You hear from me all the time about the lurve of my life, Bunneh. Well, today as a special treat he’s in charge of the blog and talking about one of his favorite things…cooking a large chunk of meat. So everyone be nice…and random commentary from yours truly is in italics.
I like meat. No really. I really really like meat. (Despite the fact he’s a Bunneh…go figure.) That is what I learned to cook way back when I first started trying to learn how to make food for myself. The first thing I taught myself to make was roasted chicken thighs. As I gained experience I started making bigger and bigger cuts. But here is the thing, meat by itself is just so so. The great thing about meat is that almost any way you cook it it produces almost everything you need to make gravy. And gravy makes any meat better, and it makes good meat great.
The second thing you should know is that I really enjoy cooking, WHEN I can find the time to make it right. I get frustrated when I don’t have time to make something good. That is why I like weekend cooking the best. On the weekend Kitteh and I can spend the time to make plans for a complete meal and even better, have the time to do it right.
This last weekend was a perfect example of this process. We started when Kitteh brought home a pork sirloin bone-in roast. The roast sat in our fridge for a day, taunting us with the possibilities that could be made from it. Just like real life though, Friday evening and most of Saturday were consumed by problems with work and other real life activities.
Sunday morning dawned, bright and cool and still the pork sat in the fridge, teasing us with its potential. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it yet, but I remembered the words of a wise man who once said, “Like all pork applications, this one begins with a brine”. Yes, with the voice of Alton Brown echoing in my Bunneh ears, I made his quick two hour mustard brine. (Yes…in the world of brines two hours is quick.)
2 Cups apple cider vinegar
1 Cup kosher salt
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon ground mustard seed
1 Pound ice
Combine everything but the ice into a saucepan, and heat until nicely warm. Let it sit and cool while the flavors blend, then add the ice to complete the cooling. Put the pork into a big plastic bag and add the cooled brine. Put it into the fridge (put the bag in a bowl or dish, I’m just sayin’) and chill for at least two hours. We did about 3 and a half today. Then pull the pork out and rinse the brine off.
So great, I had pork in a brine but I still didn’t know what I wanted. Some poking around the kitchen revealed some fancy pasta we’ve been looking for an excuse to use. It was a present I brought back for Kitteh from a trip to LA. The pasta is made by Pappardelle’s and we had some of their Tomato and Cracked Pepper flavor. It’s a beautiful rose orange color and the description got me thinking along the lines of Italian flavors.
I prefer my pork to be moist and tender which means a slow cooking process is usually my preference. Hmmmm, braising is slow. With the method and flavors in mind all that was left was the cooking. Here is how it all came together.
1 pork roast.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and ground pepper to cover
Vegetable or Chicken or Pork stock
1 Onion, yellow or white, chopped into large pieces
10 peeled garlic cloves
1 Handful of ground oregano
OK, here is another thing you might want to know about how Bunneh cooks. I’m not really good at measuring. I tend to add things until it smells right. This makes it really really really hard to reproduce the results when something turns out great, so I recommend that you never ever do it. In fact go ahead and use this recipe and leave the measurements (if it works for you!) in the comments so I can write it down. Thanks.
I used my all time favorite cast iron dutch oven for this meal. First heat the oil in the dutch oven on the stove top, over a medium to medium high heat. Season the meat all over with salt and pepper and sear in the dutch oven to form a nice crust. DO NOT MOVE THE MEAT UNTIL YOU FLIP IT TO A NEW SIDE. Whew… uhh, sorry for shouting there. Really, if you want the delicious crust on your meat you put it in the pan and leave it on a side for four to six minutes per side without moving it. The whole point of this step is to form the complex flavors when proteins reach a really high heat. And moving the meat will defeat this process.
Once each side has been properly seared, add the stock until it’s a bit more than halfway up the side of the meat. Add your onion, garlic and oregano and bring it back to a boil. Cover and place into a 350 degree oven. Cook for 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours depending on the size of your roast. We hit 170 degrees right about at three hours. Pull the roast out to a board and cover with foil to rest.
Now comes the magic. Gravy. Mmmmmm. Say it with me, you know you want to. Mmmmm, Grrrraaaaavy. (If Bunneh ever becomes a zombie he won’t go for brains without gravy…just saying.)
Scoop out about a cup and a half of the sauce left in the pan. Don’t worry if you get some of the onion or garlic, but if you do be sure to chop it into small pieces, or put back into the pan. (We’ll use it later. Really.) Taste it. I used a finger, but I’d never tell anyone that. Use a spoon. Add pepper, or salt or Italian seasoning to taste. Once the flavor is right, add about ¼ cup of Ultra Gel and whisk well. After about three minutes test the consistency and add more Ultra Gel or liquid as needed.
Slice the meat (save the bone! We’ll use it later. Really.) Serve with pasta and green beans. Drizzle gravy over the top of the meat and pasta and serve warm. It was delicious. Kitteh and I both ended up with happy tummies once we were done.
Now, remember the left over bits? This will make a stock. We’ll do this the next day or next weekend. In a large stock pot, put in the reserved bone, the left over sauce, one chopped onion, two chopped carrots and three chopped celery stalks. If you have fresh parsely or other fresh herbs add them. Then add water to cover. Heat to a simmer and let it go for hours and hours, adding more water each time it reduces by half. When the bone looks pitted and weak, and the sauce is dark and fragrant strain everything out of your stock and save it for the next time you make something. Homemade stock is the best so be sure not to forget this step. It usually makes 5-7 ½ cups depending on the size of the bone. We usually put 2 ½ cups into a zip top bag and freeze it (after labeling it so we know what it is) so we have some when we need it. (And it goes into everything… we generally try to keep pork, beef, chicken and veggie stocks on hand. Canned broth is one thing, but the rich flavor of homemade just cannot be beat.)
Thanks again to my sweetie, hopefully he’ll star on the blog again soon.