29 March 2010

Slow pork roast

Despite the hard work by pork producers to market "the other white meat," little has been done to keep people from cooking it to death.
I started my pork shoulder roast on Tuesday night, rubbing generous amounts of salt, thyme, garlic, pepper and rosemary into the flesh.  I wrapped it tightly and put it in the back of the icebox until Saturday afternoon.   A big roast, about 7 1/2 pounds, with a bone in it.  I let it move towards room temperature for a few hours before I put it into a 400 F oven, surrounded by big chunks of russet potatoes.  A few scoops of duck fat kept everything honest and well lubricated. 
I had to remove the potatoes from the roasting pan after about an hour because they were browning quickly and the roast still had awhile to go.  I cooked the roast until its internal temperature was just under 140 F, and removed it from the oven and covered it with foil; I used the resting time to finish the potatoes in a 9x13 pan, scooping a little of the fat to refresh the potatoes.
By the time we finished our salad, the thermometer in the roast almost read 160 F.  I cut a few slices and the meat was juicier than a greasy hamburger and still had a nice pink hue to it.  I served it with applesauce and a raisin-onion chutney.  The potatoes were crisp on the outside and baked-potato fluffy on the inside.
We drank a stunning 2005 Alsace Grand Cru Mambourg Gewurztraminer and the massive floral nose nearly knocked me over.  Simply swirling the glass made the dining room vernal.  The intensity of the Gewurztraminer bouquet is unmatched, I think, by any other wine. I don't swoon very often, but every time I raised the glass I first pulled it to my nose and inhaled the memory of springtime love, wet plum blossoms splashed against dark bark, old Chinese poets remembering their youth.  And with it, a still-pink, still-juicy pork roast with pork-and-duck-fat roasted potatoes.

14 March 2010

Confit of rabbit leg

I was going to roast a pork shoulder for dinner tonight but my wife and daughters went to see Mamma Mia, making a roast impractical, so I decided to break through the fat protecting my recently made rabbit confit and taste the early results.  After a day outside in the early spring sunshine, not turning on the oven was fine with me. 
Every batch of confit is different, and the changes I made while using rabbit for the first time worked well.  Encasing the legs in a sheath of pig skin, and keeping the oven under 200F for the long, slow cooking really preserved the flavor and lightness of the meat.
Unlike duck or goose legs, rabbits don't have any protective skin that wants crisping, so after I extracted the first two legs that broke free from fat, a brief sizzle in the pan was all that was needed.  Good mashed potatoes, and firm brussels sprouts rounded out the plate. 
I had a glass of a Kante 2005 Malvasia from Italy's Carso DOC, a beautiful dry, minerally white wine. The rabbit legs were given a rub of thyme and juniper berry before they were confited, and the lack of fruitiness in the wine let those seasonings continue, in their now-muted role, to linger.

11 March 2010

Rabbit: confit, sausage, meatballs, stock

This week I cut up two rabbits and made numerous things with them.  I was surprised at the 8 oz. hind legs, and as soon as I appreciated their size I thought of confit.  I hadn't made rabbit confit before, but the legs had the same feel as the numerous duck legs I've slipped into pots of fat. Some of my rabbit stews this winter haven't gone over well with the family, so I decided to treat the rabbits the same way I do ducks - differently.  I always cut up ducks and use the various parts separately; roasting a whole duck seems like a perfectly good way to ruin half a duck, so I keep away from that time-honored method.  
When I make pancetta I'm usually left with a big piece of pig skin which I throw in the freezer; I first thought of wrapping the long, lean loins in the pig skin and roasting them, but decided to use  the pig skin as a blanket, insulator, and moisturizer for the poaching-in-fat, slow-cooking rabbit leg confit.  After marinating the rabbit meat with a rub that contained juniper berries, thyme, garlic, salt and bay leaves, I unfolded a long piece of pig skin and put it on the bottom of the dutch oven.  The rabbit pieces went on top of that, after which I covered any exposed rabbit with another big piece of pig skin.  I melted a pan of duck fat and covered the whole thing, and put it into a slow, 200F oven. 
I made sausage with the loins and miscellaneous bits of meat, adding a little pork and back fat to the mixture.  The sausage meat also marinated overnight, and the three pounds of links will probably be grilled.  My meat grinder has a space in the front that, when I'm done grinding or stuffing, still holds nearly a pound of meat.  I made meatballs with that loose meat, adding breadcrumbs, eggs, shallots and a little more seasoning before forming small meatballs that I poached in a reduced rabbit stock, made from the stripped-bare carcasses and enhanced with onions, celery, etc...
My kids and I enjoyed a simple plate of pasta, peas and rabbit meatballs this evening, and we all look forward to our upcoming meals with this versatile animal. 

01 March 2010

Just Food's Winter Eat Local Challenge

Northfield's Just Foods Co-op is again sponsoring a week-long eat local food challenge.  I'm again joining with a group of Northfield bloggers during the Winter Eat Local Challenge to write about it.  It's fun to think about local food in Minnesota during the winter!  I hope you visit their website and get some good ideas for your own kitchen.  Here's a post I just wrote for the challenge:
Blueberries and planning