It started out innocently enough: a nice, fat chuck roast that I threw into the crock pot with some potatoes, onions, celery, garlic and a little stock. It was ready to go by the time everybody got home, and the kids devoured it, which just never happens.
So I started spending more time plumbing the depths of the butcher case, which I have been more or less avoiding since I married a vegetarian — now vegan — almost 20 years ago. Our oldest child didn’t taste a pork chop until he was four years old.
When the pork went on sale I dove in and bought a nice, thick slice of Boston butt, pale pink and marbled with ribbons of fat. But before I could smother the thing in my crock pot for an easy Monday dinner, I got hungry.
I started the roast at a modest 240 degrees and let that baby roll for eight hours, by which time the kitchen had begun to fill with smoke — albeit fragrant and delicious smoke, but enough to disgust the house vegan, who left the building after I started finishing off the pork under the broiler.
It was crispy, succulent, falling off the bone when the kids and I tore into it. We finished the whole thing standing up in the kitchen.
I thought I was ready for the big time, so I brought home a whole pork shoulder, the picnic cut, with enough skin that you can tell what part of the animal it came from. I arose at before sunrise to coat it with salt and put it in a low oven; the haze of pig smoke began to creep through the house before noon; and the thing wasn’t ready to eat until almost 9 p.m., by which time everyone but me had lost interest.
I must have eaten four pounds of pork that night, and I managed to get to bed before the meat sweats kicked in. It was one of those nights where I was drinking water in my dreams. The next day, the house smelled like hot pig and no one was interested in my slow roast. I ate literally as much as I could, then turned the rest, bones and all, into tonkotsu stock with some star anise, ponzu, oyster sauce and a little sesame oil.
And then — Oh! And then I brought home a fat slab of porkbelly — not as easy to find as one might think; I got mine at the Super G. I still got up near sunrise to score the upper layer of fat and rub it with salt and pepper before I took it up to a high temp of 375, then down to 250 or so and then all the way up to 500 degrees over the course of six hours, blistering the surface until it crackled like candy.
The house smoke from the porkbelly may have been thicker than that of the shoulder but, as I argued to my wife, it did not seep through our living quarters for the same duration as the smoke from the picnic cut had, so really it was a much better deal for us all.
That was when she asked me to stop slow-roasting meat in the house.
I had a relapse last week when the pork shoulder went on sale again, and there went another 12 hours of my life, another discussion about smoke in the house, another shirt ruined by grease stains from eating slow-cooked pork with my hands in the middle of the night.
I just can’t do it anymore.
So I’m off the slow-roast pork, though I swear if I come across some porkbellies at the right price I can’t honestly tell you what I’m going to do.
And come Easter, I am going to slow-roast an entire leg of lamb with some garlic, fresh mint and lemon, even if I have to eat the whole thing myself.