Hawkins and I had a long weekend. By Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t looking to be too extravagant or creative, though I needed something new and different to cook. I thought about it for a while, and decided on cooking a pork roast, with maybe some vegetables and stuffing.
I went to the store and had the butcher cut me a two-pound, boneless roast. At that point, Hawkins said that our friend Aaron might be joining us. It didn’t come to pass, but the large roast left us with plenty of leftovers for Monday.
The cooking began by washing the joint in cool water and table salt, leaving for a clean exterior. I didn’t have the time I wanted to marinate the meat, but a short soak left it with some additional flavor. For a marinade, I poured a cup of apple juice into a glass pan, and then added two tablespoons of cider vinegar for tanginess. As I like pork with something of a sweet exterior, I added a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and the same amount of both paprika and garlic salt.
It made for a sweet-and-spicy sort of marinade that I was happy with. Blend the ingredients well and add the washed roast. The meat sat in the marinade for a good two hours, though about every 15 minutes, I gave it a quarter of a turn. This allowed all surfaces of the meat to soak up some of the marinade, and covered it with flavor.
I remembered how well my roast beef turned out a few months ago after a slow roasting process. If it works for beef, then why not for pork? My complaint with some pork roasts in the past is they have been either tough or dried out. Maybe this technique would ensure a tender and moist roast for us. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
As the oven preheats, we have a few more tasks to perform. Coat a large skillet with oil and begin to brown the roast on all sides once it’s hot. I dusted the meat with some additional garlic powder and paprika, along with a bit of salt and pepper. Once brown, set the meat aside.
I’ve seen “roast dinners” with plenty of vegetables in the roasting pan beside the meat. Soon, everything begins to share flavors and taste great. The yams at the store were small, though of good quality. I peeled three of the little potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Sweet potatoes and pork roast seem to go hand-in-hand. Dice a sweet onion finely, and add it in with the potatoes. The sweet onion only adds a sweet flavor to the roasting, rather than a sharp flavor of say, a red onion. After marinating the pork in apple juice, I thought one green Granny Smith apple would compliment the flavor. Something about pork and apples seems to go hand in hand. Peel the apple and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Finally, I peeled several whole cloves of garlic and added it to the fruits and vegetables. Roasted garlic takes on a nutty flavor that is perfect for this blend of vegetables.
Place the roast into a large baking pan and add the mixed fruits and vegetables all around. I added a little rosemary, just a sprinkle, to give everything in the pan an interesting taste. Cover the roast dinner with foil and allow it to bake, at 200 degrees for an hour.
After the hour, discard the foil and take the meat’s temperature. It should need maybe another 30-45 minutes, being close to 120 degrees. For fully cooked pork, we want the temperature to rise to 160 or 170 degrees. Keep the thermometer in the meat and check it frequently after 30 minutes.
With our pork needing little more attention than that, I turned my efforts to the evening’s stuffing. Begin by slicing a rib of celery and one peeled carrot as thinly as possible. Dice one onion and blend with the other vegetables. Melt six tablespoons of butter in a pan and sauté the vegetables. As the carrots grow tender and the onions caramelize, add eight ounces of sliced mushrooms with a half-teaspoon of salt and pepper. Cover the pot and let the mushrooms “sweat” out their moisture and flavor. When the mushrooms appear done, we’ll move to the next step.
To make a good vegetable broth for the stuffing, add 1 ¾ cup of chicken broth to the pot. Blend it with a half-teaspoon of sage, a teaspoon of thyme and the same amount of rosemary. For a hearty stuffing with a creamy taste, surprise diners by blending a half-can of cream of chicken soup. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes for flavors to spread.
Once the broth has simmered, add an eight-ounce bag of commercial stuffing from the supermarket. Ours was cornbread stuffing, to our great delight.
With the roast ready, carve it and serve it with plenty of the roasted vegetables and a heap of stuffing. The roast goes well with cranberry sauce, spicy mustard, or as I learned from Hawkins’ father on a visit to his house, a little real maple syrup. Green vegetables would be welcome on this plate as well.
As promised, the meal was ready at the start of the fourth installment of the HBO mini-series “John Adams.” The show is of course, a historical look at one of our nation’s founding fathers, played by Paul Giamatti. I’ve enjoyed the show so far, with its attention to detail, and at least an effort to be historically accurate. I’m sure the network is rerunning previous installments, so I highly recommend it.
We sat down to watch the show, with plenty of roast and stuffing to fill us up after a long day. What a treat it was. Next week, it will be “Revenge of the Meatloaf,” with a newer, and maybe better recipe for meatloaf and homemade sauce. With a great, tender roast and an account of the birth of this country, a good time was had by all. Good eating.