Fri 14 May 2010
Along with vast greenery and the dark goodness that is Guinness, one of Ireland’s most plentiful resources is the beloved and tasty pig. The pork sausage and thick-cut Irish bacon are staples of the Irish fry-up breakfast (which also includes eggs, black and white puddings, toast and sometimes beans), and there are few meals more Irish than a proper bacon and cabbage dinner.
Pork is everywhere in Ireland, which is perfectly fine with me because I grew up eating as much pork as any other kind of meat. So I was absolutely thrilled when Donal Skehan asked me if Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, could send me a package of pork (!!). Does a child want Christmas presents from Santa? Is Johnny Depp the sexiest man alive? Did I feel like the big winner in a pork lottery? My answer to Donal was the same as to all the aforementioned questions. A resounding YES.
True to their word, the kind people at Bord Bia sent a package of pork rib roast to my door via private delivery service (yes, I felt like a rockstar!). Though I’ve cooked many a pork dish in the past, I will admit that I’ve never actually worked with this cut of pork. It is a very large hunk of meat comprised of the pork loin and the back ribs, and while it is a beauty can be quite intimidating at first glance. So I reached out to the master of meat himself, Michael Ruhlman. He suggested I brine the meat, coat it with some sort of crust and then roast it in the oven. I made a simple brine of salt, sugar, water, peppercorns, bay leaves, mustard seeds and a touch of fennel seeds and left the pork in the brine for 20 hours. After removing and drying off the meat, I coated it with a mixture of Dijon mustard, anchovy paste and garlic and then sprinkled on seasoned breadcrumbs.
The result was a tender, juicy and absolutely delicious pork rib roast. The crust was nice and crisp, and the meat was flavorful and gorgeous. This is a wonderful cut of meat for presentation purposes as well; after slicing, I presented the beautifully-thick slices on a platter and topped with some chopped parsley for added color. I served the pork with a turnip and potato mash and sautéed zucchini (corgettes) and yellow squash. My friends were really impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the meal, which was a big win as many of them had never eaten this cut of pork before. One pork skeptic, who claimed she never liked the meat as she finds the flavor too strong, not only cleaned her plate but had seconds!
I want to send out a huge “thank you” to Bord Bia and Donal Skehan for this generous gift, and for giving me the opportunity to cook something new. Also thanks to Michael Ruhlman, who took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to respond to my pork inquiry.
Succulent Pork Rib Roast
(Serves 6-8 people)
3 cups of hot water
¾ cups Kosher or sea salt
¾ dark brown sugar
¼ cup black peppercorns
4 dried bay leaves
¼ cup mustard seeds
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
5 cups very cold water
One large pork rib roast, 4-6 lbs
½ cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the 3 cups of hot water with salt and sugar and mix until dissolved. Add in the rest of the spices and herbs, and then add the cold water. In a large plastic container (with a lid), pour the brine over the pork rib roast and put in the refrigerator for 18-20 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine, and rinse it off with cold water. Pat pork dry with paper towels. In a bowl, combine the mustard, anchovy paste and crushed garlic. Using your hands, spread the mustard mixture on the exterior of the pork, and then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the mustard mixture lightly with your hands.
Place the rib roast in a well-oiled roasting pan, and bake for 1.5 – 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees. Remove the pork from the oven, cover with tinfoil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve!