Just One Little Problem

Earlier this week I made just one little mistake on a recipe I've made before. Sure it was edible, the flavors robust, but it just wasn't cooked right. This experience reminds us that just one misstep can greatly affect the outcome of a recipe:
  • One missing ingredient
  • One poorly conceived substitution of an ingredient
  • One missed or misunderstood cooking step
  • In my case, it was one gas grill burner left on low, instead of turned off
So I ended up with a grilled, stuffed pork roast that was a kind of dry on the outside, a little more charred in one place than browned, and just barely cooked enough on the inside. Not a dish I'd want to be served at a restaurant, or to serve to anyone but my closest friends. They could tolerate the letdown. The family made do.

Grilled Pork Roast a la Porchetta

If you've read this newsletter for a while you might remember "A Tale of Two Pork Roasts", in which a simple sausage stuffed pork loin from Mario Batali was more flavorful and moist than a somewhat sophisticated recipe that used Mortadella and Provolone. Even 4 star reviews on epicurious.com were misleading, showing how internet searches for recipes are often less reliable than a few very high quality cookbooks or magazines.

This week we found a 4-5 pound pork loin in our freezer and wanted to use it before we get deeper into Hurricane season (gotta keep the freezer a little sparse this time of year). So I decided to make the Batali pork roast, but grill it instead of heating up the kitchen. Sounds simple enough.

The stuffing is a mixture of ground pork, fresh fennel, onion, fennel seeds, garlic, fresh rosemary and lots of black pepper. Combining these ingredients actually results in a homemade sausage – and you get to control the flavors. This time I decided to grind up two pounds of whole pork shoulder in the food processor instead of using store-bought ground pork. I thought it might make a better sausage and it did.

To transfer this recipe from the oven to the grill, I planned to get the grill good and hot (about15 minutes on high), then use indirect heat. On a gas grill, turn off the middle burner and set the other two to their lowest setting. On charcoal, pile all the coals on one side of the grill. Because the grill is so hot at first, you'll get a nice char, then after 10 minutes, turn the roast over and let it cook amidst the indirect heat for up to an hour. You want to see 135 degrees on an instant read thermometer placed into the center.

You might want to place a few quarters for red onion or yellow peppers on the grill while the meat cooks, along with a foil packet of potatoes with olive oil, S&P and a few whole garlic cloves (skin on). As the pork rests for about 10 minutes, throw some zucchini slices on the grill for two minutes (turn heat back up to high).

The full recipe will be in the next post.

Oh…..and Another Little Problem

Margie and I had already decided that this week's newsletter would be called "Just One Little Problem". But there's more.

After we ate this delicious but slightly dry pork we were watching a couple episodes of Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen. At some point toward the end of the second episode someone said "potato". I leapt to my feet and gasped aloud. Margie says the look on my face was priceless. I realized that I had left two foil packets of potato and garlic on the grill…..for the last two and a half hours.

After opening the back door, I wondered what had kept the neighbors from calling the fire department. The smell was awful. The grill was pumping out smoke like a burning oil well. We turned everything off and decided to inspect the damage in the morning. So many good things can come from unexpected developments in our lives.

  • We didn't destroy our grill.
  • There are no lasting odors. I was worried that since the potatoes cooked with the top down they might have left some horrible-carbonized smell.
  • And best of all, we learned how to make homemade potato charcoal. Take a look:


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