A Tale of Two Pork Roasts

January 14, 2010

One was the best of roasts, the other the worst of roasts. You can thank me now for stopping after one sentence. I’ll proceed.

Sherry P. from Kingwood, Texas asked me if I had a good recipe for pork roast. She said her roasts were often dried out and wanted something better.

I’ve made a few pork roasts in my day, and usually followed two approaches. I recall using just salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary on a small roast. The smell from this roast is to die for but indeed it gets pretty dried out. And this simplistic approach would just kill a larger roast.

What I do most often is a crown roast, stuffed with rice, vegetables, dried fruits or all of the above. The crown roast is the one you see tied into a huge ring, with the bones jutting dramatically above the meat. The “little hats” often decorating the bones are called frills, from which the phrase “no frills” is derived. It’s a great presentation for a holiday meal or party, but probably not what Sherry is looking for.

Instead of using my small library of reliable recipe sources at home (read more here…..) I went online for a recipe. I almost always use www.epicurious.com and pretty much only use recipes from Gourmet magazine. I found….

The Worst of Roasts: Pork Roast stuffed with Mortadella and Truffle Butter

This sounded awesome to me and many online readers gave it 4 stars. Mortadella is an Italian bologna-style meat studded with pistachio nuts, and is easily found in any grocery store deli. A little bottle of truffle oil for flavor, and we’d tie up the roast. Very few ingredients, so this would let me cook up some side dishes while the roast filled the kitchen with great flavors. Could it be that simple? ‘Fraid not.

There are two steps to stuffing a pork roast. The good news, is you can handle them pretty easily after just one or two tries. See my web site for detailed instructions.

  • The first is to butterfly and pound out the pork roast. If you ask the meat counter to do this for you, they’ll almost surely do it for free. 
  • The second is tying the roast. Tying roasts may sound intimidating, but it is WAY easier than it first appears.


When I purchased a small bottle of truffle oil, I was surprised at how inexpensive it was. This was a red flag, but one I ignored. As I splashed a little onto my neatly butterflied and pounded roast, and the most awful smell emanated. I quickly wiped it away and followed up with olive oil.

That’s only the story of a poor quality oil, not a poor recipe. Yet in the end we were underwhelmed by the salvaged recipe as well. The mortadella seemed more like a sandwich filling than a savory stuffing. The pork – still a bit dried out. No stars from me – I won’t make it again.


The Best of Roasts – Pork Loin in the style of Porcetta

This weekend we decided to roast something during our frigid cold spell. I found a huge boneless pork roast, but what to stuff it with? Certainly not Mortadella. Mario Batali came to the rescue again. In Molto Italiano he offers a home version of a recipe for a whole roast suckling pig –using our friend the pork roast.

In his recipe, you cook onion and fennel until they are sweet and carmelized, add ground pork and spices – which results in homemade sausage (imagine bragging a bit about that at your next dinner party). To the sausage add some breadcrumbs and egg for a delicious savory filling for the pork.

Besides creating a very flavorful filling, Mario directs us to place the roast into a roasting pan atop 3-4 halved red onions, instead of on a rack (such as a v-rack). This not only elevates the roast above its drippings, but results in some of the sweetest carmelized onions you can imagine. They were delicious with the pork.


Here’s what I learned from this experience.

  • Don’t trust online ratings….the 4 stars in the bad recipe were based on people adding all manner of things to the recipe to fix it. The recipe itself was flawed.
  • Be cautious with online recipe sources. Just because someone published a recipe doesn’t mean it’s really that good.
  • Develop a small library of high reliable recipe sources. Besides my columns and website, I recommend Cooks Illustrated magazine, Molto Italiano, and How to Cook Everything. You could become a great cook just from using these three resources alone.

“It was a far, far better recipe that I made, than I have ever done; it was a far, far better roast than I have ever known.” – Charles Dickens, after a terrific pork dinner.

Warm Regards,


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