Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maybe the cold makes me revert to meat

In my northside Chicago neighborhood, we still have an old-fashioned Centrella butcher in a little free-standing, independently owned grocery store. If it's not the last of its kind, it's close. It's the sort of place where the bag boy knows which car is yours, and the butcher/owner remembers your kids' birthdays.

For most of the time my kids were growing up and I was working downtown full time, we seldom went there, because he's only open during working hours-- 9 to 5 and closed Sunday-- so I was never able to make it. A few years after starting to work at home I had a facepalm moment, duh! I don't have to buy the awful industrial meat at Dominick's anymore. So I periodically do a "meat binge" and rack up the protein meals for a while. His chickens have actual dark meat, you can get fresh, never-frozen turkeys the day before Thanksgiving, ground chuck that you'd swear was ground steak (at half the grocery store price), homemade (by him) sausage, and guaranteed tender pork.

Rosemary pork loin roast with roasted potatoes

Small pork loin roast, boned (the butcher will do this for you)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 T dried rosemary
1 T dried sage
green peppercorns, ground, to taste, or about 1/4 teaspoon
sea salt, to taste, or about 1/2 teaspoon
4 large cloves of garlic

1 large russet potato per diner

Blend the herbs, 2 cloves of the garlic, and oil together. Cut about 6 slits in the roast and insert slices of the remaining garlic cloves. Rub the oil mixture on all sides of the roast. Let sit on the counter 1 to 3 hours.

Heat oven to 450F/230C. Roast the meat for 20 minutes. While it is roasting, cut the potatoes into large chunks (peel or not, personal preference), put them in a pot and bring them to a boil, then drain*. Potatoes should have just started cooking (don't let them cook through). Remove the roast from the hot oven and baste it in its own juices, then add the potatoes to the roasting pan and dot with butter. Turn the oven down to 300/150 and continue cooking, basting meat and potatoes occasionally, until thickest part of roast is 170F/75C. (One source I found recommended 145/62. My thermometer has pork at 170-180. If you're not sure, slice into the meat. Pork should have no red in it or it isn't done.)

Pan gravy

When it's done, transfer the roast and the potatoes to a serving dish, and use the drippings to make pan gravy. Simply put the roasting pan on a burner, add a cup of liquid (broth and/or white wine, or water if you have neither). Bring it to a simmer and scrape the browning off the bottom. Add a pat of butter and simmer till it melts, then strain it. For a thicker gravy, add the butter first, with an equal amount of flour, and heat until it forms a thick paste, then add the liquid and mix thoroughly. Don't worry if it looks lumpy, the lumps will come out when you strain it.

*Starting the potatoes in boiling water helps ensure that they actually finish cooking in the oven rather than getting some raw and some cooked, which is what always happens with me. I think it's genetic, because my mother, wonderful cook though she was, also could not roast potatoes to save her life.

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