After all the years I have lived, the meals I have cooked, and the cookbooks I have written, you’d think I’d know how important it is to plan before you cook. This doesn’t have to be tedious, but it’s helpful if you know what you are going to do before you do it.
Christmas Eve dinner is a fancy one at the farm — or as fancy as anything at the farm can be. Good china, the crystal wine glasses from Ireland, and matching red napkins used pretty much only once a year. This year we decided to have pork, roasted potatoes, wilted greens, and a green salad. My sister and I bought what we needed but when it came to the pork I asked Dick and Jill if I could take a roast from their freezer.
Trouble was, when I dived into the freezer there wasn’t that much pork. This year’s animals were sold went to friends and so the pickins’ were slim: a very large loin or a reasonably sized pork shoulder. I went for the shoulder.
I let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator and the next day made a rub with whatever I could find in the rather scanty spice cupboard: paprika, 5-spice powder, thyme, and cayenne as well as salt and pepper. The roast sat out for about 90 minutes, nicely and liberally rubbed, and then I put it in a slow oven.
Here is where I went terribly wrong. I had no real idea how much the roast weighed. I figured four or five pounds, an educated guess. I also guessed it would need 20 minutes to the pound. I never checked to see if it was completely thawed. Boy, did I go wrong.
The oven at the farm is old and unreliable. It doesn’t hold its heat too evenly. Plus, it’s the only oven we have, and so the roast shared it with the potatoes, which we removed for some hors d’oeuvres that needed heating. The door was opened and closed, the heat raised and lowered. The roast looked great, it smelled better. Appetites were whetted.
I hung out in the kitchen swilling a very strong old fashioned and checking the temperature of the meat more often then I should have. Finally! The thermometer registered 150°F. Yea! Dinner was served.
The family meandered from living room to dining room. The screen was put in front of the fire, wine glasses were filled, and the salad was tossed.
I let the pork rest for a few minutes and then carved it. Two or three slices in. Pink, pink pork! And so it went for the next 30 minutes. The pork was put back in the oven, my good-natured family ate small pieces of pork alongside their larger helpings of potatoes, greens, and salad. I jumped up and down from my seat, slicing more pork from the roast until I hit the pink meat near the center. Back to the oven.
It was comical. But it was inexcusable. I know better. I was being lazy. I was relying on magical cooking. Pork shoulder should be braised, cooked slowly and cooked long.
In the end, the meat was tasty, but it was not what I had hoped. I can’t say it wasn’t what I had planned because I didn’t plan.
Copyright © Mary Goodbody