Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rack of Pork

It would be unfair to ask me for my favorite cooking method because I would answer without a moment's hesitation: spit-roasting. Nothing develops flavor quite like a well-chosen piece of meat turning slowly over (or in front of) a low fire.

I wish I could say my method involved something as romantic as a stone fireplace and an old clockwork turning mechanism. No, I'm of the modern age. I simply purchased the appropriate parts and electric motor for my Weber charcoal grill. All that involves, really, is a metal collar that fits over the top of the grill with a place for the motor and the long spit. I've roasted all kinds of things on this setup--chicken, leg of lamb, lamb shoulder, beef roast. My favorite is a rack of pork.

A rack of pork is simply the porcine equivalent of a standing rib roast. But try telling that over the phone to a clerk in the meat department at Whole Foods. This turned into a long and tortuous conversation. What you want to ask for is a pork loin center rib roast.

Picture pork chops before they are cut into individual chops. This particular roast, taken from the center of the loin or even closer to the front of the pig, will yield some very thick chops when the meat is finally cooked and you carve it into pieces. Just be sure to tell your local meat clerk (if you have an actual butcher, so much the better) that you want the chine removed from the roast to make for easy carving. When the time comes you simply slice through the roast along the ribs to make chops such as the one pictured above.

A juicier, more flavorful piece of pork is seldom found, especially if the pig has been raised outdoors and allowed to root around, not one of those pale industrial pigs brought up in a confinement lot.

The occasion for this roast was the in-laws coming to dinner along with friend Michael from California. We wanted to show off the produce from our kitchen garden so we opened a bottle of Prosecco to serve with bruschetta slathered with our own fava beans and Pecorino cheese. We put out a bowl of our pickled green tomatoes as well as a selection of freshly pulled radishes.

The lettuces are wanting to bolt. Still, we were able to assemble a large salad with pickled beets, goat cheese and a vinaigrette with shallots. With the pork roast we served our favorite sweet potato salad with toasted pecans, fresh onion scapes and an orange-maple dressing. Dessert was a monumental sour cherry cobbler using cherries we picked last season, pitted and froze.

Oh, it was a lovely meal. And I was feeling especially smug, because I had gotten the timing of the pork roast just about perfect.

Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. I light the coals in a charcoal chimney, then spread them around an aluminum pan I keep at the bottom of the grill to catch the drippings. Toss some rosemary sprigs on the coals for flavor.

Count on about an hour to cook, but don't be afraid to take its temperature often as it finishes, using an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the middle of the roast. If you haven't had too many cocktails, you'll remember to take the roast off the fire when the internal temperature reads just shy of 130 degrees. Let it rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes. While it is resting, the temperature will climb another 10 degrees, resulting in meat with just a faint blush of pink.

Your guests will think you are a genius.


Anonymous said...

Oh yes, as the Michael in this story I can attest to the smugness of the chef. But seriously the other hidden gem in here is the pickled green tomatoes....yummy!

Ed Bruske said...

Michael, I discovered last night that we have finished the green tomato and apple chutney that we made last fall. Horrors! But the pickled green tomatoes do make a worthy substitute. I'm glad you liked them.