Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! Save a turkey!

No turkey suffered to make this post. While the whole nation was feasting on millions of turkeys, we decided to save a turkey, and went for the other white meat. It happened to be pork.

We started with pork rillettes that I made in advance: I just cooked the hell out of a fatty porl shoulder, cut into cubes, seasoned with thyme, bay leaves, juniper berries, salt and pepper, covered with water. After about 6 hours of low and slow cooking, the pork was tender and easy to shred with two forks. I then strained and degreased the cooking liquid (save the fat), reduced it a little more, packed the pulled pork into small containers, spooned some of the reduce liquid over it to make jelly, chilled, and then sealed it with reserved fat. At the time of serving I scraped the fat off, and we spread the rillettes on slices of walnut bread and ate it with my homemade tarragon killer mustard. The mustard made me cry, but otherwise it was all good.

The crown roast of pork usually takes a few days to absorb flavors of a dry rub that you put on it. Of course, I wasn't planning well, so I got the 3.5-pound 6-rib roast just the day before Thanksgiving. No problems! Technology comes to a rescue: my new gadget, FoodSaver vacuum sealer, doesn't just extend the life of the leftovers, it also helps to reduce marinating time of whatever meats you vacuum-pack with it.

I vacuum-seal everything these days. It does increase my carbon footpring; I toss much more plastic every day than I used to. OK, I use my canvas shopping bags to offset the damage, but I'm not giving up vacuum sealing. It's fun, it looks cool, and now R. can take weekend dinner leftovers for lunches all week long.

I've made a paste of garlic, sage, and rosemary, finely chopped with salt and pepper. Cut part-way through between the ribs and the meat of the roast, seasoned it with the paste inside and out, tied it together between the ribs, as if nothing happened, and vacuum sealed the whole thing. When I cut the plastic and roasted it the next day, the flavors in the meat were distributed very well.

The roast took a little over an hour in a 400-degrees oven to come to internal temperature of 135 degrees. I took it out at this point, covered with foil, and let it rest for about 25 minutes. The meat came out completely cooked, no pink, but still juicy.

We did the modern classics for the sides:
- Mashed sweet potatoes with parsley root, apple topping (of course, I'm still dealing with the tons of apples from my friend's garden)
- Roasted Brussels sprouts
- Arugula salad with fennel, pomegranate, and toasted almonds, pomegranate vinaigrette dressing

Finished with a simple puff pastry apple tart, served with Three Twins ice cream, and a glass of Amontillado sherry.
The last six jars of my apple butter are cooling in the canning pot right now. I think I'm done with the apples for this year. The orange season is close...

Happy Thanksgiving!

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