Our family had a roast-for-Sunday-dinner tradition. My mom would put on a roast beef or pork loin roast before Mass and when we got home, it was like waiting to open Christmas presents. The aromas that filled the house were tantalizing and appetite arousing. The crisp crust, juicy and flavorful meat beckoned us to the table and satisfied like crazy. As a family of seven, we made short work of a big roast, but in the fast-paced world of modern reality, roasts like these are special occasion, big group meals. So I decided to try to replicate the wonders of the Sunday dinner roast in a weeknight-meal format.
One pot dishes are good: stir fries, stews, casseroles, but I wanted the deep flavors and crusty exterior of a beloved pork roast that could serve one or a dozen and be ready in about an hour. Plus I didn’t want a lot of fussy prep. A variety of vegetables was in order. Some fruit to complement the savory goodness of pork was a welcome addition. A minimum of clean up items was a must as well.
Bringing that New England tradition to South Louisiana meant infusing the meat with seasoning. This region has earned scores of awards for the excellence of the local food. I think the heart of that excellence lies in the proper seasoning of the ingredients. The craze for brining got the nation started on this awareness, but it’s a drag to drown good poultry in water and this approach does nothing for other meats. The truth is, you can season meats, poultry and seafood without water and still achieve maximum flavor. Every supermarket and specialty meat market in the area offers already seasoned items. The problem for me is, often the meat or chicken has lingered in the seasoning (which is applied with a really heavy hand) too long and can often overwhelm the reason for the season(ing). Sometimes off flavors develop, too.
So I always opt for seasoning things myself. I can use as much of whatever ingredients I like, and I can control the length of time. I employed a tip I learned from America’s Test Kitchen about cooking meats to ensure a crisp exterior: add baking powder to the seasoning which allows the surface to dry. Elevating the meat on a rack over a small baking sheet and leaving the it uncovered in the fridge does the trick.
Use an unusual cut for the recipe: bone-in country-style ribs to replace pork loin or Boston butt. Each meaty, well marbled piece is one generous portion, which means you can cook as many or as few as you wish. And the small size means it will cook up to perfection in an hour. Once the meat is browned in a grill pan or cast iron skillet (or any heavy-bottom, oven proof skillet) the meat is removed, the vegetables added and tossed in the browning juices, the meat replaced on top of the veg, and the skillet is popped in the oven. Then you can help the kids with homework, catch up on email or take a bubble bath if you like. Your supper will cook up tender, delicious and crackling. I hope you’ll try this recipe. Feel free to substitute other vegetables or add some favorites. And let me know how you like it!
For a refreshing side, I’ve added a quick, quick cucumber salad. The crunch and acidity are a nice contrast to the rich meat.
There’s a mixed bag of tunes this week. The first, by Elle King has the makings of long-lasting hit, the hook will stay with you long after you dance around the house, tantalized by the aromas wafting through the air, waiting for, and then savoring this yummy supper. Enjoy!!