It's the time of the year for quick, easy and warmly satisfying meals.
Seasoning a beef or pork roast and tossing it in the oven or the slow cooker fits the bill. A classic set-it and forget-it meal, it can also feed a small gathering.
Recently, I picked up a boneless sirloin pork roast for just that reason. Another shopper commented that pork roasts are good because they are solid meat without a whole lot of fat. The sirloin roast is cut from the back of the loin area, so it is a bit leaner, yet hearty tasting. And, besides, the aroma of a nicely seasoned roast is comfort food at its best.
The roast came with netting around it, holding together two pieces of pork. You can leave it on and roast as is or you can remove the netting and cook the two pieces side-by-side.
Or, as I did with today's recipe, remove the netting, season all over with a rub mixture, and retie the roast using kitchen string.
The roast was a nice size - about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, enough for six generous servings. And if you're not serving that many, it makes for great leftovers.
Pork roast takes to all kinds of seasoning and methods of cooking.
Whether you roast it in the oven or cook it in the slow cooker, you'll want to sear the roast first.
Most sources will tell you that searing seals in the juices. But a new book from Cook's Illustrated - "The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen" by the editors of America's Test Kitchen and Guy Crosby, Ph.D. (America's Test Kitchen, $40) - says that's not true.
During testing, the authors discovered that searing helps develop flavor - not seal in juices.
"Searing meat adds flavorful crust, but it has nothing to do with juiciness," they said.
Today's recipe is seared first, making for a nicely browned and crisp crust. The outside of the meat is seasoned with a rub that also flavors a simple pan sauce made with sherry.
Make sure you let the roast rest before carving. The internal temperature will continue to rise and the meat will be tender and juicy.
Pork Roast With Herb Crust and Sherry Pan Sauce
• 1 (3-pound) boneless pork sirloin roast
• 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
• 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
• 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
• 1/3 cup dry sherry
Bring the roast to room temperature 40 minutes before cooking. For the rub, in small bowl mix together 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Preheat the oven to 325.
Spread the rub all over the roast. Tie the roast with kitchen string to hold it together.
In a Dutch oven or large ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium to high heat. Add the roast, sear and brown on all sides until you have a crispy crust. Add chicken broth or water to the bottom on the pot or skillet. Cover and place in the oven. Alternatively, place on a rack in a roasting pan, pour broth in bottom of pan, cover and place in the oven.
Roast the pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers 150 degrees (the temperature will continue to rise while the roast rests), about 1 1/2-2 hours - longer for larger roasts.
Remove from the oven, transfer the roast to a platter. Tent with foil and allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, set the pot or skillet over medium heat, add the sherry and bring the pan juices to a boil, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook about 2 minutes. Strain pan juices into a bowl.
Slice the roast, drizzle with pan juices and serve.
Per 6 ounces of pork: 394 calories (43 percent from fat), 19 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat), 0 grams carbohydrates, 50 grams protein, 466 mg sodium, 146 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.
Safer side of pork
An investigation in the January issue of Consumer Reports magazine found harmful bacteria in nearly 70 percent of pork chop and ground pork samples from six U.S. cities. The report offered these tips to minimize risk:
• Wash hands thoroughly after preparing raw meat.
• Place cutting boards and other utensils used to prepare raw meat directly into the dishwasher or wash thoroughly with soap.
• Use a meat thermometer when cooking pork to ensure it reaches at least 145 degrees for whole pork and 160 degrees for ground pork.
• As with other meats, keep raw pork and its juices separate from other foods, especially those eaten raw, such as salad.