"It's Better With Bacon…"

My wife made the absolute best, juiciest Pork Roast of all time for our dinner last night.  This should come as little or no surprise to anyone who knows us, as we are known to most all our friends as “The Pork Family”.  We were dubbed such years ago by my wife’s then-assistant at work and great friend Teri.  Every time Carole would tell her about a great dinner we/she had prepared at home/eaten out, it was always swine-centric.  Sausage and eggs, pork chops, a masterful BLT with bacon from the half-hog we purchase at the 4-H Auction at the Fair every year, our latest rack of ribs from the Big Green Egg, whatever.  I go to get my cholesterol checked and they find big chunks of bacon floating in my veins.

But this particular pig-part dinner was memorable both for flavor and the “like buttah” consistency of the meat.  We are not completely sure if it was the result of the meat quality (the local Safeway, no less), the spice rub used, or the roasting technique.  I personally feel it was the combination of the three.  Recipe follows, if you want to try to reproduce it for your ownself.

Having worked as a Chef in my former life, I was always taught that smaller roasts should be started very hot, say 475º or 500º, then turned down to a roasting temp of around 325º.  This recipe called for turning the oven all the way down to 200º or 250º; sounded good for a turkey maybe, but not for The Blessed Animal.

My wife was point-person on this particular dinner so I did my best to stay out of the way and somewhat silent.  She definitely has a different style of cooking than I do.  Working in restaurant kitchens and producing not only high quality dishes, but lots of them all at once, demanded strict organizational procedures, having everything you need together, measured out if called for and within arms reach, before you put flame to pan.  It was all about the Mis En Place.

Carole will put the skillet on the fire, crank it on, then look around and say, “Okay, I need an onion…” But, having had the pleasure of so many delicious things produced via this seemingly A.D.D. technique over the last 14 years, I just take a deep breath and tell myself it is all going to be okay.  This time I was especially glad I did.

I’m not sure why, but bacon has been in the news quite a bit lately. A story in today’s Chronicle Food Section about “Artisan Bacon” producers here in the Bay Area had generated over 150 comments as of this writing, (recipe for Bacon Fat Mayonnaise included!  Yeah Angioplasty!); our buddy, Brady Lowe’s upcoming 2010 edition of Cochon 555: 5 Pigs, 5 Wineries, 5 Chefs (his newsletter is called “Bacon Bits”); plus the smell of wood smoke and sizzling fat is still fresh in my mind from October’s Primal Napa, which highlighted whole animal cookery of sheep cow, goat and pig; but, as we all know, bacon is the most famous pig part there is.  I have seen bacon infused vodkas showing up in Bloody Marys, bacon-stuffed olives with same in Martinis, bacon doughnuts (and not just on The Simpson’s), and on and on.

Could it be that we have been so far ahead of the curve all these years?  Or is it the “New Car Syndrome”, wherein you never notice how popular a certain model of car is until you buy one and start driving it around, and now everyone seems to have one.

Whatever the reason we are so pleased The King of Fats is being officially elevated to his place of honor (you can cue Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes singing “Lift Us Up Where We Belong” right here).

Carole’s Crispy Pork Shoulder Roast

Prepare the Spice Rub

For the spice rub, mix up the following ingredients in a small bowl:

  • ½ Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ Tablespoon Harissa powder (we got ours from the Whole Spice at the Oxbow Market)
  • 2 or 3 medium cloves garlic, crushed through a press
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

These precise measurements and ingredients aren’t critically important, but what we’re doing is creating a blend of sweet, salty and spicy. Mix everything together to form a paste and smear it all over the roast.

Roast the pork at 500°F for the first 20 minutes.  Start at a high temperature so that the outside of the roast will turn all brown and crispy and delicious. You might see a bit of smoke inside the oven, but that’s OK — don’t panic!

After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 250°F and cook for another 2 hours or so. This lower temperature prevents the meat from drying out. The roast is done when the outside is nice and brown and the internal temperature reaches 145°F as measured with a good meat thermometer.

Let roast rest on the cutting board at least 15 minutes before slicing.

We had ours with some roasted pieces of Yukon Golds and Sweet Potatoes.  I highly recommend you do the same!

And finally, my favorite bacon tribute from Jim Gaffigan.
http://www.glumbert.com/embed/gaffiganbacon

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3 Responses to "It's Better With Bacon…"

  1. elsbeth says:

    that looks sooooooooooooo delicious!! thank you for including the recipe, because the 1st thing i thought to myself is RECIPE PLEASE! will make tonight and report back!

  2. Divasmama says:

    Sounds great. But, what size of roast? I need such info, I’m anal like that.

    Keep up the great work!

    • nativenapkin says:

      We used about a 4lb. de-boned shoulder roast. The recipe makes enough of the rub to cover a pretty good sized chunk of pig; we had a little surplus.

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