THE TASTES OF CHILDHOOD CARRY OUR MEMORIES
José, my father-in-law, lived with us at the end of his life. He loved food and would tell me stories about the food his mother made. As he described the foods of his childhood, he’d refer to her as mama. Stories about mama and those meals brought a gleam in his eye and longing in his voice.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to cook the comfort foods he craved; I made the foods I knew: quiche, coq au vin. They were good, but not what José wanted, and this was a bone of contention between us. He’d watch me cook and talk about those great meals.
When he still could, he would go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients he needed to show me how to make some of his favorite recipes. Some were delicious and others I could have skipped: oxtail soup isn’t my favorite, but seeing the delight on his face always made it worthwhile.
His stories helped me understand the important role food plays in our comfort and its ability to evoke family memories. Each recipe José made was accompanied with stories and each story described details of his childhood that would make him smile. As he cooked, I watched with pen in hand, taking down everything he did so I could repeat it. I was aware I was being allowed to share something that was really important to him and therefore important to my husband and our children.
Now, when I make one of his recipes or share them our friends, I think of José and I’m so grateful that he took the time to teach me about the food he loved. .
One of my favorite recipes is this one for pork roast that has a mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic that infuses it with wonderful flavor. Every time I make it I’m surprised at how good it is.
The simplicity of this marinade inspired me to change it a little and use it with lamb. You can’t go wrong with garlic, salt, and pepper, but adding rosemary is sublime with lamb and this is a great way to have those flavors permeate the whole roast.
José’s Pork Loin
5 lb pork loin or tenderloin
garlic, 8 large cloves
1 tbsp salt (kosher)
1 tsp ground pepper fine
3 tbsp olive oil
- I use a mortar and pestle and pound the garlic, first to remove the skin and then to pulverize it. You can also do this on a chopping board with the flat part of a knife.
- Chop or crush the garlic. Add a little salt and continue crushing the garlic into a paste. Once the garlic starts to break down, add the rest of the salt and the pepper until it becomes a paste.
- Place the mixture into a bowl and start adding the olive oil until it starts to emulsify into a thick sauce.
- If you can open the pork roast, do so and spread ⅓ of the garlic mixture on the inside and then roll it back up using kitchen string to tie it back in place.
- With a knife, poke holes all over the outside of the pork and fill them with another ⅓ the garlic mixture.
- With the final ⅓ of garlic mixture, coat the entire outside. Place roast in the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap and tightly cover the meat and let it sit for an hour or more before cooking.
- Start roasting the pork in 450° oven for the first 20 minutes. Turn it over after 10 minutes to brown all sides.
- Lower the temperature to 300° and continue cooking; expect about 20 minutes per pound. Cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 160°. Remove from heat and tent with aluminum foil and let stand 15 minutes before slicing.
For the lamb roast, add 2 tbsp of chopped rosemary to the garlic mixture and follow the recipe above.
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