We are a Costco family and every so often we will buy huge quantities of meat and portion it out and freeze it in our big chest freezer. We’ve got fish, chicken (parts and a whole one), ground beef, pork, even a turkey ready to defrost for the holidays! Of course using these cuts of meat does require some planning because of the defrosting, but I’m getting better at it and at least it gives me some time to make sure we have the fresh produce I want to serve alongside said meat.
The other night I decided that with the weather cooling here in New England, it was the perfect time to do a pork roast with some lovely root vegetables. I normally make my pork roast with a honey mustard glaze that also features brown sugar (that I’ve adapted from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe) but because of my gestational diabetes, glazes like that are off limits for moi! I decided to try a spice rub instead. This was a purely experimental spice rub, but I am happy to say it came out rather tasty.
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
I just eyeballed the amounts and shook some of each spice into a small dish but I’d say about a tablespoon of each of the spices and salt and pepper to taste would do the trick.
I patted dry the piece of pork roast (approx 2 lbs), scored the fat cap with a diamond shape, and then patted the spice rub all over the pork (top and bottom).
I placed the pork fat side up in a ceramic baking dish and put in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour. (I allowed the spiced meat to rest while I prepped the vegetables so everything went in at the same time and the meat was not fridge cold). Of course cooking times will vary depending on the size of the meat and your oven. I find that my oven always takes longer than recipes call for. I think I need to get it calibrated…
I also get nervous about pork and chicken because of the risk of illness if not cooked properly. I was shocked not too long ago when a server at a restaurant asked me how I’d like my pork chops cooked. I looked at him dumbfounded and said “all the way.” I mean what other way is there? He informed me that these days you can have your pork done medium… Well, not for me, thank you very much. I have since learned that there are acceptable temperature ranges for pork that are definitely lower than what your typical instant read thermometer is set to. Still I get nervous, but I tend to cook my pork roast until it hits 160 degrees in the thickest part (still less than the 180 those thermometers want). Feel free to weigh in on this issue, by the way. Since pork does dry out very easily it is a bit tricky to find the perfect temperature. Once the meat hits my desired temperature, I let it rest for about 10 minutes before I cut into it. This is probably one of the hardest things to do as the lovely aromas of roasted meat waft through the house! But if you want to preserve any shred of juices left in that meat, you need to let it rest! I cut the roast into approximately half inch slices and returned them to the baking pan to soak up some of that lovely jus.
Roasted Fall Vegetables
1 Large Sweet Potato
2 Large Carrots
3 Medium Red Skinned Potatoes (any will do, this is what we happened to have handy)
1 Medium Yellow Onion
3 Small Parsnips
Garlic Cloves, left in the skin (I used 3, but you can use how many or little as you wish, or leave them out completely)
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (enough to coat all veggies)
Salt and Pepper to taste
I washed, peeled and cut the vegetables into approximately similar sizes. The carrots being denser and taking longer to cook can be cut smaller, but I don’t mind a bit of crunch. You can of course use whatever vegetables you like and whatever amount you like depending on how many you are cooking for and what your taste preferences are.
I placed all the vegetables in a large roasting pan, drizzled the oil, added salt and pepper, and tossed everything to coat evenly. The pan went in the same 350 degree oven as the pork and cooked for about the same time. Definitely keep an eye on the vegetables and give them a good stir a couple of times to allow for even caramelization (or to avoid burning one side). And take them out if they are done before the roast and tent with some aluminum foil to keep in the heat.
I used to peel my garlic when I’ve roasted veggies in the past and they always end up burning because they are just so darned small! Since I’ve seen a few TV chefs roast veggies and actually throw in an entire head of garlic peel and all, I decided to give it a go, but since I am really the only garlic eater in the household, the entire head would just be overkill. The 3 cloves with skin intact came out perfectly roasted, soft and sweet.
As I mentioned earlier I was very happy with the flavor of the spice rub and the pork came out tasty and tender. The fat tended to splatter and smoke a bit which set off our hallway smoke detector (which is super sensitive, mind you) whenever I opened the oven. But that’s a common occurrence when I cook! You can definitely remove the fat if you wish, but it forms a beautiful crispy dark brown crust that you won’t get if you do remove it. If you are like my husband, you will just cut the fat off when you’re eating it.
Unfortunately I got started with dinner later than I should have so, it was quite late for Little Missy. I had to ply her with some red pepper pieces as she grew antsy waiting for the proper meal (she by the way loves raw red peppers, and I often offer them up as an appetizer of sorts while I’m making the main meal – a great way to sneak in a vegetable!). Because the veggies were done before the pork, I just fed her the vegs when they were ready and then the pork came later. But I find this a pretty successful way to feed her anyway as opposed to overwhelming her with too many flavors and options at once.