It’s The Joint

After making the terrines, I still had half the pork butt left over. And since it was Sunday and all, and the days have cooled noticeably lately, turning on the oven to roast it up seemed like a perfect idea.

I beslathered the hunk of meat with salt and pepper and put it in a hot oven (450˚) for about half an hour, then lowered the heat to 250˚ and sprinkled the whole thing with minced thyme and rosemary, adding a head’s worth of garlic cloves to the pan. Things started to smell awfully good shortly thereafter.

Our friend Liz had brought over a big bag of dandelion greens on Saturday, but I forgot about them in the tumult. This turned out to be a good thing, since they were washed and ready to be spun with garlic, lots of olive oil, a couple of ume plums, and some cider vinegar into a dark green mash. And I took the leftover polenta, scooped it out into croquettish dollops, and fried them gently until brown and crisp on both sides. The key to getting polenta to do this is to use enough oil, keep the heat modest, and don’t poke, prod or flip them until they are good and crisped up. Otherwise they will stick, and then fall apart, and dinner will be RUINED. For a more elegant effect, after making it pour your still-warm polenta into a baking dish so you can cut it into squares rather than spoon these erratic blobs out of the serving bowl that barely fit in the fridge what with all the smoked chicken carcasses and such that I had jammed in there.

And best of all, since that right there was all the cooking required, I got to hang out with the family some and do a little pre-dinner dishwashing (which almost never happens). After the roast came out and was resting, I poured some of the very garlicky fat from the baking pan into a skillet and warmed some of the previous night’s collards up in it. I don’t think I mentioned them in the last post; they were cooked low and slow with lamb bacon, shallots, and smoked chicken stock.

This was an excellent meal, and the pork fat-roasted garlic was like some sort of obscene candy. The mash was sharp and bitter, the greens smoky and silky, and the polenta super crunchy. Everything did something different, and they all did it at a very high level.

The next day, I cut all the remaining meat off the bone and used it in something like marmitako, the Basque tuna stew. I made a version of this with salmon a week or two ago, since the nightshades (at least those that the tree didn’t land on) are going off like crazy right now, and nobody took to that family of New World plants like the Basques.

First I cut the meat up into smallish pieces; the roast was nice and pink in the middle, and I didn’t want the meat to be tough since it wasn’t going to simmer for too long. I browned the meat all over, then added diced onion, shallot, and red pepper. After they started to soffritize, I added in cubed potatoes (Yukon golds, freshly dug by an enthusiastic child).

It’s too bad you can’t scratch and sniff that picture. To this fragrant ensemble I added a bunch of paste tomatoes; that bed is still going strong and I got a good handful. When there’s no time to skin them, I dice them so that the pieces of skin aren’t big enough to make a noticeable difference to the texture of the finished dish. And these blue beech tomatoes are insanely sweet even with the seeds and skins.

I added smoked chicken stock to keep it from sticking, and a generous handful of chopped parsley, saving some for the finish. And what a finish: al dente chunks of meat and just-soft potatoes in an unctuous, smoky sauce rich with peppers. One-pot wonders don’t get much better or easier than this. And there was finally some room in the fridge.

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  1. September 16

    That picture of the kiddo….that is the best kind of food photography! I should show you a picture of my husband gloating over a lemon tart I made. The cook’s true reward!

  2. September 16

    Damn, I wanted to say something witty but all I can manage is to drool on myself. Looks awesome.

  3. September 16

    Yeah: if you lived closer I would command you to redo leftovers at my house.

    But this reminds me, seeing it again: what’s that knife? It’s purty.

  4. September 16

    He Who Will Not Be Ignored gets the same look on his face when I cook a pork roast. As usual, you anticipated my plan for the leftover pork butt. If we lived near each other we’d generate a culinary vortex that would suck in every bit of decent food for miles.

  5. Peter
    September 16

    Christine: You should. Yes, adoring loved ones are the best reward.

    Janis: They have pills for that.

    El: I owe you some comments. It’s a Hattori santoku. HD series, about $150. It’s my favorite knife, and an excellent price/quality ratio in the field IMHO.

    David: A vortex of deliciousness.

    IB: I live to serve. I also have more spice than the Frugal Gourmet.

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