Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wine Country Inspired - Part II - Solvang Style Pork Roast

I promised you one more wine country inspired recipe.  Here you go. 

Solvang Style Pork Roast

It's getting cooler here in Florida, and it's already snowing up north.  I suspect we are in for a cold winter across the US. 

Nothing gets you through a cold snap like a good roast for dinner.   This week is going to be all about roasting; pork, pot roast and chicken.  

I have been to Santa Barbara but never to Santa Barbara wine country.  Near the Santa Ynez mountains, the area was made [more] famous a few years ago by the hit movie "Sideways."  Nearby is a Danish-style town known as Solvang.  I hear that is is a wonderful place to visit for both food and hospitality. 

In doing research I've learned that Danish food has many of the same characteristics as German, Polish, or Slovak food, with the exception of a little more seafood.  This would make sense given the geography. 

Pork is popular in Denmark.  It is often sliced thin for sandwiches, and topped with beets and/or pickled cabbage.  Apples are commonly used in cooking.  

I came up with this recipe which incorporates dried figs.  Now, I doubt this is truly "authentic" Danish, but maybe you can look at this dish as "California Fusion" cuisine.  

For the wine pairing, you might try a Gewürztraminer, or you could go with a German or Danish beer, or maybe a nice, refreshing glass of sweet iced tea as we enjoyed tonight.  Just because it's a "wine inspired" meal doesn't mean that you have to serve wine.

The roast is simply seasoned.   Flavor is added to the roast by way of a mix of savory and sweet ingredients;  fresh cabbage, sauerkraut, apples, the dried figs and sweet onions.  I added a tablespoon of brown sugar and caraway seeds.  Absolutely sensational!

Note:  I cooked this roast in my mom's 50 plus year old  roasting pan with a vented cover.  One of the handles on the rack is missing, and yeah, the pan is very well seasoned.  Every pork roast prepared by my late mom or by me (other than a few crock pot dishes I have tried) has been made in this pan for the last 50 plus years. 

Don't own a 50-year-old roasting pan?   You can easily use a pan with a rack and cover it with tin foil.

For the Pork Roast:

3 1/2 - 4 pound fresh Pork picnic half Roast*
1 tablespoon of Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Water
1 dried Bay Leaf, crushed

For the Veggies and Fruit:

1 cup dried figs, halved; reconstitute in 1/4 cup hot water
2 cups Sauerkraut, drained, liquid reserved
1/2 medium head fresh Cabbage, sliced
1 medium Organic Sweet Onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon light Brown Sugar
1 cup Water,
1 tablespoon Caraway Seed, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
2 small Granny Smith Apples, cored, and cut into bite-sized pieces (skin on)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Season pork roast.  Place fat side up in roasting pan on rack with 1/2 cup of water and the crushed Bay Leaf.

Lower heat to 325 degrees before placing roast in oven:  This will allow the roast to begin baking at a slightly higher temperature for the first few minutes. 

Place roast in oven on center rack.  Bake, covered, at 325 degrees for 3 hours. 

Tip:  If using a lid with vents, open one of the vents to let a little of the steam escape. 
(I don't know why this works, but trust me, it does. I've been cooking juicy pork roasts like this for years now using this technique).  If using foil, vent the foil on one end of the pan.

Reconstitute figs in hot water.  I do this in a microwave safe bowl for about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

Carefully remove pork roast from oven.  Uncover. 

Raise heat of oven to 375 degrees.

Add Sauerkraut, kraut juice cabbage and onion (around roast) to pan.

Mix the brown sugar into the water and pour over vegetables.  Top with Caraway seeds, figs and apples.  Sprinkle with onion powder.  You can also pour on the remaining water from the figs if you like.

Pork Roast, ready for Round 2 in the oven

Continue to bake, uncovered, for one hour until apples and cabbage are tender.  (I like to stir the veggies a couple of times during this process to get them to braise). 

...A little mashed potato and pork gravy on the side, and you've got a complete meal.  Top with extra caraway seeds (optional).

* Picnic Pork Roast is a little fattier.  It's often used here in the south to make pulled pork.  I selected it for this dish as the fat on top "crackles" as you bake it, and it keeps the roast very moist.  It is also very economical.  Feel free to cut off that "layer" before you serve if like, but I think it adds a certain rustic quality to the dish.

Substitute:  Boston butt (similar, but with a slightly different flavor).
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