Prosciutto-Sage Pork Roast

Roast Pork Loin with Prosciutto-Sage Butter

Before my current job at a museum, I worked at a non-profit art gallery in Boston.  What I have come to find about the people that work in the arts – not so much the artists themselves but the ‘gallerinas’, the fundraising folks, the museum educators – is that they really like to eat and cook.  At the gallery, my colleagues and I would compare gourmet leftovers and fancy composed salads on our lunch break.  To celebrate a big sale or a successful opening, we would treat ourselves to fancy cheese, oysters and pate at the french restaurant across the street or even go out to the newest “it” restaurant in the South End.  I wonder if an appreciation for culinary arts is a natural extension of a love of the visual arts.  It is said that we eat with our eyes first…

In any case, one recipe shared over that convivial lunch table surrounded by paintings is the one that follows.  My dear friend Caroline, who generally is not fond of pork, shared this super simple preparation with me.  An easy-to-make compound butter really ramps up the flavor and presentation of the relatively inexpensive pork roast.  Perfect for the holidays and as an addition to my running list of don’t-break-the-bank-but-impress-your-guests-anyway recipes.  I have, on other occasions, mixed in a heavy tablespoon of roquefort cheese with the butter for a bit of a twist, but this is Caroline’s original recipe and it is fabulous.  It went so fast at my mom’s dinner party that by the time I’d grabbed my camera for the final shot, all that was left is what you see above!

Roast Pork with Prosciutto-Sage Butter

1/4 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma
2 Tbs. minced shallots
6-12 leaves fresh sage, chopped (choose number of leaves depending on size of the leaves and your taste for sage)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
salt and pepper to taste
monstrous boneless pork loin (it doesn’t matter the size – if you have butter left over after coating it, just freeze it and use it later)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a small bowl, mix together the prosciutto, shallots, chopped sage and softened butter.  Salt and pepper to taste, adjusting amount of salt if you are using salted butter.  Pork Loin roastIf you have any fancy flavored salts, this is a good time to use them as well – I have a “Sel de Merlot” from France which is delicious in this recipe.  Set butter aside.

Place pork on a cutting board, fatty side up.  Trim off as much fat as you can without completely (re)butchering the loin and wasting perfectly good meat [see photo :)].  The idea is to replace most of the pork fat with the flavored butter fat. 

Pork roast with Flavored butterIf you think you made more butter than your pork loin will require, scoop butter out of the small bowl with a spoon in smaller batches so that you don’t contaminate the unused butter.  In my case, having such a monstrous loin, I just slathered the whole stick on there with my hands.  Definitely make sure you spread the butter out evenly and that the goodies are distributed across the top of the meat.

Roast the loin in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Then, turn the oven heat down to 325 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes per pound or so.  You should take the pork out of the oven when a meat thermometer stuck horizontally into the meat (parallel to the cutting board and in the center of the loin) reads 150 degrees internal temperature – I usually check it after an hour to see where I stand.  Do not overcook or the roast will be dry and nowhere near as yummy.  Again, feel free to experiment with different flavor combinations in the butter – if Michelangelo, Monet, and Picasso never experimented, the art scene would be pretty bland today!

Roast Chicken

chickenForgive me yet another roasting post.  I henceforth declare (retroactively) this past week Roasting Week, in homage to all the crispy, browned, concentrated flavors that dry oven heat bestows upon us.  This does not count as a real post, I know.  I don’t have any teaser images or elaborate descriptions.  I just have something so delicious and essential that it must be added to the blog.  This ‘recipe’, if you can even call it that, serves so many purposes I simply have to share it.  For one, it looks great and is perfect for entertaining.  Second, it is quite adaptable to all manner of taste and preference.  Third, it leaves you with some great leftovers (which I will be dealing with in a future post).  In any case, read the post through before you start cooking so you can understand the whole concept…

The method is as follows: buy yourself a whole roasting chicken and get a good one (read: free range preferable, super-market bird less than acceptable).  I describe my bad experience with a not-so-special bird here, so try not to make the same mistake I did – I promise it makes a difference!  Rinse the bird with cold water inside and out, then pat dry.  Remove excess fat from the outside and inside of the bird.  Personally, I keep the “pope’s nose” (the fatty flap at the opening of the bird’s cavity) intact ‘cuz my Gammy likes it, but if your grandmother isn’t around, ditch it with the rest.  Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the bird to your own taste.

Now is your chance to improvise.  You want to stuff the bird with some aromatics, which can include any combination of the following: a halved onion; a halved head of garlic; a halved lemon; sprigs of thyme, rosemary and/or sage.  You want to fill the cavity without ramming junk in there to the breaking point.  

Depending on what you put inside the bird, you want to mix your basting butter accordingly.  If my bird is stuffed with herbs, I might make a minced shallot butter.  If I stuff with lemon, then parsley and tarragon butter tastes delicious.  Mix and match to your delight!  You will want your basting butter to be a mixture of 1 tablespoon of butter per pound of chicken plus some combination of chopped herbs, lemon juice, minced shallots or garlic.

Once the chicken is stuffed, tie the legs together with twine, or, as in the picture above, cut small holes in the skin of the bird below the leg and near to the cavity, then shove the ends of the legs into them.  This will ensure that the legs of the bird stay close to the breast.  Put the bird in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.  At the end of the 20 minutes, baste the bird with your melted butter mixture.  Turn the oven heat down to 375.  Cook for a total time (including the first 20 minutes) of 15-20 minutes per pound.  Every 15 minutes or so, baste with the flavored butter mixture.

When the time’s up, remove the chicken from the oven.  If you’re worried about done-ness, prick the thigh of the chicken (below the leg) with the tip of a knife and take a peek at the juices that come out.  If they’re red or pink, you want to put it back in the oven for a bit.  If they’re clear, let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute.  Carve and serve!

Now – you may be asking yourselves why it looks like the juices around my chicken are black in the pan.  For one thing, they were not actually black.  They were very dark brown.  And they looked that way because I modified my traditional prep (above) to add in tips from Anthony Bourdain‘s Les Halles Cookbook.  I put the giblets and half an onion on a pan and rested the raw chicken body on top of all of them.  Then I poured about a cup of white wine around the bottom of the pan and followed my own directions, above, for roasting the chicken.  This allowed me a great base for a pan sauce – I just had to put the chicken and other solids on a cutting board then mix some beurre manie and chicken stock into the pan to scrape up the fond (leftover roasted chicken bits) from the bottom of the pan.  This will result in a yummy chicken-y sauce which you can use just as is, or you can add a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and cook a few minutes before pouring into a gravy dish.

Enjoy my mom’s chicken recipe – it’s no family secret or anything, but it’s a family classic.

Update: Since there seems to be some confusion about the issue, please see below picture of “The Pope’s Nose”pope2

Roasting in all its Simplicity

Roasted Onions

So today marks my first official contribution to the “Barefoot Bloggers” – a group of people who share of love of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and cook their way through them, assigning a new recipe every two weeks.  How kind of them to select a supremely un-intimidating recipe to ease my entry to the fold!  Actually, Kelly who chose this recipe most likely picked it because she likes onions.  And I hope she likes mustard, too, because whoo-eee this recipe has a strong mustard flavor to it.  The components here are extremely simple – some onions, a nice mustard-herb dressing, salt and pepper.  However, unlike many roasted veggie side dishes, you will not overlook this one!  As I said, the mustard flavor is pungent (and delicious) but more importantly, the final product is gorgeous.  By keeping the root intact, the onions stay in their wedges, but they tend to separate at the layers, fanning out into tender, aromatic petals which gather the dressing in their folds.

By necessity (I only had one red onion on hand) my final product has reversed the ratio of red onions to yellow, a mistake I won’t make again.  Something about the way a red onion deepens in color and develops its blackened crust, curling up a bit at the edges – they are just so festive!  Not to mention the fact that they make for much better photos.  I would also have cut my wedges a bit thinner.  Ina did not specify how many wedges to make out of an onion, but I would suggest 8-12, depending on the size of your onions.  If the wedges are too thick, they will need more cooking time – you want to get all of the raw out of those puppies!  Of course, you could add other vegetables to your pan here – peppers, potatoes, brussel sprouts, parsnips to name a few – but the power of the Barefoot Contessa recipe is really in the simplicity.

So give this dish a try as is, then adjust to your liking – it really is infinitely adaptable.  I’m thinking my next version will incorporate some tarragon in the dressing, or maybe a drizzle of a balsamic syrup right at the end.  This could definitely be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table as well, I might add.

Roasted Onions Roasted Onions
2 red onions
1 yellow onion
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leaves
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. good olive oil
1/2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the stem end of each onion and carefully slice off the brown part of the root end, leaving the root intact. Peel the onion. Stand each onion root end up on a cutting board and cut the onion in wedges through the root. Place the wedges in a bowl.
Roasted onions and vinaigrette
For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the onions and toss well.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a sheet pan, reserving the vinaigrette that remains in the bowl. Bake the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and browned. Toss the onions once during cooking. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved dressing. Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste and serve warm or at room temperature. Roasted onions

Magazine Review: “Saveur” and Roasted Cranberry Sauce

roasted cranberry sauceThis is the second installment of my series of Thanksgiving magazine reviews.  You can see my evaluative criteria here.  My second food magazine review is of SAVEUR — a publication I became aware of through the Orangette blog, where several great recipes from Saveur have been featured.

112 pages total : 37 pages of ads (33%)
32 Recipes
News-stand price: $5.00
Price per recipe: $0.16
# of ads pretending to be articles: only one, and it’s very hard to spot.  It has the heading “The Saveur Chef Series” and includes a recipe for cauliflower with pine nut and current bread crumbs.  But for the miniscule “Advertisement” written across the top of the page, I would not have known it was advertising anything.  Come to think of it, I still am not quite sure what it is an ad for, except perhaps Bill Telepan’s eponymous NYC restaurant.
Recipe Index? Two indexes are provided – one, at the beginning, lists the recipes by article; the second lists them by category.  Both are ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-em’ small.

Photos: Good, large pictures are scattered throughout the magazine, but are not labeled by recipe and are often separated by a page or two from the recipe they depict.  That’s fine for green beans with hazelnuts, but not so good when it comes to Kasespatzle.

Best Sections:
• The pantry – This section gives you resources to locate the esoteric ingredients used in some of the recipes.  Perfect for all of those “wait, where do I find Thai palm sugar?” moments.
• Source – a short feature story on a specific retailer or product.  This month it was Happy Girl Kitchen Co.’s pickled vegetables, including carrots, squash, and Italian beans – I am intrigued…
• In the Saveur Kitchen – “Discoveries and Techniques from our Favorite Room in the House”, including unusual uses of common ingredients and illustrated technique lessons.

Best Features:
• Within certain articles a little call-out box refers the reader to the web for more ways to use a specific ingredient or for similar or complementary recipes.
• This magazine’s content centers around articles on specific cuisines and their locales, always giving a list of “where to stay”, “where to eat” and “what to do” if you decide to follow in their footsteps.  This issue alone featured New Orleans, the Auvergne region of France, and Laos.
• Rather than always publishing in the traditional recipe format of serving size, ingredient list, then instructions, throughout the magazine you will find short blurbs called “Methods” which condense a recipe into a short prose paragraph – very much like your mom would relay Grandma’s Apple Pie to you over the phone.  The overall impression given is that you can adjust any of the methods to your own taste preference.

Thanksgiving at the Saveur house:
•Two separate sections deal with Thanksgiving – one about classic side dishes, and a second about how the holiday is celebrated in Louisiana.  Sweet Potato Casserole, Oyster Stuffing, Whipped Mashed Potatoes with Celery Root, Oyster stew, Leah Chase’s Roasted Turkey.  Ruling?  Very traditional.

Particularly Unappetizing:
• Traditional Mincemeat Pie (dried and fresh fruit plus rum and beef fat – shudder!!)
• Steamed Fish Mousse
• Pounti (Auvergne-style meatloaf with prunes)

I’m looking forward to cooking:
• *Roasted Cranberry Sauce
• Spinach and Artichoke Dip
• Brussel Sprouts Salad

In Summary, Saveur is a very interesting mixed bag.  The list of recipes, at least in this issue, ranged from a Chile con Queso dip made with Velveeta, canned Ro-Tel tomatoes and Corona beer, to Laap Moo (a Laotian minced pork salad) with chopped fresh galangal, toasted rice powder, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass.  I recommend this magazine for the adventurous and ambitious chefs of this world – those who want to experience unique flavors from around the world or who want to teach themselves the authentic techniques of food preparation before the advent of the microwave or ready-made pie dough.

Make cranberry sauce*Roasted Cranberry Sauce, cited from Saveur No. 115

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Using a peeler, remove peel from one orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible.  Cut peel into very thin strips about 1 1/2 inches long.  Squeeze juice from orange; strain and reserve 1 Tbs. of the juice.  In a bowl, combine peel, 1 lb. fresh or thawed cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 4 smashed green cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves, 2 sticks cinnamon, and 1 small stemmed and thinly sliced jalapeno. Toss and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Roast until cranberrries begin to burst and release their juices, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer cranberry mixture to a bowl; stir in reserved orange juice and 1 1/2 Tbs. of port.  Let sit for at least 1 hour so that hte flavors meld.  Remove and discard cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon before serving.  Makes 2 cups.

Plated cranberry sauceResults:  I don’t know about your feeling on this, but I found the prose-recipe method really frustrating.  I didn’t see that I needed a jalapeno until too late (so I left it out), and I had to keep rereading the whole recipe over and over to make sure that I only needed to save 1 Tbs. of the orange juice.  Though I know I’m supposed to follow these test recipes exactly, I used ground cardamom and ground cinnamon and omitted the jalapeno.  The results, however, were absolutely delicious.  The sauce was quite tart, which I liked, and the port gave it such a wonderful flavor without making it taste ‘alcoholic’ at all.  The texture was like a thick and chunky chutney, so if you like a more saucey version, this is not the recipe for you.  For me?  Yum yum yum!  This might become an annual feature of my holiday table!