So, this is it. My new, “impress the company” meal. The reason we don’t need to go out for fancy dinners. I mean, why should I pay someone to make dinner when things this good can come out of my oven?
Because then someone else does the dishes? Oh, OK, fine. 😉
Kitchen clean-up aside, this is one of those dishes you want to have in your back pocket, just in case someone important is coming for dinner. Like the president. Or the boss. (Do people really invite their bosses over for dinner anymore? Or is that an only-in-the-50s-on-TV thing?) Or your favorite friends. (Let’s face it; those are the people that I REALLY want to impress.)
Like most rolled items, it’s visually stunning (although my picture isn’t the greatest), and with pancetta, garlic, rosemary and lemon, it’s off the charts, flavor-wise. The pan sauce (made with the lemon-infused olive oil and juice of a caramelized lemon) is so good, I could drink it by itself.
The first time I made this, it literally took me all afternoon. Granted, I also made lemon pudding cakes, salad and garlic mashed potatoes to serve WITH the roast, but still. We loved it, but I figured that I’d only make it once a year (at the most). Who wants to spend ALL DAY fussing with dinner? (OK, I do, but let’s be realistic here. I also have to go to work, clean the house and have a life. Ha.)
When I realized that we were flying solo for Easter, I decided to give the roast another try. Andy was a little worried about us eating Easter dinner at 7 p.m., but I thought it might be possible to “pause” the recipe and chill the roast after rolling and tying the meat. That way, I could assemble the roast on Saturday, then put the roast in the oven Sunday before church and use the delayed start to ensure that it was ready when we came home.
And you know what? It worked! I was a little concerned that the overnight rest would make the roast too salty, or draw out too much moisture, but I didn’t notice any issues with the final result! It also didn’t take me nearly as long to make the roast the second time around, so either making it over two days REALLY helps or I just had to get over the learning curve.
Now that I am over the curve, I will definitely make this more than once or twice a year, even if the president isn’t coming for dinner. 😉
Tuscan-Style Roast Pork with Garlic and Rosemary
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 2-1/2 lb. boneless center-cut pork loin roast, trimmed
Grate 1 teaspoon of zest from the lemon. Cut the lemon in half and set it aside.
In a large skillet (nonstick if you have it, but it’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t), combine the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the garlic is sizzling. This should take about 3 minutes. Add the rosemary and cook for about 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from heat. Set a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl and pour the olive oil mixture through the strainer. Press on the mixture with a spatula to extract as much oil as possible. Set the bowl and strainer aside and allow the mixture to cool. Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet.
Process the pancetta in the food processor until it becomes a smooth paste, about 30 seconds. Add the cooled garlic / rosemary mixture and to the food processor and continue to process until the mixture is smooth and homogeneous, about another 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Next, double-butterfly the pork roast. Position the roast on a large cutting board with the fat side up. Insert a knife one-third of the way up from the bottom of the roast along the long side of the roast and cut horizontally. Stop cutting 1/2″ before the edge. Open up the flap. Keep the knife parallel to the cutting board and cut through the thicker portion of the roast, about 1/2″ from the bottom of the roast. Keep the knife level with the first cut and stop about 1/2″ before the edge. Open up the second flap. If the meat is uneven, cover it with plastic wrap and use a rolling pin (or meat pounder, if you have one of those) to even it out.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon kosher salt over each side of the roast, pressing it into the meat so that it adheres. Spread the inside of the roast with the pancetta paste, stopping about 1/4″ from the edges of the roast. Start on a short side of the roast and roll it up, keeping the fat on the outside of the roast. Tie with twine at 1″ intervals.
Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and spray the rack with cooking spray. Place the roast, fat side up, on the wire rack and set in the refrigerator for one hour. (This is where I left it overnight, and we couldn’t tell the difference.)
Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 275°. Remove the roast from the refrigerator and cook until the meat registers 135°, somewhere between 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the roast from the oven, tent with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes .
While the roast is resting, heat 1 teaspoon of the reserved olive oil over high heat until just smoking. Add the reserved lemon halves cut-side down and cook until softened and cut surfaces are browned, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the lemons to a small plate.
Remove the foil from the roast and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in the now-empty skillet over high heat until the oil starts smoking. Brown the roast on the top (fat side) and on the sides of the roast, about 4-6 minutes. Do not brown the bottom of the roast.
Take the roast out of the pan and place it on a cutting board. Remove the twine and slice the roast into 1/4″ thick slices. Place the slices on a serving platter.
Take the lemon halves and squeeze them over a fine mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Press on all of the solids with a spatula, making sure to extract all of the pulp. Whisk 2 tablespoons of the reserved olive oil into the lemon juice. Pour the vinaigrette into a serving dish and serve alongside the roast.
From Cook’s Illustrated, January / February 2016
Click here for a printable version.