Sorry to my veggie and vegan friends, but there’s not much of this that can be vegan, except the roast potatoes. And I’d recommend them highly! But skip to that part, if you don’t mind.
Carnivores, read on! I’d been waiting for this for some time, and it took me years to find it. As I recounted in my roast chicken blog, a Sunday roast is an English tradition, and I got quite attached to a nice pork roast, especially the crackling. My English friends would agree—you just can’t have a roast pork without the crackling. It’s just not cricket, darling.
So off I went to several “butchers” in Orange County, and at least three promised that they could get me a pork roast with skin on (for the crackling). All of them failed me, and usually when I went to pick it up. This happened once for my Valentine’s Day dinner. Really? You schmuck. I can’t believe you couldn’t call me to let me know so I could change my menu!
Anyhoo, I had just about given up hope until my lovely friends the Horanimals found a butcher in Los Feliz, McCalls Meat & Fish. Now we’re talking. I called up Nathan, the proprietor, and spoke to him at length.
“I’ve been lied to before,” I told him. “I don’t want to be let down again.”
“I understand,” Nathan replied. “I can get it for you, I promise. I have lots of expats that come in and ask for it.”
And that was the magic phrase: Expats. He knew what he was doing. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time before our planned dinner to order the proper roast, but we got one of his pork tenderloins and it was amazing, stuffed with spinach, cheese and prosciutto. Mmm, I’ll have to make that one again!
But recently we were going up to see the Horanimals, and I had enough time to preorder the roast. What I love about McCalls is that Nathan took the time to fully understand the cut I wanted, how I wanted it prepped, how many people there were going to be, and the all-important question: You’ll want some for leftovers, right? Of course!
On the appointed day, we drove to Los Feliz, which is up by the Griffith Observatory, past Dodgers Stadium. We had to go up the 5, instead of the 405, which is never the preferred option. Suffice to say that it was not on our way to West Hollywood in any way, shape or form. But, dear reader, it was worth it!
It was a thing of beauty, and I feverishly read up on the best way to prep it, which was to dry off the skin and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight. The next day we covered it in oil, salt, pepper and shoved slivers of garlic every place we could. Large sprigs of rosemary straight from the garden were worked up under the string that trussed the pork loin. Since I was out of practice, it took for-freaking-ever, but the end result was lovely. Here’s the recipe and, as they would say back in the U.K., the method:
1 pork loin, boneless wrapped with the skin
2 green apples (Granny Smith)
4 -6 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A proper butcher, like Nathan at McCalls, will be able to prepare the roast properly for you. As I said before, if you can get it with the skin on it, dry it and leave it uncovered in the fridge the night before you are going to cook it. Make sure you count back from when you want to serve, as if you have a big piece of meat, it’s going to take some time to cook and prepare.
Rub the pork all over with the olive oil and tuck the garlic and rosemary in where you can, under the skin and in every nook and cranny. Generously salt and pepper that bad boy and put it in a shallow roasting tin. Use a rack if you like. Tuck the apples and parsnips in if it’s not a big roast; if it’s about 2-3 pounds, you can throw them in now. Get it in a hot oven, 425 degrees F, for 20 minutes to get the crackling started well.
Now turn down the oven to 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes per pound; please use a thermometer to make sure that the pork is cooked. I followed a recipe that said 30 minutes per pound, and I feel it got a little overdone. Take the pork and veggies out of the pan and throw in a glass of white wine to make a thin gravy. Scrape up any yummy bits that are on the bottom of the pan and get them all mixed up.
I love to cook the roast potatoes separately, and here’s the recipe below (thanks to Nigel Slater):
Peel and cut your potatoes into chunks the size of golf balls or a bit bigger. They don’t have to be perfectly round; a jagged or squared-off shape is fine. Put them in a large pot and cover them with water; bring to a boil. Get your oil (we like to use duck fat, but olive oil works well too) nice and hot in the oven in a roasting tin at 400 degrees F.
Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes; drain. This is the best part: shake the pan with the potatoes in it to get them a little roughed up. Then carefully place them in the pan with the hot oil/fat without splashing the oil everywhere. Stir the potatoes so they are covered in the hot oil, and salt them nicely. Bake them for about 45 minutes, and only stir once or twice so they get a lovely crisp on them.
These potatoes are delicious with just about everything, but especially a roast dinner! I’ll do a bubble and squeak recipe too one of these days—a wonderful, morning-after-roast breakfast that’s another English specialty.