"Though a roast like this might seem more suited to cold-weather dining, there was something very springy about all the fresh herbs."
Tackling a giant bone-in roast isn't something that most of us take on more than once or twice a year, if that. But it's a skill certainly worth honing.
A hulking roast is a wonderfully impressive meal that not only feeds a crowd but also elicits plenty of ego-stroking ohhs and ahhs once it hits the table. Aside from being a great crowd-pleaser, the roast has a few other benefits. The labor is fairly minimal once you get the hang of tying it, and cooking a large piece of meat gives your guests the option of choosing a cut that can be anywhere from rare (the center cuts) or well-done (the outer edges).
But for all of the roast's glory I have to say that coming home from the butcher with a piece of meat—that's larger than your head—can be a little intimidating.
The brown paper-wrapped pork loin that I picked up for this Pork Rib Roast with Rosemary and Sage recipe from In The Green Kitchen by Alice Waters was cut to order by my butcher and handed over to me with two hands. It was a serious piece of meat.
According to Waters' recipe, the first order of business was to cut open the flap of meat that was covering the bones, and season it with chopped garlic, sage, rosemary, and plenty of salt and pepper. The flap of meat is reattached to the bones by tying the roast with kitchen twine. This is something that I've never really excelled at but, honestly, it's more for function than beauty (and allows you to show off your knot-tying skills).
Once the roast is seasoned and tied, it goes into the oven for about an hour. Like any great roast, it fills your kitchen with that scent of herby roasting meat that makes you impatiently wonder, are you finished already?
When the roast is done (you'll know when a thermometer reads 130°F), the pan is deglazed with water or stock to make a sauce and the meat is left to rest for 15 minutes. When it comes time to carve, Waters offers two methods of carving: The first is slicing the roast into thick caveman-worthy rib chops and the second—the more dainty method—is to slice off the rib portion and carve the loin, essentially giving you two different pork-eating experiences.
Though a roast like this might seem more suited to cold-weather dining, there was something very springy about all the fresh herbs. It was almost porchetta-like in flavor and when served with Waters' White Beans with Garlic and Herbs and some sautéed pea shoots, it was an ideal early spring meal.
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- 1 bone-in 4- to 5-rib pork loin
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
Open the flap of meat next to the rib bones and rub the garlic onto the meat and bones down to the loin meat. Sprinkle liberally with salt, ground pepper, and half of the rosemary and sage. Rub the seasonings into the meat. Reassemble the roast and use kitchen string to tie the meat and bones together. Season the outside of the roast, again liberally, with salt, pepper, and the remaining herbs, and rub into the meat. The chopped garlic goes on the inside of the roast; if rubbed onto the outside, it will burn in the oven. Wrap up the roast in the butcher paper, or lightly cover, and refrigerate.
Remove the roast from the refrigerator an hour or so before cooking to let it come to room temperature. Put it in a roasting pan, bone side down; the bones will make a sort of natural roasting rack. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cook the roast for 30 minutes for so, then turn it over in the roasting pan, bone side up, and cook for another 20 minutes. Turn the roast again, bone side down, and cook for another 20 minutes or so, until the internal temperature registers 130°F. When the roast is done, let is rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
Skim off some of the fat from the roasting pan, add some water or stock, and scrape up all of the browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Pour the juices into a small saucepan and keep warm. When ready to serve, remove the strings from the roast, and cut the meat into thick chops with the bones, or cut the rack of rib bones away from the meat, and slice between the bones to separate them. Return them to the oven for a few minutes if you like them crustier. To the juices in the saucepan, add the juices reserved from the roast after resting and carving. Slice the meat and serve with the warm juices and rib bones.