So this post is really late. We've already finished one month of 2012 and I still haven't updated my Christmas Dinner post - so here goes.
Christmas Eve was held at our place this year and my Parents, my Brother and his two daughters and my Brother in Law, wife and son came over. Mom in law was in Australia with my niece so they couldn't make it while my eldest brother and his wife had another function on. So all in all, including the four of us, I had to make dinner for 12 people.
You've already seen the menu that I put up in my last post but as usual, planning the menu wasn't an easy task. The Lovely Wife and I spent many an hour pondering what to make. I wanted to go with something tried and tested as, after all, there were 12 people to cook for and I couldn't very well afford a disaster.
Funnily enough though, what we finally decided upon included quite a few new dishes - or at least new recipes. First up on the decision tree was Roast Pork. The Lovely Wife and I figured that we wanted something that could stand up on its own as a main meal. Now I've never made Roast Pork in my life before but as they say, there's always a first time for everything.
To complement the Pork and to cater for anyone that may have wanted something else as well as a safeguard in case the pork went awry, I decided to make my Chicken Cacciatore - very delicious and something tried and tested.
So the two main meals were chosen. Mashed Potatoes would go with both the chicken and the pork so the potatoes would be the carbohydrates. The Lovely Wife would make a nice salad and it looked like we were done.
However, I felt that there wasn't enough food to serve. It was Christmas after all! That's when I decided on Crostini and also Corn Muffins. I've made corn muffins before but those were sweetish muffins. I wanted these to be savoury to complement the pork and/or chicken.
Finally, Dessert was chosen and the menu was complete.
So lets start with the Slow Roasted Pork.
As I said before, I've never made Roast Pork before. In deciding how to make the pork, I remembered an episode of Jamie Oliver where he made this Pork Roast with crackling. I did a search on the web and found his recipe for Slow Roasted Pork. The recipe looked just great and I decided I would serve it with my own Applesauce recipe.
The more I looked at the recipe though, the more I got intimidated. I worried that the pork wouldn't be tender or that it would be undercooked. The most intimidating part was not knowing what cut of pork to use. A quick trip to my Pork Butcher quickly solved that.
Now allow me to digress a little. When I was young, and I mean really young, I used to follow Mom to the market in town - the Central Market. In those days, the Central Market was really quite a mess - all wet and smelly. These days, the Central Market has been transformed into an Art and Craft centre and has become a tourist attraction.
So anyway, back in those days, each section of the market had a whole range of different vendors and Mom had her favourites. The Chicken Lady was the second stall on the left in the chicken area while her Vegetable Man was on the third or fourth row of vegetable sellers.
And then there was Jimmy. He was her Pork Man and he was a really friendly chap. Sometimes, Mom would preorder pork from him and send me in to pick up the meat while she waited outside in the car. He would always smile when he saw me and call out in a loud jovial voice "Ah! Teacher's Son!"
Once the Central Market closed down, Jimmy moved to the Taman Tun Market and I have paid him a visit there every once in a while over the years. So that is where I went, one week before Christmas, to make an order for the pork.
Just like days of yore, I waited in line but this time with my son in tow. When I reached the head of the line, I smiled at the bubbly pork seller in front of me. "Jimmy. Remember me?"
His eyes scanned my face and then the face of my son. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he yelled out. "Ah! Teacher's Son! How's your mother? What you want? What you want to make?"
I explained to him that I wanted to do a Roast Pork - western style and that I wanted a loin or shoulder. Jimmy proceeded to explain that the best part would be the shoulder - deboned and tied up as the shoulder had a lot of fat. "When you want it? You want it now?"
I arranged to pick it up from him on Christmas Eve and when I did, it was a lovely cut, just under 2kg and with the skin scored nicely. I was beginning to get really excited about the Roast Pork.
about 2kg shoulder of pork, skin on
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Large onion, halved
2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
1 bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves
4-6 fresh bay leaves
600ml water or vegetable stock
4 Granny Smith apples, pared and cubed
2 tbsp brown sugar
1-2 cinnamon stems (or 1-2 tsp cinammon powder)
Preheat your oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.
Place your pork on a clean work surface, skin-side up. Get yourself a small sharp knife and make scores about a centimetre apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat. If the joint is tied, try not to cut through the string. Rub salt right into all the scores you’ve just made, pulling the skin apart a little if you need to.
Brush any excess salt off the surface then turn it over. Season the underside of the meat with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Place your pork, skin-side up, in a roasting tray and pop in the preheated oven. Roast for 30 minutes, until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see it turning into crackling. At this point, turn the heat down to 170°C/325 F/gas 3, cover the pork snugly with a double layer of tinfoil, pop back in the oven and roast for a further 4 and a half hours.
Take out of the oven, take the foil off, and baste the meat with the fat in the bottom of the tray. Carefully lift the pork up and transfer to a chopping board. Spoon all but a couple of tablespoons of fat out (save it for roast potatoes!).
Add all the veg, garlic and bay leaves to the tray and stir them into the fat. Place the pork back on top of everything and return to the stove without the foil to roast for another hour. By this time the meat should be meltingly soft and tender.
Carefully move the meat to a serving dish, cover again with tinfoil and leave to rest while you make your gravy. Spoon away any fat in the tray, then add the water or stock and place the tray on the hob. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to scrape up all those lovely sticky tasty bits on the bottom of the tray. When you’ve got a nice, dark gravy, pour it through a sieve into a bowl or gravy boat, using your spoon to really push all the goodness of the veg through the sieve. Add a little more salt and pepper if it needs it.
Serve the pork and crackling with your jug of gravy
Combine the apples, sugar, cinammon and 1 cup water in a heavy saucepan.
Cook for 20 minutes until apples are soft. Mash up or process the apples in food processor till smooth. Set aside. Add more sugar or cinnamon as needed.
Now the beauty about this recipe is that there really isn't a whole lot for you to do. You season the underside with salt and pepper and then rub the skin generously with salt before throwing it in the oven. One key factor is to make sure the skin is dried properly after washing and before seasoning.
The pork sits in the oven for an hour on high, high heat. I expected to see the skin crackling at this point but it just kind of dries out and puffs up a little. The heat is then reduced to 170C and the pork covered with foil. The meat is left to slow cook now for around four hours. Then the foil is removed and the pork is basted with its own juices. You throw in some vegetables at this point and place the pork on top of all the veges. It's then returned to the oven without the foil to roast for another hour.
When I took the roast out, it was just amazing. The skin was nice and crackly and almost separated from the meat as the layer of fat underneath the skin was all gooey and melted goodness. I let the meat rest and made a gravy like the recipe said - adding water to the juices and vegetables and then reducing it. The whole kitchen was filled with the lovely aroma of roasted meat.
When I served the pork roast, the meat was very, very tender and fell away with the slightest of prodding. Fabulous, simply fabulous! It went really, really well with mustard and the applesauce that I made and to say that the Roast Pork was a hit would be an understatement. It was simply sensational! The gravy was very tasty as well and not at all overpowering like some gravy can be.
This is definitely something that I would make again especially when there are a lot of mouths to feed. Thankyou Jamie Oliver for this lovely recipe!