Mar 27, 2009

The Arrosto Assessment

I noticed I've posted quite a number of recipes for fish, desserts, soups, vegetables, and pasta since I started blogging. Not to mention my love affair with cheese. What was missing so far was a proper carnivore's weekend entree. One to be made patiently and for the entire family, one that requires time and that will spill delicious aromas in the rooms near the kitchen.
The Italian word for roast is arrosto, a term that encompasses so much more that a mere cooking technique. It is an adjective, a noun, an onomatopoeic poem.


My mother’s theory is that if you can properly roast meat, you’ve learned how to cook. This was my 'test paper' when I first left home and had my mom over for lunch, what feels like a million years ago. My graduation to grown-up world.
I remember that day: the anticipation, the frenzied behavior, my nervous attempts to make it all perfect. Shopping for the right ingredients, assembling her favorite flowers and maniacally cleaning the house, readying it for her inspection. Not that she's much of a cleanliness freak, or someone fixated with order or form, but I wanted her first impression to be speckless. I wanted to prove that I could not only manage a home on my own, but that I could make one mean roast, too.
In Italy women leave the nest not upon going to college, but once married off to a husband. A man who - in a time not so distant in the past - would mainly be looking for a duplicate of his mother. I was 22 and single, my American side bludgeoning for autonomy. Through the conflict that ensued, I translated the energy into cooking and trying to reproduce my mother's and grandmother's culinary art.

So there she sat, eating quietly. She had a second helping... promising - I thought to myself, as I scanned the room for decoration debacles. I knew things were looking good when she sopped up the roast drippings with a chunk of bread, raising her eyebrows. My heart was pounding, and I'm sure she was feeling under examination too; but that didn't stop us from finishing our food, casually chatting and laughing (three elements of a perfect meal) as we always do.
The final Cordon Bleu moment came when she looked up at me with the most radiant of smiles and said, "La mia bambina ha superato la maestra!" My little girl has outshined her teacher.

My mother, Emi
1969



I passed the test. Here's how I did it back then and how I still prepare my Arrosto today:
  • 1 boneless pork rib end roast, weighing about 1kg (2lbs)
  • 5 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
Preheat oven at 160°C (320°F).
Trim away any fat from the roast and lace it with butcher’s twine to help it maintain its shape. Rub the meat with olive oil, and salt and pepper, massaging in the elements with love. Weave the rosemary twigs between the meat and the kitchen string, and place the prepared roast in the oven, using a high-rimmed oven pan (juice collecting is a must here).

Bake for an hour or until fork-tender. The meat must be well done but not overcooked, this will depend greatly on the size of the roast and oven power; it will be done when you stick a skewer into the middle and the juices run clear. A trick is to fill the drippings pan (one level beneath the roast pan) with water to maintain a good moisture level in your oven.

Remove the roast to a wire rack and let it cool for 15-20 minutes. This is an important step, juices tend to concentrate in the innermost part of the roast. By slicing it straight out of the oven, you would end up with a very watery and unattractive arrosto. Letting it rest allows the fluids to redistribute in the peripheral tissues and render a firm, juicy slice.

Discard the twine before carving. I usually serve my pork roast with applesauce and a side order of pan-fried string beans tossed with a clove of garlic, a fistful of toasted breadcrumbs and a thread of olive oil. "Il vino," you ask? Oh, what the heck, go with a Brunello di Montalcino, you deserve it! That or any rich, tannic red.


Buon appetito!

26 comments:

  1. Lola, you make even meat sound gorgeous! I will try this on Sunday evening for my husband and any kids that may be around!
    Love the pic of your Mom~Bella!
    xoxoxlori

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  2. Grazie....because roasting meat has always been a challenge for me.

    Love the photo...how do you say Kleenex in Italian?

    You mother has beautiful eyes and a bright smile.

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  3. Your mother is beautiful and obviously a good teacher too, because your roast is also a stunner. (Thanks for visiting my site - I'll pop back here more often now that I've found you.)

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  4. Lori~ Report back and tell me the outcome, moans of pleasure etc.

    Pyzahn~ Roasting meat is hard! It takes a huge effort, but the reward is yummy. Ciao, cliinecks.

    Casalba~ You're welcome here anytime. We dine at all hours, so just pull up a chair.

    Thank you all for commenting on my bella mamma. Despite the years and adversities of life, her smile is still open and honest like in the photo.

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  5. Lovely recipe; most important, for me, was the attitude you expressed, the wish to please your mother. I get that from my daugther still.

    By the way, your mother and I could be sisters!

    Tell her from me she has succeeded!

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  6. Rosaria - the recipe was almost an excuse; I wanted to write about her, my mamma. And of me with her. She is a fantastic woman, born Feb 1938. I will tell her, grazie.

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  7. Oops - it's late and I'm jumbling Google accounts... Rosaria ho firmato Ele, ma sono sempre io, scusa!

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  8. Found you on "In Through The Back Door" - my wife does the cooking in our family, but I love the story of you passing into adulthood. Such pressure!

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  9. Looks absolutely delicious. Mouth watering.

    And your mother is gorgeous. So light and happy. That photo could be of yesterday.

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  10. Yummy, delicious, and your mother is beautiful. What lovely eyes she has!

    Funny about the lack of meat recipes out there. It seems in a way politically incorrect to 'fess up to loving meat. But I do! Sometimes my body just craves the kind of protein I can only get from meat (sorry, veggie friends).

    I bought pork loin chops yesterday, and now I'm inspired. It's been a long time since I cooked them. I can't do your exact method with chops, but I can try to rub in some oil and rosemary with love. :)

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  11. Whoops! Now you have done it!

    Rosemary and pork, I have not tried together, but I am excited now that Mamma says it is GOOD!

    Thankyou for the lovely recipe, Lola.xx♥?

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  12. C.Michael - Welcome! Glad you enjoyed the little story. Thank yu for becomin a regular reader, too.

    Erin - I know, it's timeless. That same light shines today, 40 years later.

    Sallymandy - To quote Fran Lebowits, "My favorite animal is steak." Ha.

    Natalie - Weird combo, it's usually sage or thyme, right? But the rosmarino here works well too. Ciao!

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  13. Mmmm... that roast even looks fragrant! Mind if I pour myself a glass of wine and enjoy a slice?

    Beautiful pictures -- I hope your mother gets to read this post.

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  14. Anno - Please! You are my guest here anytime, let me get the wine, you carve.
    I don't think mamma will read this, the computer is something she's not too familiar with. She still dials numbers reading them off an actual address book. Made of paper, with pages and scribbled numbers! :) and I love her for it.

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  15. I might never make this dish, but I am so glad I read this post. Lovely writing.

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  16. Mmmm .. smells good even in the picture.
    Hey, Lola, could you explain how to follow you on Twitter? I know I'm just too lazy to figure it out - but, honestly I did try (a little).
    P.S. do you get to choose the words for your word verification? (I can see below where I'm typing) it's "wines". And that just seems like too much of a coincidence!

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  17. I just discovered your blog through Dinner and Movie. Great story behind the roast. My mom thinks she's a food critic, so I have these moments every time I cook for her. Thankfully she lives on the other side of the US, so that doesn't happen too often.

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  18. Sujatha - Thank you! Coming from such a talented writer, it means a lot to me. Ciao

    Susan - Tell me about it, I'm a mess with Twitter too. But I did figure the following part out: Log in with your username and password, then find me in your followers. Click on the name "passerotto," below it there's a button that reads Follow, click it. Done. :)Re the word verification? That IS a coincidence! How apt, blogger!

    Marc - That's too much stress. And you're a pro! It must be stimulating though, to have such a proactive mom! Ciao and thanks for stopping by to say hi. Ciao

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  19. Cooking Sunday lunch is one of my biggest pleasures in the week. My mother taught me to cook.And I have taught both my sons.
    And now having read this I'm starving.... so breakfast quick before the joys of roast chicken later.
    x

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  20. Well I love food and this sounds delicious. Unfortunately my cooking is total crap.

    Your mother look beautiful and what a smile.

    Thank you for the birthday wishes. And I am glad we have a mutual friend Rosaria.

    Love Renee xoxo

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  21. Ciao Lola, You Better listen to mom she knows best!! That dish looks so good! This is a wonderful thing to see people get excited over preparing each others foods! I always loved the way we Italians take pride in our infallible foods! Grazie! :)

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  22. That photo of your Mum looks as if it could have been taken at Positano.
    The roast looks wonderful. I'm glad I didn't have those tests from my Mum. She was a top cook. I would never have tried to reach her standards!

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  23. ahhhh...my hubby is in pig heaven:>)!!!
    He sends his thanks.

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  24. I love your other blog as well. I tried reading the Italian, it's quite easy. How fun. I come via Renee's blog and just blog hopping today for a little while. You have a very nice blog. That pork roast looks delish. I need to re-visit Fortechine? is that what it's called. Sorry if I misspelled it. Anyway thanks for sharing.

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  25. Fire Bird - It's the best day of the week! Tiring though, I'm devastated... Thank you for your sweet comment.

    Renee - It is my pleasure to have you over visiting my blog. Rosaria is a gem, isn't she? Thank you for stopping by!

    Chuck - I love the warm feeling of Sunday togetherness, the relaxed rituals and, let's face it, the gargantuan meals. Abbondanza!

    Scintilla - I think the picture may very well be Positano, or Nerano... I have to ask her. Your mom was a top chef? Wow, there's a story to be told there!

    Distracted... - You're both very welcome! Oink... Ciao

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  26. glorV - you slipped in while I was replying to the others, sorry. Thank you for stopping by here and Forchettine, I recently updated it with a new review. You're welcome back any time you like, here and there. Both my blogs link to each other, so you can hop on over. Ciao!

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