Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

As I mentioned at Christmas, I’m not such a fan of big roasts for small families. And yet that roast–which was very good–and more importantly the ensuing Cuban sandwiches kind of converted me to this way of cooking, at least occasionally. We’re rarely lacking in charcuterie (currently there’s duck prosciutto, bresaola, and both tongue and brisket pastrami on hand, plus guanciale and lardo, AND the whole ham from John) so, especially given all the bread I’ve been baking, lavishly delicatesque meatwiches are pretty much always an option. But, you know, a true Cuban sandwich requires two kinds of pork, so this dinner is what tomorrow’s lunch demanded.

So I brined the loin roast with herbs and garlic and soy sauce and then removed it, patted it dry, besprinkled it with fresh chopped herbs, and stuck in a 450˚ oven on a bed of alliums (onion, leek, whole garlic cloves) until it got a nice brown on the top, at which point I lowered the temp to 300˚ until it got to 140˚ in the middle. I actually meant to take it out at 130˚ but was inevitably distracted by something else at that crucial period. It got perilously close to drying out, since a ten minute rest brought the center up another five or so degrees. Please don’t cook your pork past light pink. It gets so sad. To accompany, reheated mashed sweet potatoes from quail night, the caramelized jus-tified alliums, and cauliflower that I caramelized in a hot pan, then steamed with scallion and minced dried porcini. Cauliflower love porcini; they bring out something magically earthy and sweet in the vegetable whether in a luxe puréed soup or a simple steamed side like this. That combination of earthy and sweet was intended to play nicely with the wine.

Brooklynguy wrote a recent post exploring the whys and wherefores of big, fancy wine glasses and concluded that the biggest and fanciest–the Riedel Sommelier series Burgundy trough goblet–did indeed bring out nuances and details that went unnoticed in smaller vessels. Since I too have a couple of these, and I am a sucker for science, I decided to play along at home and see if my mileage varied from his. I poured the 1999 François Parent Vosne-Romanée that I had chosen to go with this archetypal Sunday dinner into both the giant Riedel and my everyday Ravenscroft glass, which is a damn fine piece of stemware in its own right: feather light, strong, and about a third the price of the $75 Riedel.

Initially, it was the nose that showed the most difference. One would assume that the much larger volume of the Riedel would dilute the volatile aromas of the wine, but somehow they were amplified instead, revealing not just the classic Burgundian sourdough toast and tart cherry notes but also subtler layers in between, including the truffle they helpfully put on the label. The Ravenscroft didn’t quite extract the same resolution, showing blurry pixels where the Riedel had fine lines. And the flavors were similarly different, with more subtlety and definition in the bigger glass. The best analogy I can think of is listening to the same music on two stereos, where one is good and the other costs as much as a very fast car. The one is fine until the other reveals things you never knew were there, even after hundreds of listens on your regular gear. There’s a thrilling presence, a holographic dimension to the experience, that elevates the experience from the regular to the extraordinary.

And this wine, though decent, is far from a masterpiece. “Vosne-Romanée” may sound fancy, given some of the properties there, but different parts of it can vary almost as widely as, say “New Jersey;” there are forty-odd producers in the appellation. This is just a village wine, albeit at a good age. But it was unquestionably more engaging, both sensually and cerebrally, in the bigger glass. I, like BG, plan on using these more often, especially to wring every nuance from the $15 bottles that are sadly much of what gets poured around here on the day-to-day. Life is short. Use the good glasses.

6 comments to Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

  • Very interesting. We received two of the ginormous glasses for a wedding gift but have rarely used them – now I will.

  • Janet

    A nice bit of roast you have there. My mother used to cook pork to death, but I like it with a hint of pink. So tasty.

  • Janet’s mother must have known my grandmother. She was so paranoid about pork. She wasn’t the one who cooked. Her husband did the cooking, but she hovered over him when he made any kind of pork. He would argue with her that if he overcooked it, the pork would be all dry and tough. This argument was a constant in their marriage. My mother remembers it from her childhood as well. You post about the cooking temperatures and making sure the pork is still pink brought it all back.

    I love the extravagance of a big pork roast, even if it is a bit over the top. My Christmas dinner was not very big, but how I loved being able to serve a giant molasses-glazed pork roast to the 5 or 6 people who might actually eat it.

  • Peter

    Zoomie: Try a decent to excellent wine in your regulars and the big ones and let me know.

    Janet: It’s the only way to do it.

    Rachel: I think we all did. Everyone was terrified of trichinosis (which is horrible) to the point of making it dry and awful. Brining and the like are useful to add flavor, but you can have incredibly juicy pork simply by cooking it to exactly the right temp.

  • Awesome. blew me away too, and i’ve been using them much more lately. everything else in my life is broken, if these break then the circle will be complete, as d. vader once said.

  • Peter

    My buddy John broke three of our glasses in one night a few years ago. Given what he brought to drink, it was totally worth it.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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