Monday, December 29, 2008

Pork Two Ways

As New Years Eve rapidly approaches, so do the seats at the dinner table and number of dishes to feast on. Our first guests arrived this afternoon and the count at the house swelled to ten. The nice thing about the holiday atmosphere is that everyone gets involved in the kitchen. Whether baking cakes, preparing ice creams, roasting meats, or peeling vegetables, one cannot help being swept up in the conviviality. One of the highlights of the vacation thus far, although it has only been a day, is the ham leg. My father and some friends took a tour of Spain after renting a car in Sevilla and brought back a number of culinary spoils. Among the olive oils and candies was an entire dry cured Spanish ham typically referred to as pata negra or Iberico. This particular leg was cultivated, cured, and aged for two years by a butcher in a small village near Cordoba. We have been picking at the ham since breakfast, slicing off thin strips like they do for tapas platters in Spain. It is pure gustatory pleasure with a relatively low salt content and flesh that melts in your mouth; I can easily imagine that the nine plus pound leg will whittle down to nothing by the end of the holiday madness. The dinner was a simple feast of pumpkin soup, roast pork (more pork products!), mashed potatoes with goose fat and cumin, and a mixed salad. The pork was marinated in parsley, garlic, and olive oil before being wrapped in caul fat and roasted slowly in a hot oven. It was tender, juicy, and aromatic which is everything I look for in roasted meat. The mashed potatoes cooked with melted goose fat and seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin was a sumptuous accompaniment that married well with the pork. A green salad helped cleanse the palate and provided a bit of refreshment after the heavy meal, just what we needed after a few bottles of heady Chateauneuf-du-pape. So far so good and I hope that this is a just a taste of things to come. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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