The holiday season is here, a wonderful and crazy time of the year. Blustery cold winds outside and the cheery fire popping on the hearth warming the house and our souls. Family coming together from all over the country and friends dropping by for parties. Children trying hard to behave, their excitement growing as the days count down. Songs that linger in our minds leaving us humming fragments for hours as we work in the kitchen creating magical memories with every meal we make and cookie we decorate.
Each year we work hard to plan the big family meals. There is never enough in room in the oven with huge turkeys and roasts needing hours to roast, challenging us to figure out how to get everything cooked and on the table hot. We juggle the dishes going in and out of the oven, using the microwave to reheat after they have been sitting on the counter waiting for the main course to finish. If we could free up the oven, everything would be easier. That’s where our grills come into play.
Using the barbecue in place of the oven is an obvious solution but it can be intimidating to trust our huge birds and expensive roasts to a piece of equipment that is used primarily for grilling hot dogs and hamburgers in summer. It is one of my favorite tools for cooking all year long and the flavor it adds to meats makes everything taste better.
Grilling’s infrared technology with its diffused heat is the best at creating an environment remarkably close to what we are used to in the oven. Consistent heat is the trick to perfectly cooked larger cuts of meat. And be sure to use a good instant read thermometer to know exactly when the meat is at the perfect temperature. It is always a good idea to calibrate it by inserting it into a pot of boiling water. Water boils at 212°F. If your thermometer doesn’t register that temperature, you will need to adjust the final cooking temperature by the difference to get the same results.
To make it easy to get the roast on and off the grill as well as capturing the delicious juices as it cooks, I cook it in a grill-proof roasting pan instead of directly on the grates. Cooking it over low heat (about 250°F) will help keep it moist and tender. You may need to adjust the burners occasionally as it cooks, but resist the urge to lift the lid and peek. Instead listen for the sizzling sound and you’ll know the roast is happily cooking away.
A crown pork roast is one of the most impressive dinners we can serve and it is big enough to feed a small army. Made by rolling a long rack of ribs into a circle, their frenched (cleaned) bones creating the characteristic points associated with royalty and earning its regal name. A typical roast will have about 18 ribs and each rib makes a generous serving. This will feed a large crowd and still leave you with delicious leftovers. A crown roast makes any party even more special.
If you have time, dry brining the roast for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator will add tremendous flavor. I seasoned my roast with a dry rub that includes my friend, Bruce Hopkins’ Rib Tickler, from his company The Chef’s Table. It added most of the flavor
The Chef’s Table has a wide variety of delightful seasonings designed to make everything even more delicious. From a poultry seasoning blend called Chicken Feathers and their Classic Merlot Sea Salt, to the Rib Tickler and Smoky Mesquite Meat Paint, each one will make your job easier. They have done all the blending for you, saving you time and effort. I dare you to try just one!
If you want to add stuffing in the center for an even more elegant presentation, you can use a traditional bread dressing, one made with rice and fruit, a bread and sausage blend, or homemade cranberry sauce. Cook the stuffing separately and spoon it into the center after the roast comes off the grill before you cover it and let it rest (pile it on top of the foil plug).
It is such a beautiful roast that it deserves to be presented whole to the crowd, no doubt earning you a round of applause. You will definitely feel regal as you carve chop after chop from the roast and your guests will be delighted as they hungrily wait for their plates to be filled with the delicious feast you’ve prepared.
I hope that 2016 is a year filled with joy, magic, and incredible food for each and every one of you. Happy New Year!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Call your butcher a week or two in advance to order this roast. They will need some time to get the pork rib rack(s), clean the tops of the ribs (called frenching) and get it tied up. Ordering in advance is especially courteous during the busy holiday season.
If you are cooking for anyone with gluten-sensitivity or Celiac, try a rice and sausage stuffing with some dried cranberries for a festive, light side dish. Don’t use any wooden utensils or cutting boards to eliminate potential cross-contamination.
- Pork Roast
- 1 crown pork roast (bone-in pork loin rib rack rolled and tied)
- Simple Dry Rub
- 1/4 cup paprika
- 3 tbsp Rib Tickler spice blend from The Chef's Table
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp chili powder or cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- Finishing Sauce (optional)
- Smoky Mesquite Meat Paint sauce from The Chef's Table
- Homemade cranberry sauce, optional
- Additions (optional)
- Your choice of bread or rice stuffing
- Leftover homemade cranberry sauce
- Maple roasted sweet potatoes
- Orange or tangerine slices
- Prepare the Roast: Remove roast from the refrigerator and set it on a cutting board, bones up. If there is a space in the center, roll up a ball of aluminum foil and insert it in the middle to help the roast hold its shape during cooking. This will also help hold the stuffing if you decide to add it. Brush the underside (meaty end) with a little oil and place, bones up, in a heavy-duty roasting pan.
- Make the Rub: In a medium bowl, combine the rub ingredients, mixing until thoroughly combined.
- Spread the dry rub mixture over the roast, concentrating it on the inside surfaces, and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour for the most even cooking.
- Prep the Sauce, if using: If you want to use a sauce, try adding some leftover cranberry sauce to it. You'll get a spicy, smoky, and sweet sauce that is the perfect enhancement to the pork roast. It is also a great way to use leftover cranberry sauce from your holiday meals.
- Grill the Roast: Remove the warming rack from your grill and preheat to about 400°F. Set the roast (in its roasting pan) on the grill in the center, pushing it to the back of the grill and close the lid. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low to hold the temperature about 300°F, adjusting the burners as needed.
- Cook the roast for 12 to 15 minutes a pound or until it reaches about 135°F on an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat without touching a bone. My 18-rib roast took about 2 hours. When there is about 20 minutes left of cooking time, brush the entire roast with the Mesquite Meat Paint (or other BBQ sauce), if desired. This will glaze the meat and add another layer of flavor.
- Pull the roast off the grill, transfer to a cutting board designed for roasts (with a moat to catch the juices) and lightly cover with foil. Leave it for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. The temperature will rise as it rests and the juices will be reabsorbed into the center. You want it to be about 140°F to 145°F, the meat moist and with a little pale pinkness is perfect.
- To Serve: If you are adding stuffing, you can spoon it into the center or the roast for presentation, then scoop it out before carving. Use tongs or a fork to remove the foil ball and using a very sharp knife, cut down between each rib.
- Serve 1 to 2 ribs per person with some of the stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce if desired.
- Yield: about 10 to 12 servings, 1 to 2 ribs per person
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