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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pork Roast for Fall--Cook Once, Serve Two or More Times


Pork is particularly well-priced right now, a perfect season for it since it pairs so well with many fall fruits and vegetables. I was able to buy this roast for only $1.39 a pound so have enough for at least 15 to 20 servings at a remarkably low price. With the continuing impact of the drought, I do wonder if we will look back next year at this price and wonder how we ever saw such bargains. For now, we can be thankful for the bargains and take advantage of them whenever possible.

While there is a little prep time involved with this recipe, the result will enable you to serve guests, to freeze some for a later meal, and/or to make sliced roast sandwiches, pulled pork, stir fry, burritos, etc. If so inclined, you could feed a family of four an entire week for a little over $10, and never duplicate the menu!

Autumn Pork Roast--and More
The Roast...

approximately 7 1/2 lb pork shoulder roast, bone in
1 large onion (about 2 cups), cut in julienne strips
2 to 3 c finely chopped apples, cored but not peeled (OR 1 to 1 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce)
1 T canola oil (optional; see NOTE)
1 t dried rosemary
1 t ginger
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg

1.            Cut the roast in two approximately equal pieces.(Cutting the roast into two pieces allows more surface of the meat to be in contact with the apples, onions, and seasonings.It also provides for more even cooking overall.)
2.            Heat the canola oil or trimmed fat (see NOTE) in a cast iron or other heavy skillet. When almost smoking, add one of the pieces of roast and brown on all sides. When all sides are browned, transfer to a large roasting pan. Repeat the browning with the second piece of meat.
3.            Cover the roasting pan and place in a 350 degree oven
4.            If using chopped apples, cover and microwave for about 3 to 4 minutes, until very tender.
5.            Saute the julienned onion in the juices in the skillet, cooking just until they have begun to brown. Stir in the apples or applesauce and seasoning.
6.            Spread the onion and apple mixture, with the juices, over the roast. Add a small amount of water if necessary to cover the bottom of the pan with liquid. Cover the pan and return to the oven.
7.            Turn the heat to 300 degrees and continue roasting for 3 to 4 hours, until the internal temperature is at least 145 degrees (though many, including myself) will prefer to cook longer, almost to the point of the meat falling apart, or 160 degrees or so.
8.            Remove the roast from the oven and allow to sit for at least 15 to 25 minutes. Skim the juices into a pan and thicken for gravy if desired or just serve with the meat juices as is. As the meat is sliced and served, provide salt and pepper to taste. (I do not salt the roast itself since that concentrates the saltiness only on the edges. As a result, most people still add more salt before eating, so you can reduce the ultimate sodium content with my approach.)
NOTE—the roast that I was using was so lean, there was not enough fat to adequately cover the pan while browning. If there is fat to be trimmed from the roast, cut it off and dice. Put it in the pan while heating to provide a thin layer of fat for browning, instead of using the oil. 

Slow Cooker Alternative
After sauteeing the roasts, place in a large (6 1/2 to 7 1/2 quart) slow cooker. Add the vegetables and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, depending on your cooker.


...And More

Here are more detailed suggestions for using the meat as the basis for several meals. Unless otherwise noted, these are for four servings each.

Day 1     Set aside one of the roasts for use later in the week (or freeze for later menu planning). Slice the remainder of the one served the first day and reheat in the microwave, with mashed potatoes and two vegetables, one yellow/orange, one green. On the golden side of the plate, try baked squash or carrots braised with some onion and celery as in the photo. For the green part of the palette, try broccoli or braised greens from the garden. Or, if you have some available, put steamed red cabbage on the plate as pictured.

The reserved juices can be thickened slightly with corn starch for a gravy for the potatoes and/or the meat. There should be enough meat for serving 6 to 7 people, so this could be an ideal meal for sharing with guests.  If fewer people are served, you can freeze the leftover meat and sauce for a later meal. If you have some divided freezer trays, you could also make your own frozen dinners with all of the leftover ingredients.

Day 2     Cut four thin slices off the second roast. Place each on a slice of good whole wheat (or rye) bread and add mustard, lettuce, Swiss or other cheese, and whatever other things you like for a hearty sandwich. Chewy hard rolls are another good bread alternative. Skip the lettuce and heat the sandwiches to go with a tossed salad and some apple cranberry sauce. 

Day 3     Prepare your favorite stuffing (from a mix if that fits your schedule best). Stir in half a chopped apple and/or some dried cranberries if desired.  Oil a microwave-safe serving dish large enough to arrange four thin slices of pork roast over the bottom. Spread the stuffing over the meat and return to the microwave to heat thoroughly. This goes well with some of the squash from the first day or cole slaw or a plate of mixed fruits.

Day 4 and/or Day 5   Time to go ethnic. The pieces of meat around the bone can be diced and used in a stir fry or with cheese, beans, salsa, etc., as the filling for hearty burritos. In fact, my roast ended up providing enough meat for both a stir fry and burritos.

Additional ideas   If you still have some meat and/or bone left, you could add this to your favorite split pea or lentil soup, for just a little extra heartiness. (Stirring a little into macaroni and cheese would be another option too.)  Though the meat doesn't have the seasonings of sausage or pepperoni, it could be added to a pizza, with extra oregano, fennel, etc., added for more zip.

And we didn't even get to Pulled Pork, a great way to use up those bits and pieces along with any extra juices. Just take all the scraps and stir them into a little of your favorite barbecue sauce, put on a bun and microwave until heated through. Can't get much easier (or more frugal) than that!

Freezing   The meat may be frozen to use for additional meals. Simply slice (or dice) and place in small plastic bags, each enough for four servings (or the size that best suits your household). Seal tightly to keep air out and then place the small bags in a larger freezer bag. Label with the date and use within two to three months.

The bottom line is this:
Sometimes that enormous looking roast that is at a bargain price can result in not only saving dollars on the budget; it can also save you time since the cooking is done once and then the meat is ready for all kinds of other meals. 


Cooking Hint for the Day:

To julienne onions:            Peel a whole onion and cut in half from pole to pole instead of around the equator. Cut each half in half, pole to pole. Lay each quarter flat on the cutting board and slice in thin slices, again pole to pole. If the onion is very large, you may want to make one more pole to pole cut to reduce the size of pieces. The result should look like this:






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