We keep reading over and over in the news about the rising cost of food owing to the rate of inflation. Indeed, even so-called economy cuts like short ribs and oxtails might today be considered luxury items. In my opinion, one of the best options these days, in terms of value and flavor, is pork; and for entertaining, a boneless pork loin a great choice.
I’ve posted a couple of recipes on this blog for this cut: one for a Bolognese roast braised in milk and another for a Tuscan pork loin roasted with rosemary and garlic. This post, however, features a recipe from a pioneer of California cuisine, Sally Schmitt, who perhaps is best known as the founder of two of Napa Valley’s most famous restaurants: Mustard’s Grill and The French Laundry. Her recently published, beautifully illustrated cookbook, Six California Kitchens, traces her culinary career in Northern California from her childhood kitchen through her five restaurants accompanied by recipes from each of them. The recipe I chose, “Roast Loin of Pork with Mustard Caper Sauce” was from the French Laundry, where she worked from 1978 to 1994.
While paging through an old cookbook the other day, I came upon a printout of a recipe that I found in December 2006. Titled, “Roast Lamb for One,” it was Nigella Lawson’s recipe for roasting a single lamb shank, a perfect meal for the bachelor that I was back then and why I had tucked it away.
No longer single, however, I decided to double the recipe and make roast lamb for two. The only ingredient that I didn’t have was a red currant jelly for the finishing sauce, so I decided to check out the recipe online to see if any readers had suggested an alternative. That’s when I discovered that the recipe had received a considerable number of negative reviews that shared a common problem; in the words of one reviewer: “. . . just a burnt mess on the bottom of the pan and no juices left at all to make a gravy. The meat was nowhere near tender. . .”
Yesterday morning, we went to our local butcher to purchase some pork shanks, which I had planned to braise with smoked paprika. Unfortunately, they only had two: one large, one small. That wouldn’t do. As I scanned the display, I espied a pork shoulder roast that prompted me to think of a Facebook post by cookbook author Michele Scicolone on braised pork, which called for, you guessed it, a pork shoulder roast.
Even though we weren’t having dinner guests, I bought the almost four-point roast, and used my phone’s Facebook app to bring up Michele’s post for the recipe and shopping list. She claimed that “nothing is better than a pork shoulder especially when made in the classic Italian way, braised with aromatic vegetables, rosemary and wine.” Well after making it for dinner last night I have to agree—this was indeed the best pork roast I have ever made. Succulent, juicy, and aromatic, perfectly textured, it was absolutely delicious.
I made a few variations, using one large sweet onion rather than the two medium onions called for, increasing the amount of wine and decreasing the amount of water, and adding a tad more fresh rosemary and a pinch of fennel pollen.
The most difficult part of this recipe was waiting for this roast to finish cooking while being tantalized by its seductive aromas that wafted from the oven. We were salivating as it came out of the oven.
As recommended by the author, I served the dish accompanied by white beans and chose a young Barbera d’Alba for our wine.
The roast is patted dry and seasoned liberally with salt and pepper:
The roast is browned on all sides. It’s essential for flavor to take the time to brown the roast well.
After browning the roast, I removed it from the pot and sautéed the vegetables, added the garlic, rosemary, fennel pollen, and the wine, and brought them to a simmer. I then returned the browned roast, along with its juices, to the pot.
The roast cooks for about 2.5 hours, or until easily pierced by a fork.
Wine Pairing: Barbera, Chianti Classico, Petite Sirah