile, pour off most of the fat in the roasting pan and place the pan over medium-low heat. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced.
Carve the roast and arrange on a warmed platter. Spoon the pan sauce over the pork and serve at once.
Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino