29 Feb 2012

Lovely Italian pot-roast with mashed potatoes, mixed tomato salad and a healthy drop of wine

This wonderful dish was conjured up in my kitchen early last fall. For no particular reason I started reminiscing a trip my wife and I made to Boston 2005. On that trip we stopped at many nice restaurants, including the Italian restaurant Maggiano's Little Italy on Columbus Avenue. We were on a long walk and stumbled across their location late Sunday afternoon. 

This is a charming restaurant with dark mahogany interior and red/white tablecloths. When the sat us down at a table they presented us with a breadbasket that would easily have cured world hunger - it was enormous. That day they had this special - "All Authentic Italian pot roast - only on Sundays" Off course I had to give it a go!

Herbs and aromatic vegetables

And they didn't let me down. The taste was deeply aromatic,...and pork is sometimes just perfect. It's flavour can be truly magnificent, especially when fatty cuts are used, which have been cooked slowly for along time! The fat usually cooks away but leaves the meat wonderfully tender. This dish is just like that. It is wise to choose a fatty cut of pork for this type of cooking - lean cuts will just dry out and will not be rewarding. 

Some would say that this is a dish that is tailored for a cold winter day, and I suppose that in some aspects they have a strong case. In my defence the fall we had here in Skane, in south Sweden, was quite miserable and thus was this dish thoroughly indicated. And it did revive the spirit, wonderfully fragrant and aromatic. Just try it!

Lovely Italian pot-roast with mashed potatoes, mixed tomato salad and a healthy drop of wine

A big chunk of pork

It is good to get an early start when cooking this dish - around 3 o'clock would be perfect and then just leave it in the oven until dinnertime. Just tend to it now and again - stirring it gently.

Browned on all sides

First pay attention to the vegetables. Slice one whole white onion, 3-4 medium sized carrots, 2-3 cellery sticks, 5-6 cloves of garlic and a half a bulb of fennel - all can be cut down rather coarsely. 

Then tend to the pork. Get a fatty cut, from the neck region or shoulder. Anyways, 1,5 kg of boneless pork is washed under a cold tap and then dried thoroughly (dry meat caramelises better then meat that is wet). Massage the meat with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot until the oil starts nearly smoking. Then brown all sides of the meat. When that is done - put aside. 

Fry the aromatic vegetables

Then lower the heat, add some oil and fry the vegetables, careful not to brown them. Season with salt and pepper - that helps to extract some of the vegetable juices and eases the process of deglasing the pot. The vegetables are fried until they a soft and tender and then place the meat back into the pot. 

Then add two cans of canned tomatoes, 800 ml of meat stock  and 400 ml of red wine. Stir together. Then add 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary and 5-6 sprigs of thyme. You can even tie it together with a little kitchen string - lovely "bouqet garni". The final touch was to put a few large wild porcini mushrooms, in Sweden they are called KarlJohan mushrooms after a king who really enjoyed them! It is important to season at this point with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes on the stove. Then place in a warm oven, 130 degrees, and left to cook for 3-4 hours. 

A bunch of herbs

The meat becomes absolutely tender and falls apart when it is ready. Just before it is time to eat, take the meat out of the sauce, allow to stand for a few minutes before cutting it. Use that time to reduce the sauce on the stove. Taste it and season if necessary. Usually it is just wonderful. 

New potatoes just pulled from the ground

We made mashed potatoes with our own from the garden. First cleaned under the tap, peeled, and then boiled until soft. Then drain and mash with some butter, dash of milk, salt and pepper. Some like to add some sugar. Mix together. 

Tomato salad 

We made this simple tomato salad with a mix of cherry tomatoes of different varieties that we had bought at the market in the morning. We got at least 5-6 different types which we sliced in half and placed in a bowl. Made a salad dressing with 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt&pepper and mixed with the tomatoes. Added 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh basil and parsley.
da vinci

We drank some lovely wine from Toscana. Da Vinci Chianti from 2008. It is made from a blend of Sangiovese grapes (90%) and Merlot - it allowed to mature on oak barrels for half a year before put onto bottles. It has a pretty ruby red colour. Scents of plums and grapes. Soft on the palate with mild tannins and a good aftertaste. Suited the the Italian pot roast perfectly! 

The final dish

Now lets eat, drink and be merry. Bon appetit.


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