Monday, January 21, 2008

Kaiser Rolls, Roast Pork, and Football

I wanted to make something to eat during the NFC Championship (which turned out to be a glorious, albeit frustrating, win for the G-Men) that would let me spend most of my time in front of the TV instead of the stove. Sandwiches were the perfect option here, and while they allowed me to catch almost all of the game, they did not prevent me from spending my fair share of time in front of the oven. I decided to make roast pork sandwiches on homemade kaiser rolls with a ravioli pasta salad. I figured I could bake the rolls Sunday morning, then make the pasta salad while the pork was roasting, that way once the game started all I would have to do is cut up the pork. What I didn't figure when I began this little adventure was how early I would have to actually get up on Sunday to get the rolls baked and the pork roasted by 6 PM (4 AM in case you were wondering).

I picked up a 10 pound pork butt at Whole Foods on Saturday morning, had an amazing burger for lunch at Plan B in West Hartford, then came right home and started brining. The pork went into a solution of salt, sugar, garlic, and orange juice. Brining is a great way to keep meat moist while cooking (even to some degree of overcooking). I put the brine bucket in the garage to stay cold overnight, then made the pate fermentee starter for the rolls. After a quick rise it was into the fridge to stay cold overnight as well.

Sunday morning at 4 am I took the starter dough out of the fridge, then went back to sleep for about 40 minutes. I made the dough and allowed it to ferment for a two hours. While I was waiting, I made the garlic-citrus rub for the pork. When the time was right, I cut the dough into 16 pieces and shaped those into tiny rounds.

After a five minute rest, I patted the rounds out a bit thinner, then folded them up, and placed them seam-side down on a baking sheet. 90 minutes later they were flipped over and baked off in a 425 degree oven.

The rolls came out looking beautiful. But how would they taste? As usual, the cooling period was torturous.

At first I was just going to try one with just a bit of butter, but then I thought, what better way is there to test a hard roll (which is what I call kaiser rolls), than by making an egg & cheese sandwich? I couldn't think of one, so I waited a few more minutes while my egg fried. When I finally did try it, the roll was perfect, as good as any I've ever had. Phase one of my long pork sandwich process was complete.

I immediately got the pork out of the brine, gave it a good rinse, patted it dry and rubbed it with the garlic/citrus paste I had made earlier. The pork began its 6 hour roast at exactly 11:15 AM. After 3 hours, it was looking pretty good (from what I could see through the oven door).

The roast came out at 5:40 and sat on the cutting board for an additional hour. I was cutting it up just as the Giants were orchestrating their opening drive. Not too bad. The meat was perfectly cooked, but the rub was a little salty for my tastes (which are very sensitive to salt). This was easily compensated for by just choosing pieces of meat from the interior of the roast where the flavor imparted by the long brining and the rub was more subtle. Everybody enjoyed their sandwiches. A few hours later and the food was pretty much an afterthought, as the Giants were (and still are) headed to the Superbowl to face the mighty, undefeated New England Patriots. Lucky for me, now I've got two weeks to figure out what I'm going to make.


Fresh off my success with hard rolls, I made my second attempt at ciabatta. The bread tasted great, and had a slightly more open crumb than my first attempt, and was not burnt. I still need some more practice on this one though. Unfortunately for me, I won't be able to do any bread (or any other kind) of baking for a while. Today while adding water to my steam pan during the baking of my second loaf, I got a few water droplets on the inside of the glass window, which predictably began to crack, and now needs to be replaced. D'oh! Next time I'll be more careful.


JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Those look great Darron! I love it all (except for the football!) - I used to love superbowl parties and stuff like that for the food - but no one invites me anymore because I fall asleep! :)

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G. said...

I'd love to have the recipe for the roast. It looks like a winner.

Darron said...

I got the recipe from the Cook's Illustrated website which is definitely worth joining. The recipes are well-tested and everything I've made from them has come out great. The recipe is called Cuban-Style Oven-Roasted Pork.