Sunday, October 14, 2012

project: pork rib roast

I stopped by the local mom-and-pop grocery store this morning for the same reason I always go there: to see if they had any thick-cut pork chops suitable for stuffing. I could probably just ask the meat counter guy to leave some chops cut really thick for me, but he's never around when I'm there. Anyway - I went in this morning looking for thick chops, and what I found instead was this beauty:

center-cut pork rib roast
That's a center-cut pork rib roast. That's where my favorite thick-cut chops come from. It was close to five pounds, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I thought very briefly about cutting it into chops and stuffing them, but then I decided that since I'd never done a standing rib roast before, I'd make a Sunday afternoon project out of it.

If you Google "standing rib roast", you'll get a lot of pictures that don't look like the piece of meat in the picture above - instead, they have bare bones sticking out the top. This is something that is usually done by the butcher, and it's called "frenching". I'm sure there's some other, more proper name for the procedure, but I don't know what it is, so I'm going to keep calling it "frenching". Also, it's kind of funny to keep saying stuff like "I was frenching my roast", because a) I've been drinking, and b) I'm a 12 year old boy at heart.

Anyway - moving on. Frenching (hee hee) a roast is very simple, but kind of tedious, especially if you haven't sharpened your knives in a really long time like someone writing this blog who shall remain nameless. Ahem. You make a cut along the top of the roast, like so:

About to french the roast. Hee hee. French the roast. 
You cut straight across, right down to the bone. Then, you cut straight down between the end of each rib, like so:

Cut down between each rib bone, then get ready to scrape.
 At this point, you've got a cube of meat on the end of each rib bone. Now comes the tedious part. You take your knife and, cutting and scraping, remove all the meat off the ends of the bones. The roast ends up eventually looking like this - note the little pile of trimmings off to the side there. Don't ditch those - they'll come into play shortly:

Roast: frenched. Hee.
At this point, I preheated my oven to 350, and preheated my cast iron pan at the same time. I scored the layer of fat across the top of the roast, rubbed it with salt and pepper, then began the task of searing the roast. I did each side for about 5 minutes, trying to hold the roast to make sure that all of the fat cap got nicely crisped:

Browning, browning...
Seared off and ready to roast.
The roast then went into my heavy-weight roasting pan. To the pan around the roast, I added some chopped leeks, carrot, celery, all the fat and meat trimmings from the frenching process, and I also dumped in the juices that had built up in the cast-iron pan when I was searing the roast:

Mmm, drippings!
The meat roasted uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. I took it out when the internal temperature read about 130 degrees. I removed the roast to a plate and tented it with foil, then took the roasting pan with the vegetables in it and set it on a burner over medium heat. I deglazed the pan with some white wine and a little apple cider vinegar:

The sauce cooked down for a few minutes, then I strained the liquid and veggies through a fine-mesh strainer, using a spoon to press the veggies down and really squeeze the flavors out of them.

To carve the roast, I just cut down between the ribs and then gave it kind of a twist at the end to break the bottom bone. I served them with a mix of roasted veggies (I did carrots, red potatoes, parsnips, radishes and Brussels sprouts tossed with some chopped bacon, olive oil, and salt), and spooned some of the pan sauce over the top:

pork dino-chop? Yes please!
The end-result was incredibly moist and tasty, and I was very happy with it. However, I did learn a few things: 1) frenching doesn't really add anything except a fancy-schmancy look, and I don't think I'd bother again unless I was serving to someone I wanted to impress, 2) I need a better way of straining the sauce in order to get more fat out of it. The sauce was tasty, but greasy. I'm sure there's some simple step there that I'm likely missing, and 3) roasted veggies aren't the best side-dish to have with this type of roast, because they need a totally different temperature oven to cook properly. Next time I think I might do greens - something like kale or broccoli raab, maybe. I also think the astringency of the greens would cut the fattiness of the pork nicely.