Since we were away for the holiday, we had Easter dinner for my daughters and granddaughters yesterday (two weeks after the holiday) That was ok, but my granddaughter, Kaitlyn was a little disappointed that we didn't have an Easter Egg hunt (the priorities of five year olds!). I decided on the roast pork because it was an Easter meal, and on the risotto because it was a good substitute for meat which my wife doesn't eat. The Last Supper, shown above hangs in our dining room, a reminder of my Italian parents from whom I inherited the lease to our apartment and the love of preparing meals for family. I will give instructions for preparing each course in the meal, but understand that cooking a meal like this requires you to think ahead and do tasks in different time frames so that everything is done at the same time.
The antipasti included olives and tomato chunks (for the kids) roasted peppers, sopresatta and cheese. I served it with grilled slices of Italian bread. The roast peppers were the only part of the plate I made.
For this much roasted peppers, I used two red bell peppers which I roasted in the oven (Grandma used to do it on the stove over an open flame, but that is messier) at 400 degrees turning them every 15 minutes or so till the skin is charred. After they cool, peel off the skin, remove the seeds and ribs and drain the juice. Then add capers, sliced olives, a crushed clove of garlic, a little salt and extra virgin olive oil. Let marinate for at least 2 hours before serving.
May I remind you that when doing a meal like this which requires a lot of cutting, sharpen your knives! Nothing is more frustrating and more dangerous than dull knives. I use the electric Chef's Choice sharpener. It does a good job.
The Roast Pork
I use a method of cooking pork which I took from the magazine, Chef's Choice. I learned of this magazine while working at the restaurant and subscribed to the next ten years from 1993 to 2003. At the end of every year, I bought a bound copy of all the magazines for the year with an index to every recipe. After 10 years, I obtained an index of every features in the magazine for ten years. I find it to be an invaluable resource. The recipe I used recommended buying a rack of chops from the shoulder end of the ribs and dry curing it for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. You do this by lining a pan with paper towels and placing the ribs on a rack. Rub about a tablespoon of kosher salt into the chops and place them uncovered in the fridge.
After 5 days, the meat forms a thin, hardened layer on the outside which needs to be shaved before proceeding.This process allows the meat to stay moist and flavorful during cooking. (In the same way as brining does).Oh! I forgot to mention to tell the butcher to cut through the chine bone for easy slicing.
This is what the meat looks like after shaving off the dry portions which you see to the left of the chops.
Before roasting it in a 250 degree oven for an hour and a half, you must marinate it. I used garlic, sage leaves (thyme or rosemary would be good too) pepper and olive oil (no salt). Just rub the marinade on and place it in the oven.It should be on a rack and the pan should have a carrot and onion cut up and some sherry, Marsala, Madeira or white wine on the bottom. Roast it till it reaches a temperature of 120 degrees.Then, turn the heat up to 425 degrees. After 5 -10 minutes, add a cup of water to the pan and continue roasting (about 20 minutes) till an instant read thermometer reaches 145 degrees. Then take it out and rest it for 20 minutes or so.
While the meat is resting, make the gravy with the pan drippings. Add a half cup of water and a TBS. of flour to the pan, stirring it to make sure there are no lumps. Then add a cup of stock and simmer it for 10 minutes. Strain it into a gravy boat.
I love onions and apples with pork. While just plain apple sauce is great, I decided to mix both. So, I started with about 4 medium sized onions sliced, and cooked them covered, over slow for about 25 minutes.
The trick is to use a heavy bottomed skillet and cook the onions slowly with olive oil, butter and a couple of sage leaves. Stir them often while cooking so they don't burn.
About half way through, toss a cut up apple into the pan and let it soften. Before plating, you can add some wine, sherry or dark rum to the pan for deglazing.
To make the risotto, you will need a cup and a half of Abborio rice, a 1/2 cup of dry white wine, 32 ozs. of vegetable stock,3 shallots diced, a bunch of asparagus trimmed and sliced on the bias, about 20 fava bean pods, the zest of one lemon , grated parmigiana, and 2 TBS of butter.
Start with a large pan of boiling, well salted water. Add your trimmed asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes until they are tender. Lay them out on a baking sheet to cool.
Take the fava beans out of their pods and cook them in the same water you used for the asparagus.After the fava beans cool, the light green outer shell of the beans must be removed. This is not a difficult task. If you've never eaten them, fava beans are definitely worth the trouble.
Begin the risotto by heating the stock gently. While it heats, prepare the pot you will cook the rice in by heating olive oil and a TBS of butter.Gently cook the diced shallots in the pot being careful not to brown them.
Add the rice to the pot with the softened shallots. Toast the rice in the oil and butter till it begins to puff up and smell slightly toasty. Then, add the wine and cook till it is evaporated. You need to make sure the rice is bubbling in the liquid but very gently. After the wine is evaporated, add a ladle and a half of hot stock to the pot.Remember, the rice should be gently cooking in the stock. Stir it often.
Patience and watchfulness is required. You must assure that there is always a thin veil of stock around the rice. Add more stock a ladle at a time. Taste the rice occasionally. You want it to be soft, but still have a "bite" to it like andante pasta.Unless the rice is very fresh, it should require most of the 32 ozs. of stock. When it's done, remove it from the heat.
Gently fold in the remaining butter, the asparagus, fava beans, lemon zest and cheese. Serve it immediately.
I also prepared a salad of greens, tomatoes,cucumbers and olives. As is the tradition in the Ambrosino household, we served this after the meal. About an hour later, the grand kids, Auntie Margaret and I made dessert-the same one as in my last post, Apple/strawberry turnovers served with vanilla ice cream.The kids helped rolling out the dough and egg washing the turnovers with grandpa.