Tomorrow is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and the last day of Christmas. So this weekend I am going to start un-decorating, little by little.
Beware -- be very ware -- next week we are going to Keep House. Yes, your pleas will be heard, and we will plumb the mysteries of getting things cleaned up while raising a numerous family on one income with no servant. While homeschooling.
By the way, my New Year's resolutions are as follows, in case you are interested or want to blackmail me later:
1. pray more
2. exercise, bleah
3. learn to knit something useful, like socks
4. learn to make --and make --candles in time for Candlemas
5. learn to play the bodhran
Okay, in preparation for Keeping House we are going to think about whether we have the whole food/laundry thing worked out yet. If not, go back! Read the sidebar Laundry and Menu posts! (Read from the bottom up.)
Here is an example of how to make your menus work for you. Maybe you buy those whole pork loins when they are $1.79/lb., cut them in two or three smaller roasts, and freeze them?
If you want to make Roast Pork Loin for dinner for tomorrow's feast, take one out of the freezer today and let it thaw slowly. It will be lovely. If you try to thaw it quickly, roast it frozen, or otherwise mishandle it, it will have the taste and texture of cardboard.
Of course this kind of thing is best wrapped in bacon, as what is not? But failing such a treatment (because people have been eating nothing BUT bacon for three weeks and you just simply can't face it), here is how you make that sucker just as moist and flavorful as possible:
Take your carefully saved bacon grease (always pour your bacon grease, and only bacon grease, into a clean jar and store in the fridge. I use Teddy's peanut butter jars, as they have straight sides and I have plenty of them).
Into about 3 tablespoons of bacon grease, mix about 3 tablespoons of flour, about 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/4 tsp. rosemary, 1/2 tsp. dried rubbed sage, and 1/2 tsp. dried ground mustard or 1 tsp. prepared mustard. Mix well and rub or spread evenly, using a rubber spatula, on the top and sides of your roast. I'm sorry I don't have pictures of this portion of the process.
Trust me, though. It's going to make a huge difference in the succulence of the final product.
Now find some liquid. Water will do in a pinch. White wine would be fabulous, as would chicken stock.
Perhaps some inconsiderate fool opened a bottle of beer at your party and then left it, practically untouched, lying about? Store it in the fridge for just such an emergency.
Using about 1/2 cup of liquid, pour around your roast, being careful not to disturb the coating on the meat. Roast for about an hour, adding liquid as necessary to allow caramelization, but not burning, of your drippings. Too much liquid, and you won't get a nice deep base for your gravy. Too little, and the bits will burn.
I roast at 325* convection roast, and my pork loins are done in about an hour and a half, sometimes an hour. Use a meat thermometer and take it out when it registers about 160-165*. Poke the thermometer (instant read) in through the side to the middle (rather than going through the top, like I used to do, which results in juices bubbling up and messing with your lovely crust).
Now when the roast is done, remove it from the dish to a cutting board to rest.
What's in the dish will become your fabulous gravy. Don't be a wimp -- don't roast in tin foil so that you can more easily throw this sticky "mess" away.
What this actually is, is the basis for everything that makes life worth living, roast-wise. And once you know what to do, it will be easy and you can do it in your sleep.
So first step, de-glaze. You can spoon excess fat, without taking any nice browned bits (as Julia calls them), right off. Then, using your spatula and a little hot water, get whatever you can out into a saucepan.
Pour the rest of the beer or wine or what-have-you, about a cup, in what's left in your roasting pan and swish everything around. Try to dislodge the sticky part (which is actually the caramlized sugars and denatured proteins from the meat, containing oodles of flavor) using a spatula or whatever curved metal object fits in the pan.
At first this will seem like a hopeless task, but keep at it, warming the liquid on the stovetop (using hot liquid to start with is a help).
Keep scraping and moving the liquid over the stubborn parts, and soon you will have this:
Now to the contents of the saucepan (which will be mainly fat and a few bits), add enough flour (a couple of tablespoons, probably) to make a roux:
Let this cook for a few minutes while you whisk. Then add what you've worked on from the roasting pan, and whisk well on moderately high heat.
As it all heats up, any lumps from the flour will whisk out, although you will still have lumps from the roast and seasonings, since we're not making a fancy strained French gravy but a good old-fashioned American pan-gravy.
At this point, when it smooths out and boils for a few minutes, you should taste it. If it seems a little bitter or lacking in deep gravy flavor, add salt and you will be amazed at how it comes together. The more you cook a gravy thickened with flour, the thicker it will get and the deeper the flavor. You can thin it with water or stock, and, of course...
...a little cream will also be most welcome.
Whisk that in and you are ready to go! You could put this in a gravy boat or you could exhaustedly summon up every ounce of strength you have to put a gravy ladle in the saucepan and serve it just like that.
For this roast, which we had on Twelfth Night, we had broccoli (make more than enough, boiling it in salted water until it's just bright green and tender -- the roast is so rich, your broccoli doesn't need any butter.)
Also some spinach with feta cheese that was leftover from a different meal.
And rice, which I make in the microwave. I don't need no stinkin' rice cooker. I put one part rice and two parts water into my favorite Corningware dish. Add about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, which lends a beautiful fragrance to the rice, and some salt.
I can make up to 6 cups of rice this way. If you need more, maybe you do need a rice cooker...I just don't have the counter space.
I use Carolina regular or jasmine rice -- it's very delicate and tasty-- or Japanese sushi rice, which is short-grained, risotto-style rice that cooks up sticky and with a wonderful texture. And is much cheaper than Arborio. Either way this method prevents sticking and breaking and mushing.
However, my new fancy beautiful microwave overheats if I take the necessary 20 minutes (oh! the irony!), so I now start the boil on the stovetop (you can do that in the Corningware). Then microwave without the cover until the water is almost, but not quite, absorbed, about 7-8 minutes if the water has already boiled:
Stir gently and microwave with the lid for 4-5 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and no water is left. After you gently fluff it up, it will hold with the lid on for 1/2 an hour!
Now, and here comes the happy menu thought, a few nights later you can have pork fried rice with hardly any effort at all!
Simply put some coconut oil in a big skillet. Fry up whatever veggies you wish -- in my case, onions, garlic, carrots, and peppers -- with some ginger (can be dried). Add the leftover rice and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Add soy sauce and the cut up leftover roast, and let heat through.
Stir in 2-4 eggs, scrambled, until the eggs are cooked --I need to perfect my egg lumping skills so that bits of egg show. Finish off with some sesame oil if you have it, and serve with leftover broccoli, which will be just as tasty and nutritious even several days later!
Veggies keep well when cooked, not so well when fresh, so go ahead and cook it all up.
If you've gotten this far and aren't dying of boredom, remember to come back next week for this year's resolution: Keeping house, moderately well.
If I can do that, so can you!