Monday, November 29, 2021

Bucket List Pork Crown Roast

Over the years I've worked my way through a sort of bucket list of foods I wanted to try and, hopefully, master. From buttercream frosting through eclairs and macarons to the perfect lamb shanks and excellent guacamole, I've tried quite a few of them with success, most of the time. 

One item on my bucket list is a crown roast of pork with stuffing. It's not something you make for everyday meals since it apparently takes at least 12 ribs to create a good roast, so that's a lot of meat. This year for Thanksgiving I finally had an opportunity to make one since we decided that we wanted to try something else for the feast. We were going to a friend's home and she was game, too, so I went to the butcher section of a locally owned market. They had advertised a pork crown roast as part of the specialty items available for Thanksgiving, so it seemed like a good market to go with. Turns out I was wrong. There is a tale to be told.

I went a week ahead and ordered it for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the morning. I told the fellow who was taking the order that I had never made one before so that I needed advice on what to order. He asked how many I'd be serving and said that eight ribs would do, so that's what I ordered, to be shaped by the butcher into a crown and tied, with the bone ends 'Frenched'. He wrote up the order and my phone number was included.

So there I was the day before Thanksgiving at 9:30 in the morning amid a mad rush of shoppers picking up their turkeys. When it was my turn, they brought out a package with a slab of ribs. I explained that I had ordered a tied crown roast. They said that I needed at least 12 ribs to do that (although no one had called when the order couldn't be made up as ordered), so I said to add the needed ribs...and then waited and waited, for almost 45 minutes. The roast came all wrapped up and it looked like the bones were in a circle, so I thanked them and took it home. The next morning when I unpackaged it, I discovered that they had tied it wrong. The bones are supposed to be to the outside, with the meat inside the was tied with the meat outside, cut into chops part way, and some were sort of splayed out, not tied in a neat roast.

It was too late to do anything about it, so I seasoned it and did the first fifteen minutes at high heat, as the recipe I had said to do. Then I roasted it at 325 degrees F for an hour and then put some stuffing in the middle, put foil over the stuffing and the bone ends, then roasted it some more. The whole thing received a heavy duty foil wrap to keep the heat in while we drove to our friends. Sweetie had nestled the roasting pan in a wooden box and used cardboard to hold in the heat, too.

Later it went into the oven for another 10 minutes to make sure that everything was hot and then I took a beauty photo and then we cut between the bones to serve it. It did look fairly impressive considering that it was tied incorrectly. Unfortunately having the meat on the outside instead of the inside meant that some of the meat was overcooked, although Sweetie got a rib that was juicy and delicious. The stuffing had chestnuts and was good, but I like my Mom's turkey stuffing better, so next time that's what I'll use. It was still a good experiment, but not successful. I will try this again, but I'll just order the slab of ribs and tie it myself. Julia Child will probably have drawings showing how to do it, or else someone on YouTube will. We'll invite our host and hostess, maybe at Christmas when our daughter and her family are here. A crown roast at Christmas sounds delicous!

In case you want to make your own, below is the recipe from The Ultimate Southern Living Christmas Book. If you are having your butcher create and tie your roast, be sure to order at least 12 ribs...14 to 18 would be even better.

Crown Roast of Pork with Chestnut Stuffing

Serves 8 

1 crown roast of pork, about 16 ribs, about 8 pounds
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (my helps with browning of meat)
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound ground pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, minced
8 oz (1/2 lb) French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (5 1/2 cups)
1 (11-oz) jar shelled chestnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
dash of salt
1/2 cup half-and-half
Garnishes: lady apples, fresh thyme sprigs, flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh rosemary and sage since I had those in abundance)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Brush roast with oil. In a small bowl combine the pepper, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle that mixture on all sides. Place roast, bone ends up, in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer, making sure it doesn't touch fat or bone. Roast at 475 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and roast an additional one hour and 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large nonstick skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove from skillet, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet and draining the rest.

Cook onion, celery and garlic in skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until tender; remove from heat. (I added the herbs and spices and pork to this mixture, stirred to combine and put in the fridge overnight Wednesday night. I think that anything with onion tastes better if it melds overnight)

In a large bowl combine sausage, onion mixture, bread cubes, chestnuts, fresh parsley, poultry seasoning, dried thyme, pepper and salt. Pour half-and-half over stuffing, stirring gently until blended.

When roast has finished the time at 325 degrees F given above, remove from the oven, leaving oven on, and spoon 3 cups stuffing into center of roast, mounding slightly. Cover stuffing and exposed rib ends with aluminum foil. Spoon remaining stuffing into a greased 11 x 7-inch baking dish.

Return the roast in roasting pan to oven and put in the dish of stuffing, too. Roast for an additional 40 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Transfer roast to a large serving platter. Tent with foil to keep warm if necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before carving. Garnish if desired. 

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