Pinky to the corner of your mouth folks.. It is mini-post time!! (a short post, with few pictures, but still dead interesting!)
Again, more simple, rustic food. YAY!
So, those that didn’t get grossed out by the terrine post before (apparently quite a few people don’t like pate! nutters), I also served up a hunking great lump of pork to the veggers. I promised some more info on it, so here we go.
A Boston But loves a crowd to be honest, and I love it too. This cut can run really pretty big, and when the picnic roast is included too, you get yourself a full shoulder – enough to easily serve 20.
I wasn’t planning on feeding the 5000, so this is a Boston But (the upper section of the shoulder), weighing in at about 10lbs with the skin on.
My aim here was to create a dish that I could just leave alone. When having a party, the last thing you want to be doing if frantically rushing around in the kitchen, trying to cook 100 different things to feed a large group of people. I should know, been there, done that, didn’t buy the t-shirt or the mug. Never again.
The basic premise is to slap a large lump of meat into a low oven, and let it cook very gently until it it is fall apart tender. Pork shoulder is a great joint for doing this. You can see the fat running through the meat, and on the surface – this is important for a few reasons:
1) proper raised pork fat is gorgeous
2) the fat lubricates the meat whilst cooking, keeping it moist and tender
3) proper raised pork fat is gorgeous
4)proper raised pork fat is gorgeous
So I was reading through the River Cottage Meat book, and came across a slow roasted pork shoulder recipe. Hugh’s combination of spices didn’t quite gel with me for the meal I was serving, so I used my own. But the basic method is all him, which is also really all 1000 other cooks and chefs.. the method isn’t complicated and doesn’t change much from person to person. It has been done in fancy restaurants, and in homes. The big deciding factor is how good this is going to be is really down to the quality of the pork.
You want to make sure you get a cut with the skin on. Why? one word.. CRACKLING!!! yes folks, that crispy, fatty roasted pork skin that is sinfully good, but also rather crappy for you. No skin, no crackling, and only a slightly happy pork roast because of it.
I of course favor locally raised, natural meat from pigs that have led a decent life, been fed properly and raised without hormones or other nasties. Sea Breeze Farm was again my source for this hunk of meat – I guess by know I really don’t have to tell you how much I love these guys.
I have to say I have never roasted a piece of meat for this long before. Not even close. I did a smaller boston but, about 4lb’s a few weeks ago, but roasted at a temperature of about 375F if I remember correctly. That turned out amazing, but I fear that temperature would be rather bad for such a large lump of meat – burnt on the outside, raw in the middle – and a lot of sick guests.
So how did it turn out? Well, good and bad. My guests loved it. Those that ate meat. The whole thing went, and I was expecting left-overs for at least a few days of sandwiches.
I myself, being the picky bastard that I am, and rather anal about the food I make, thought it could have been better. I felt like the whole thing was a bit dry. There was still a good deal of fat with the meat, which was great, but the meat tasted dry(ish). I was the only one that thought so though.
I have actually been thinking about this a bit the last week. I am not really that used to the whole “pulled pork” style, which of course slow roasting produces.. it could have been that..
The basic method was to cook it at 450F for 30 minutes, to get it all sizzling, then turn it down to 250F for at least 10 hours, preferably 14. The final 30 minutes you crank the heat back up to crispen up the crackling.
What resulted to me, was a crust to the meat that was bordering on burnt. But, think about it, a roast in the oven that long, it is going to get some charring, even at a lowish temperature I guess. It was really borderline, but to me it wasn’t perfect, and that just plain pisses me off.
Here are my thoughts:
1) my gas oven is really shit at temperature control: This could easily be. Gas ovens are notoriously bad at keeping an even temperature. I should get a good oven thermometer and check it out. What if it really was roasting at 300F for 12 hours? That might explain it.
2) I should have cooked it for less time: Personally, I agree with this one.. I think even slow cooked meats can be cooked too long – especially if the temperature is inconsistent (read.. too high)
3) I should roast it with the crackling off, and cook that separately: This is almost certain. The crackling was damaged. It wasn’t an amazing golden brown that I wanted.. it was getting pretty dark – and that was even before the last temp rise to crispen it up. Cooking this separately will give me more control, and also let me get my spice rub down into the meat more.
4) Clean my sodding oven: A sotty oven really isn’t going to help things
5) I let it rest too long: So, I take it out the oven, and let it rest up a bit. I then take photos of it, and then get called for Halloween photos with all the kids running around (waaay too cute to pass up). This could have been out of the oven for 1 hour.. possibly.
So, I dunno. I got an email from one of the meat eaters (there really wasn’t many carnivores there..) saying how amazing it was, and did I do the great crackling, so I figure it wasn’t as bad as I made out. I did however waaaay prefer the 4lb shoulder roast that I did a few weeks before. It was more me. The fat was gorgeous, it had tons more flavor, but was lacking the crackling.
I think I have to get back to experimenting more. This is a bloody large, expensive cut to experiment on though! I think this set me back 60bucks. I am in two minds about roasting a couple of smaller joints for a shorter period of time for this party actually.. we shall see.
So – if anyone has some suggestions.. feel free!
Oh – and the lentils. Holy crap, these were good. The French Lentils (Puy) were simmered with some herbs (bay, parsley, thyme and black peppercorns), then finished in a little chicken stock. Right at the end some perfect parsley butter is mixed in. WOW. I loved these, and I am not really a massive lentil fan. A ton of flavor, they still held their shape well (love Puy for that), and some great butteriness to them. Excellent stuff.
12 Hour Roast Pork Shoulder, crackling, Puy lentils, parsley butter (serves at least 6)
1 boston but – about 10lbs, skin on
4 cloves of garlic
1tablespoon of sea salt
10 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
3 cups of Puy lentils (often called French lentils)
9 cups of water
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of parsley
5 black peppercorns
cheesecloth and string
butter – 4 tablespoons
3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley – chopped really fine
a little fresh lemon juice
Take the meat out of the fridge about 40minutes before you want to cook it.
Preheat oven to 450F
Take a utility knife and score lines through the pork skin and outer fat, about 1/2” apart.
In a pestle and mortar pound together the garlic, salt and thyme. Loosen with a little olive oil to get a paste. Rub half of this over the skin of the meat, making sure to work it really well into the cuts you just made.
Place the meat on a roasting rack, skins side up, sitting in a pan large enough to surround the joint of pork. Quite a bit of fat is going to come out of this, so you need a large pan.
Bung this in the oven for 30 minutes to sizzle. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 225-250F. Carefully flip the meat over so the skin is now pointing down. Rub the other half of the mixture into the bottom of the meat (now pointing upwards). Put a cup of water into the pan, and bung it back into the oven.
Roast for 6 hours. Flip the meat, and baste with the juices. Skin should now be pointing up. Roast for another 4-6 hours.
30 minutes before you are wanting to serve, crank the heat back up to 450F to crisp up the skin.
Remove from the oven, and let rest for 20 minutes.
For the lentils: About 30 minutes before you want to eat put the lentils, and the water into a large saucepan. Put the whole sprigs of thyme, bay and parsley on a bit of cheesecloth, along with the peppercorns. Bring the corners together to form a little bag, and tie off with string. Put this in with the lentils too. Get this boiling, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until just soft enough to bite through a lentil, but so they still retain their shape and texture.
Pour a little hot water into a bowl. Discard the water. Put the butter, chopped parsley and a couple of drops of lemon juice into the bowl. Mix, and mash together until you have one smooth butter. Add more lemon if you think it needs a bit more sharpness.
Just before you want to serve the lentils mix the butter carefully with them, until the butter has melted, and everything is combined.
To serve: Give your guests a dish of the lentils, and some plates. Put the meat on a carving tray, and pull off the crackling. Divide this among the guests. Let them pass the meat and lentils around – letting them carve their own meat.
I like to serve this with some simple pickled shallots – like these: http://mattikaarts.com/blog/?p=756
OH, OK.. this wasn’t quite a mini post was it. There goes that idea.