Soon, (all too soon!), the ball will be dropping, champagne will be popping, and couples will be smooching. It’s almost time to usher in 2016! How will you celebrate? With pork?
In some countries, including Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria, pigs symbolize progress. One explanation is these animals never move backward. Another explanation stems from pigs’ feeding habits (they push their snouts forward along the ground when rooting for food). Either way, it’s good luck to start the year with pork. (Apologies to my vegetarian and vegan readers- noodles are also good luck!)
If you’re going to start a brand new year with pork, it’s a good excuse to try something fancy, and this is where I defer to the expertise of a butcher (this is also how I still maintain all ten fingers). Fortunately for me, this steel town has seen a resurgence of butchers, including the Butcher on Butler. After making my request, I watched in awe as he finessed this roast with an assortment of intimidating knives, all while telling me the story of how he came to be the butcher on Butler Street.
The butcher shop had been a butcher shop as long for as he could remember. The previous owner had faithfully served his neighborhood into his old age. After he passed away, his widow didn’t know what to do with the shop. A neighboring bank had offered to buy the building to turn it into a parking lot. Gone would be the antique cooler with its hefty hardware. Gone would be this little plot of history. Gone would be the counter where neighbor after neighbor ordered the roasts and cuts for special occasions. This is when the current butcher, then a chef, had the idea to buy it and continue the legacy. The widow was overjoyed!
The building wanted to be a butcher shop. It was a community staple, and her husband’s life’s work would continue to blossom instead of being buried under layers of concrete. These stories of tradition and legacy melt my heart.
The modern butcher faces a slew of new obstacles- GMOs, confinement pens, hormones, cheap diets, inhumane practices, etc. What’s especially inspiring about this story is how the new butcher carried on the community traditions of a small, local shop, with the new set of quality standards- locally raised animals, trusted sources and quality products. Like the progressive, forward moving pig, the local butcher shop moved into the modern era!
So here’s to traditions and amendments, progress and fresh starts! Here’s to the coming New Year and fancy feasts!
Herb Crusted French Style Pork Roast
Adapted from Food & Wine
About This Recipe: Have your butcher “french” (remove the meat from) the rib bones for you. The uncooked herb-rubbed pork roast can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before roasting. Food & Wine suggests pairing this succulent loin roast with a full-bodied red with enough flavor to stand up to its crisp, spicy crust, such as an Australian Grenache.
10 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
~2 oz fresh ginger, peeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (any thick bits of stem removed)
3 Tablespoons whole fennel seeds
3/4 oz fresh sage leaves (1 plastic pack), coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
zest from 1 organic navel orange
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
One 10-rib pork loin roast (~5 1/2 pounds)— chine bone removed, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch, rib bones frenched (see note in “About This Recipe” above)
smoked sea salt (or regular salt)
Leafy greens such as cauliflower greens, collards or chard
Orange and apple slices
Fresh herbs such as sage and rosemary
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a food processor, combine the garlic, ginger, rosemary, fennel seeds, sage, crushed red pepper, black pepper, orange zest, and olive oil, and process to a paste.
Set the pork roast on a large rimmed baking sheet and cut shallow score marks all over the fat.
Spread 1-2 Tablespoons of the garlic paste on the underside of the roast; spread the remaining paste all over the scored fat and meaty parts of the roast.
Season all over with salt.
Roast the pork, fat side up, for 1 hour.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F, and roast the pork for about 35 minutes longer, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 150°F.
Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve the roast into chops and serve at once.