SPIT-ROASTED PORK LOIN - Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Arista di maiale
Preparation - Easy
At home in Teverina, any winter holiday meal, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a friends birthday or anniversary, calls for arista, a magnificent boned and rolled loin of pork studded with rosemary and garlic, that is balanced on a spit and roasted in front of the fire in the big living room fireplace. It turns slowly on the girarrasto toscano, a Tuscan clockwork turnspit that goes off like an alarm clock every 20 minutes to tell the cook it's time to wind it up again. Basted periodically with red wine over the hours that it cooks, the meat, when done, is nearly caramelized on the surface with the combination of heat, fat, and wine, while the inside remains succulent and tender without being dry.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a fireplace big enough for cooking, much less a girarrosto toscano, but the dish is almost as good baked in a modern electric or gas oven. In any case, the procedure is similar. If you want to cook it in front of a live fire, see the note at the end of the recipe.
Frying pan, roasting pan with rack.
- 4 pounds pork loin, boned, rolled, tied or not (see recipe)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
- 1 T salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- If the roast has not been tied, spread it out on a work counter. Chop together the garlic and rosemary leaves and mix with the salt and 2 Ts of the olive oil. Use half this mixture to rub over the inside of the pork, then roll up and tie securely in several places with butcher's twine. Rub the remaining garlic-rosemary mixture all over the outside of the roast.
- If the roast has already been tied, thinly slice one of the garlic cloves and strip the leaves from one of the rosemary sprigs. Stick the point of a sharp knife all over the pork to a depth of about 1/2 inch, inserting a garlic slice or a pinch of rosemary leaves in each little opening. Chop the remaining garlic clove with the leaves of the remaining rosemary and mix with the salt and 2 Ts of the oil. Rub this all over the outside of the roast.
- The roast may be prepared several hours ahead, or the night before you're planning to cook it. Refrigerate if you're not going to cook with an hour or so.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Set a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 Ts of olive oil. When the oil is very hot, add the pork loin and sear it on all sides to brown it. As soon as it is brown, remove from the heat and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Add a little of the wine to the frying pan and return to the heat to deglaze. Scrape the pan juices over the pork.
- Place the pork in the oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, basting every 20 minutes or so, first with the wine, then when that's gone, with the juices in the pan. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. and continue roasting an additional 1 1/2 to 2 hours, more or less, depending on how well done you like your pork.
- When done, remove the pork from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes or longer before slicing. Strain the pan juices through a fine sieve and set aside to let the fat rise. Use the fat to saute' potatoes to accompany the pork; boil the juices down to thicken them considerably, then spoon them over the thinly sliced pork.
- To spit-roast: If you have a large fireplace and a spit, you can roast the arista in a true Tuscan manner, but it will take longer than oven roasting. For a 4-pound roast, I count on a minimum of 4 1/2 hours with the pork turning slowly before the fire, basting religiously every 20 minutes. Do note that you may skip the browning in the recipe above if you are going to spit-roast the meat. Be sure to set a roasting pan beneath the spit to catch the drippings.
- A boneless loin like this is easy to spit-roast because it balances well on the spit and seldom needs any other attachment; the prongs that come with the spit hold it in place.
- The most important factor in roasting any meat is the fire. Be sure to start the fire at least 2 to 3 hours in advance in order to build up a good bed of coals - a little pure wood charcoal (not briquettes) added to the embers helps give a steady heat. Set the spit roaster as close to the coals as is convenient; you may have to adjust this during the roasting process. To test for doneness, insert a meat thermometer so it reaches the center of the loin - it should register 170 degrees F.
Note: Thinly sliced arista is as good cold as it is hot, some say even better. It makes a sensational sandwich on thin slices of Tuscan bread with a little mustard or mayonnaise or plain unsalted butter.