Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Poor Man's Crown Roast of Pork

My vintage cookbooks are filled with pictures of smartly dressed housewives serving a perfect crown roast of pork to her guests. Sometimes every bone is perfectly Frenched and topped with a white paper frill. The middle is usually filled with some sort of stuffing or perfectly arranged fruits or vegetables. Must be rough! In my lifetime I have yet to see a crown roast of pork in person. We just don't cook those things anymore. I suppose as it became more popular to entertain guests by eating out, cooking elaborate roasts and cuts of meat kind of fell out of fashion. Perhaps?

Pic from Williams Sonoma
These days a crown roast of pork will set you back about a cool $150 on the average. Not exactly budget friendly or something a busy family is likely to have on the dinner table. It's also way too much food for the two of us. It's definitely not in my budget, but that doesn't mean I can't wing it and come up with an equally delicious and almost as impressive alternative- the Poor Man's Crown Roast of Pork.

That's where pork ribs come in. I can get a couple racks of baby back ribs or pork spare ribs and stay close to $20 total meat cost and have almost as striking a presentation. This is not a quick weeknight meal, so keep in mind, you'll want a good 2 hours allowed for cooking.

Poor Man's Crown Roast of Pork

2 racks pork ribs
olive oil
desired meat rub (we like Feiny's)
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock

1 16 oz box cornbread mix or 2 Jiffy mixes
8 oz package fresh mushrooms
2 leeks
1/4 cup butter, divided
2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
salt and pepper

The day before, or as early in the day as possible, bake the cornbread according to package directions. Cool and crumble and allow to dry a bit. You CAN use a homemade cornbread recipe if you prefer.

Mmmm cornbread in the cast iron skillet
Unwrap the rib racks and pat dry. If you prefer, pull off the silverskin from the back side and trim off any excess fat. Rub the ribs with olive oil, then season generously with the meat rub. 

To assemble the ribs into a crown, stand one rack on it's edge (grab a helper or balance on something heavy like a large can of juice). Thread some cotton cooking twine onto a large (huge, actually) needle; you don't have to knot the end. Stand the second rack up matching the ends (don't overlap them if at all possible, just butt up against the other) and attach them by "sewing" together with the twine and knotting the thread. Clip the thread and repeat 3 or 4 times. Now, bend the ribs into a "crown" with the curve of the rib on the outside and sew up the other ends the same way. 

If you don't have a giant needle you can overlap the ends and use metal skewers to hold the racks together (I had to this time because of course, couldn't find that needle!). Just be sure and remove before stuffing. I took a good look at the racks and put the thicker edge on the bottom for more stability.

The "shorties" trimmed off the end. Don't discard them-
throw them in the roasting ban with the rest of the ribs.
NOTE- If the racks of ribs are really long you might want to trim off a few rib bones and throw the extra into the freezer for future soup or something. Or cook them in the middle and just keep as leftovers to drizzle with some BBQ sauce for snacks. You want a crown roast that fits into your roasting pan and one that doesn't need 5 gallons of stuffing in the middle. I bend them a little bit in the store and get the shortest ones I can find.

Those ends make a great lunch the next day
Place your roast in a roasting pan. Pour the wine and chicken stock in the bottom of the pan. Cover loosely with foil and roast about an hour and a half to two hours at 300 degrees. Remove from oven and drain off drippings but reserve them.

Meanwhile, make the stuffing. Begin by wiping the mushrooms clean- don't wash them in the sink. Trim the stem ends and slice somewhat thickly. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet and saute the mushrooms for about 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned. 

Remove to large bowl. Clean the leeks and slice, using the white part and just a tiny bit of the green part. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in skillet and saute leeks for several minutes until tender.

In large bowl, toss the mushrooms, leeks, cornbread crumbs, herbs, salt and pepper with enough of the stock to moisten but don't soak the stuffing. Pile the stuffing in the center of the roast and bake at 350 degrees until heated through and golden brown on top, at least 30 minutes.

If you would like gravy, make gravy using some of the drippings from the roasting pan, some flour to make a roux, and additional chicken stock. Add a bit of milk or cream for richness and add a bit of fresh chopped thyme for freshness. I love cranberries with pork so I also poured a little warmed whole berry cranberry sauce over the ribs.

It may not be the real deal crown roast but it's just as delicious for a fraction of the price. It's a fun and unusual way to serve ribs too. 

Just a few quick notes about this dish-

It can be fairly difficult to move from the baking pan to a serving dish. I made it in a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Place the roast in the baking sheet in the oven and then add the broth and wine.

To transfer to a serving plate, use the foil to carefully lift and transfer the roast. Sometimes it helps to have a helper on standby in case you need an extra hand. Tear off the excess foil so you can't see it under the roast, and garnish as desired.

To help the roast hold its shape better and not have it break apart when you move it, wrap some cooking twine around the middle of the roast 2 or 3 times to secure the bones. Cut the twine and remove after transferring but before serving, of course

1 comment:

  1. We don't eat pork but that sure looks good! And I love your idea!