Sunday, November 18, 2007

Garlic Stuffed Pork Roast with Cranberry Glaze

This is an easy roast, especially for those who don’t cook. I mean, let’s face it. Just the word “roast” sounds impressive, reminiscent of some long-lost housewifey tradition or closely guarded chef’s secret stuffed in a kitchen vault somewhere. But don’t be intimidated. A roast is just a big piece of meat that can pretty much take care of itself while you take all the credit.

Say you have guests coming over. You can’t cook and you were thinking of grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the local market. Don’t do it. With this roast you can look like a pro, and it takes no skill whatsoever, yet it’s delicious and smells divine.

This is a 2 pound pork ribeye roast, and can feed 6 adults if sliced and served with sides. If you’re just two guys eating, you’ll probably both eat half – go on, admit it. I picked it up at Wally World of all places, so you know we’re not talking anything that’s hard to find or a special trip to a butcher. If you get a better cut of meat, good on ya, but it’s not necessary.

You can see the little blue pop up thermometer in there – it makes cooking this thing foolproof. When it pops up, the roast is done. That’s it!

Ok now here’s how we take this blank slate and “trick it out” so to speak. I worked from the bottom of the roast, not the side with the popup thermometer, and using a sharp knife I essentially stabbed the roast. Or more specifically, in regular intervals about 2 inches apart I cut deep slits into the roast, and inserted large chunks cut from about 5 healthy cloves (not heads) of garlic (peeled, of course). The end result is the meat is studded throughout with chunks of garlic. Use less if you don’t just love garlic, because 5 cloves for this little roast is a LOT. You have been warned.

Now here’s where we Pimp My Pork. Thickly slice one medium yellow onion and place it in the center of a roasting pan to make a nice bed for your roast. I like to use a perforated pan or rack placed in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet. The roast does drip but not much. To make clean up easier you can line the pan or sheet w/ aluminum foil but I never think to do this until I’m washing the darned thing after the fact. Anyway, top the onion “bed” with plenty of fresh thyme sprigs, and don’t even bother “stemming” the thyme; just lay them as-is on top of the onions. Now place your roast on the “bed” and season generously with salt, pepper and cumin (don’t have cumin, don’t worry about it). Top with “stemmed” thyme, about 1 teaspoon. Don’t have fresh thyme? Don’t sweat it. Use dried. Use some of that groovy ubiquitous “Italian Herb Blend” that goes with everything. Remember, this is easy and foolproof.

Ok into a 350 degree oven she goes for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the pop up thermometer pops up. Resist the urge to open the oven door for at least an hour if you have a roast in the neighborhood of 2 pounds (or 1.79 pounds, as in this case). This is the best part, because while it’s cooking away, you have an hour to do something else. Make side dishes, go get dressed and set the table, clean up the kitchen so it looks like you never broke a sweat, wash the car, call your mother, start some laundry, read some books to the kids … whatever you gotta do. Set your oven timer and you’re off the clock for an hour. When the hour is up, make the glaze. It takes all of five minutes.

This glaze, and others like it, is the best use of that cranberry jelly that’s stocked sky high in supermarkets around Thanksgiving. This time of year Michael starts buying this stuff like it’s going out of style, although I’ve never seen him actually EAT it, so it’s usually in my pantry and I just have to check for expiration dates (does it expire?). Put 3 tablespoons of cranberry jelly (or orange marmalade if you have it instead) in a small pan, add ¼ cup of orange juice and over medium heat, stir until it all blends together. It should have a consistency slightly thicker than pancake syrup. That’s it. If you want, you can add some dashes of ground ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper etc. But I wanted the garlic and thyme to really stand out on this roast so I left it as is.

Once your pop up thermometer pops up, spoon this glaze all over the top of the roast, and put it back in the oven. Crank up the temp to 500 degrees for 3-5 minutes. The roast is probably done to about medium now, or possibly a little more. (From my restaurant experience of serving hundreds of pork loins I can speculate that most people don’t eat medium rare pork, but if that’s your preference, glaze it at one hour and pull it from the oven as soon as the thermometer pops up.) Pull the roast out of the oven and let it sit on the cutting board for a good 5-10 minutes so the juices distribute evenly throughout the meat, or at least that’s what we’re taught in culinary school. Discard the onion and thyme “bed”.

Now when you slice this, use a long sharp knife and cut across the grain using long slow strokes. Not only do you get nice slices that way, but it’s more dramatic when you’re slicing at the table for presentation. All eyes will be on you, and each slice will fall down dramatically, studded with garlic and filling up the room with fantastic aroma. You will look like such “da man” or “da wo-man” and your guests will actually start to introduce you as a “great cook” at parties.