I have a lot to be thankful for. A beautiful home, a supportive boyfriend, a book that will be published next month. I have a new job as an editor at America’s Test Kitchen, where I’ve only been working for a few weeks but have already learned quite a lot, my mind filled with all things cooking and food. I actually had a dream that I was a pot roast the other night. I woke up sweating profusely; thinking about muscle fibers, denaturing proteins, and the way collagen melts to gelatin when it’s subjected to the right temperature for long periods of time. What? I don’t know.
But I’m thankful. I spent years writing my book—wonderful, exciting years, but years of extreme financial instability, filled with anxiety over bills, health insurance, and rent. I’m thankful that I could take those years to write. I’m thankful that I can now take a little step back and relax.
But, oh, the point of this post? I’m thankful, too, that here in Boston my family lives close by. And this past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day. I cooked.
In honor of my mother, and also in honor of the countless hours I’ve been poring over the Cook’s Illustrated archives of late, I used one of their recipes for a roast: Tuscan-Style Rosemary-Garlic Pork Rib Roast with Roasted Potatoes. For this, I bought a bone-in center-cut pork roast from the butcher. I brined it. I seared it, fat-side down. I cut off its bones, sliced through its center, and rubbed the meat with a fragrant garlic-rosemary paste. After tying the layers of flesh and bone all back together with twine, like a present, I stuck the roast in the oven, the bottom of the pan moistened with just a bit of white wine. A half hour later, I added the potatoes. An hour and a half after that? Dinner. It was great.
I served the pork roast and potatoes with asparagus, which I roasted with Parmesan and lemon. For dessert, I made strawberry shortcakes—tender, flaky biscuits sandwiching a pile of fresh strawberries and a pillow of whipped cream.
As we ate, the sun descended beneath the spring-green trees that line the sky outside our windows. At the table, there was good wine, and a lot of laughter. I could the smell the biscuits baking in the oven the second they were done… that sudden waft of toasted butter. I couldn’t help but think about the months right after I was hit by a car while jogging here in Boston—the accident that ultimately caused me to lose my sense of smell. My mother took care of me then. My whole family did. I’m thankful that I was close to them then. I’m thankful that I’m close to them now.
Tuscan-Style Rosemary-Garlic Pork Rib Roast with Roasted Potatoes
From Cook's Illustrated
2 cups kosher salt
2 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, packed
10 large cloves garlic , peeled and crushed lightly with the back of a knife
5 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bone-in, center-cut, 4-pound pork rib roast
10 cloves garlic , minced to a paste (or pressed through a garlic press)
1 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup dry white wine
2 pounds medium red potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Brine: Dissolve salt and brown sugar in 1 1/2 quarts hot tap water in large stockpot. Stir in garlic and rosemary, and then add 2 1/2 quarts cold water. Put the roast into the brine, and then the pot into the refrigerator. Brine for three hours. Rinse roast under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
2. For the garlic rub: While the roast brines, stir together the garlic, pepper, rosemary, olive oil, and salt in small bowl. Mix to form a paste, and set aside.
3. Prepare the roast: When roast is done brining, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until hot, about 4 minutes. Place roast fat-side down in skillet and cook until well-browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer roast browned-side up to cutting board and set aside to cool. Pour off the fat from the skillet and add the white wine. Increase the heat to high and bring to boil, scraping skillet with wooden spoon until browned bits are loosened, about 1 minute. Set skillet with wine aside.
4. Now, cut the rib bones off of the roast. To do this, hold the roast so that the bones are perpendicular to the cutting board. Beginning from the far side, use small swipes of your knife, to cut the rib bones from the meaty flesh, following the curve of the bones to the backbone until the meat is free of ribs.
5. With the roast laying flat on the cutting board, fat-side down, make a lengthwise incision in the pork loin, slicing through entire center of the meat, stopping one inch from the end. Fold the meat open. Rub this inner flap of meat with 1/3 of the garlic paste. Fold the meat back together, and on the side of the loin where the ribs were once attached, rub the remaining paste. Now, place the bones back on the loin in exactly the same position they were before slicing them off. Tie the entire roast together, using seven individual lengths of twine. Sprinkle the browned side of the meat with 1 teaspoon pepper. Set the roast rib-side down in a large roasting pan. Pour the reserved wine and browned bits from the skillet within. Put the roast in oven.
6. When the pork has roasted 15 minutes, toss potatoes with olive oil in medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Baste the pork with its accumulated juices and the wine from the bottom of the pan. After pork has roasted 30 minutes, add the potatoes to the roasting pan, stirring to coat. Continue to roast the pork (basting every 20 minutes or so) until the center of the loin registers about 135 degrees on instant-read thermometer. This should take 65 to 80 minutes. (You can add a half-cup of water to the bottom of the pan if all of the wine evaporates, to prevent burning.) When done, transfer the roast to the carving board and tent loosely with foil. Let it stand until the center of the loin registers about 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, an additional 15 minutes. In the roasting pan, arrange the potatoes in a single layer. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and return potatoes to oven, roasting until tender and browned, 5 to 15 minutes longer.
7. Cut the twine off of the roast and remove meat from bones. Set the meat, browned-side up, on the cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve immediately, with potatoes.