Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Budget Cuts: My Porky Valentine

Have you noticed how all the food sections in the newspapers and magazines, not to mention the big food websites, have jumped on the recession bandwagon? Like the American auto industry, which, until just a few months ago, was still producing behemoth monstrosities that guzzled gas like it was Kool-aid but now is begging for money, the food media has switched from chateaubriand to casseroles.

The roast, unrolled and waiting to be stuffed.

Not to say that we're all not feeling pinched and more than a little nervous about our own personal fiscal security these days. But since no one's offering to bail us out, we're cutting back where we can while still keeping the quality-of-life quotient high.

So when Dave said he was thinking about grilling some meat for dinner on Valentine's Day, my first thoughts ran to lovely New York steaks searing over the fire. But when we cruised down the meat counter at the store and saw the price tag for one of those marbled beauties, we kept rolling, hoping for a better, yet still luscious, deal.

The stuffing, sautéed and chillin'.

Front and center just a little further down were some pink rolls of pork loin for just under $7 a pound, a much more manageable price, especially considering the leftovers would roll over into another dinner or so. We were about to ask for one when, leaning down, I noticed that the boneless pork leg roast just behind it was priced at $3.49 per pound, less than half as much.

Rolled and ready for the grill.

Having made a stuffed leg roast recently, I knew it would give us the tenderness and flavor of a much more expensive cut and make a wonderful centerpiece for dinner without busting our bank account.

Coming home and rummaging through the vegetable drawer for stuffing ingredients (how romantic is that?), I came up with a bunch of lacinato kale. Adding an onion, garlic, some pine nuts and a last-minute dose of a couple of Aci Sivri peppers, mildly spicy dried Turkish peppers from Ayers Creek, the stuffing came together.

With Dave's ministrations over the grill (and the requisite pint o' beer), some polenta and a butter lettuce salad, plus a sprinkling of candlelight and a bottle of an '06 Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone, our evening of romance on a budget was a success. And we didn't even miss the chateaubriand.

Stuffed Pork Leg Roast with Kale and Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 med. onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 dried Aci Sivri peppers (or other mild red pepper), chopped
2 c. firmly packed kale, chopped fine
1/2 c. pine nuts, chopped
1 3-lb. boneless pork leg roast

Heat oil in skillet. Sauté onion and garlic till transparent. Add peppers and cook till they soften slightly. Add kale and sauté till wilted. Add pine nuts and stir till they warm. Remove pan from heat.

While vegetable stuffing cools, clip strings tying pork roast and unroll. If it's not an even thickness, use a sharp knife to make shallow cuts so it unrolls completely and becomes one even slab (see photo above). Reserving 1/4 c. of vegetable stuffing, spread remainder over surface of meat. Reroll and tie tightly with butcher's twine. Rub remaining filling on outside.

Grill over indirect heat until internal temperature reaches 125-130° (approx. 1 hour), then remove to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. (Other recipes call for an internal temperature of 155°, but we find that the meat tends to be overcooked and dry at that temperature.) You can also roast this in the oven at 350° for 1 1/2 hrs. or so until it reaches the same internal temperature.

Look for other recipes in the Budget Cuts series: Chile-Marinated Pork Shoulder; Grilled London Broil; Pork Tagine with Pistachios, Almonds, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins and Pork Leg Roast with Lemon and Prosciutto Stuffing and Roasted Vegetables.

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