Tuscan Roast Pork with Garlic and Rosemary (Arista)

January 30, 2016

This roast is perfect for mid-winter when its cold (and rainy) outside. As the roast slowly warns the kitchen, the anticipation slowly build and the delicious aromas permeate the house. That’s why this is my favorite time of year to spend the entire day cooking. Today’s Roast Pork is good; stuffed with pancetta, garlic and rosemary; but I thought that the flavors could have had more depth. The dominant flavor was rosemary; with only a hint of garlic. The lemon-oil helped to brighten the flavors a little; but didn’t go far enough. Good, solid weekend meal. 4-stars.

Well cooked, but a little unbalanced

Well cooked, but a little unbalanced

I did have a few minor technical issues with the recipe, which I’ve described below.


  1. When I got to my supermarket on Saturday afternoon, there was only 1 roast to “choose” from. It was 3.1-pounds, which I thought was close enough (recipe calls for 2-1/2 lbs). However, the consequence was that the roast did not fit into my 10″ skillet. Instead I used a 12″ skillet, but because of all the extra space I had a little trouble browning the fat cap on all sides, as the roast rolled around. I should have either trimmed down the roast to fit in the 10″ skillet’ or stood over the pan as I cooked it in step 13.
  2. I had an issue with my paste not spreading evenly (see photo below). It clumped together and was not nearly as manageable as in the Cook’s Illustrated video. I am not sure if it is because I used 3-oz of pancetta (the recipe called for 2 ounces; but my roast was a little over-sized). Also I am not sure if it is because my slices were very thin (and pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped). Not how I imagined that I was going to buy the pancetta; but that’s all that was available.
  3. Chris Kimball gives one final warning; if you are only able to find enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution), then your should reduce the salt to 1 teaspoon per side in Step 7.
Paste clumped' I had trouble getting even layer

Paste clumped; I had trouble getting even layer


Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 ounces pancetta slices
2-1/2-pound boneless center-cut pork loin roast
Kosher salt

  1. Chopped fresh rosemary, but be careful not to include any woody stems.
  2. Grate zest from one lemon, and add to a 10-inch non-stick skillet. Add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 8 minced garlic cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Set over medium-low burner and cook for 3 minutes; stirring often; until garlic sizzles.
  3. Add in chopped rosemary and cook for just 30 seconds. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl, press down on solids to extract as much oil as possible. Set both oil and rosemary-garlic aside to cool. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel.
  4. Cut pancetta slices into 1/2″ pieces and add to food processor. Process for 30 seconds until it forms into a paste. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in cooled rosemary-garlic mixture  and process another 30 seconds.
  5. Set roast on cutting board with the fat side up. You will double-butterfly the roast. Begin by cutting horizontally one-third of the way up (just where the fat-cap begins) and cut along the entire length of the long-side of the roast; stopping 1/2-inch before you cut all the way through. Open up the flap.
  6. Again, keep your knife level with the first cut, cut through the thicker side of the roast again stopping 1/2-inch before you cut all the way through. Open up the flap and lay your roast flat. If portions are uneven, cover with plastic wrap and even out with a meat pounder.
  7. Sprinkle each side with 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt and rub into the meat.
  8. Evenly spread the inside of the roast with pancetta-garlic paste from Step 4; but leave 1/4-inch border on all sides.
  9. Cut seven or eight 12-inch lengths of kitchen twine. Roll up roast; keep the fat cap on the outside’ and tie with kitchen twine.
  10. Put a wire rack over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Spray with vegetable oil spray, placing roast (with fat cap upward) onto rack and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  11. With 15 minutes to go, set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. After an hour in the refrigerator, move roast (already set up on rack) oven and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours; until the internal temperature of the pork is 135-degrees. Remove from oven and tent with aluminum foil for 20 minutes; during which time the temperature will continue to increase another 10-to-12-degrees.
  12. While the roast rests, set your skillet over high-burner; at 1 teaspoon of oil (from Step 3) and pre-heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Cut lemons in half and set into skillet with the cut-side down. Cook for 3-to-4 minutes until browned and softened; remove to a small plate.
  13. Use paper towels to pat the roast dry. Pre-heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in the skillet until it just begins to smoke, then brown the roast on the fat-cap side and the sides for a total of 5-to-6-minutes (but don’t brown the bottom of the roast). Remove to a cutting board and remove the twine.
  14. When lemons have cooled slightly, squeeze them through a fine-meshed strainer over a small bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add 2 tablespoons of the juice into the reserve oil and whisk together. Cut the roast into 1/4″-thick slices and serve passing the vinaigrette separately.

Cartagena, Colombia

January 26, 2016

In stark contrast to the humble colonial cities in the mountains, 500-year-old Cartagena has a rich political history and was a critically important port. It was responsible for sending silver and gold back to Spain; and for many years it was also a slave port.  Today, Cartagena is the brightest and most vibrant of the Colombian cities that I have visited (notably lacking both Cali and Medellin).

Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

For me, Cartagena has everything that I love in a historic city; old city walls, a castle on the hill, a lovely city center. But what sets it apart from other cities is the lively Caribbean vibe. It is extremely energetic, and becomes even more lively after the sun goes down. The party-like atmosphere feels a little like New Orleans.

The first time I even thought about visiting Colombia came 30 years ago in the movie, “Romancing the Stone.” Later I realized that it wasn’t even filmed in Colombia. In 1997, Cartagena was the place in Colombia I ever set foot. It has changed a lot, cleaned itself up, and has become one of the premier destinations in Colombia.


The huge fortress; Castillo San Filipe; overlooks the walled city of Cartagena. It is an impressive fort, and it’s unique shape made it extremely difficult to single out one battery for attack without controlling the entire system of defense.

Santa Marta, Colombia

January 24, 2016

If you are looking for fun in the sun in Colombia, Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast is for you. No matter what you are looking for in a beach; it is here. More or less, there are two kinds of beaches. First, wide, white sand beaches filled with hotels and people. Usually, these well-developed beaches are where people go who like to see, and to be seen. This the Rodadero Beach.

The second kind of beach is more elusive; private, remote, difficult to find and inconvenient to visit. But the second type is also here; very near to Santa Marta; Tayrona National Park. The park is 50 years old and is the area traditional inhabited by the Tairona tribe; who were wiped out after rebelling against Spanish-rule in the late 1500’s.  There are three entrances into Tayrona National Park; two of which are highly regulated and are difficult to visit. (1) The furthest entrance; requires taking a series of buses and hiking/horses for 2 hours. I went here many years ago; and it is the best option if you want to camp on a spectacular beach. (2) The second entrance takes you to Playa Cristal (Crystal Beach). This requires waking up in the middle of the night to wait in line at the entrance; because only 300 people are admitted into the park. In off season, you can get boat from Taganga. (3) The third entrance in unregulated and takes you to Playa Concha, which is a well developed beach very similar to Rodedero. Very crowded, but still very beautiful.

Much of Colombia’s Caribbean coast is dominated by the Rio Magdelena; comparable to the Mississippi River; which empties is muddied waters into the sea; clouding the Caribbean’s famous turquoise waters. While the waters of Santa Marta are only slightly clearer than Cartegena, the geography of the Eastward coastline provides just enough shelter to keep the pristine clear.

Lastly, the part of Tayrona that I have still not been able to visit is the Lost City; Ciudad Perdida. It is a 45km, 5-to-6-day hike through steamy jungle. It’s similar in distance to Peru’s more famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Though the ruins are of a much smaller scale than Machu Picchu, I will hopefully be able to visit someday soon.


Villa de Leyva, Colombia

January 22, 2016

After a frantic pace running around Bogota, I really loved my days in quiet, colonial Villa de Leyva. The town was founded in 1572. Obviously I am pre-disposed to love quiet, colonial towns; see here, here, here, here, here  and here for example. Colonial architecture in Latin America comes in a few different forms and flavors. Perhaps Colombia’s most famous colonial city; Cartagena is bright and colorful. By contrast, Villa de Leyva is simple, white masonry structures.

A view of Plaza Mayor

A view of Plaza Mayor

My favorite thing about Villa de Leyva is that it gave me a chance to relax; to simply hang-around the Plaza Mayor. Colombian claim that Villa de Leyva has the largest cobbled square in South America. While I am not sure if that is true, the Plaza is very impressive.

But the one thing that the Plaza Mayor is lacking is shade; the midday sun so near to the equator is intense, even as the air temperatures are pleasant. Perhaps for this reason, the quiet Villa de Leyva springs to life after the sun goes down. There are three times as many people out and about in the evening.

I was planning to visit some local hot springs, but the drought has caused them to close. So instead of relaxing in hot springs, I went on a bit of adventure. I jumped off a cliff (zip lining), reppelled down the face of a waterfall, and went caving (spelunking). Much more of an adrenaline rush than hot springs.

Zipaquirá, Colombia

January 18, 2016

My trip to Colombia felt like a whirlwind, each day was filled to the maximum with exploration and adventure. One of my most memorable visits was a day-trip just outside of Bogata to the small town of Zipaquirá. The town is one of Colombia’s oldest; dating back to the Spanish conquest around 1600. The center has lovely main square, with a colonial-era cathedral and filled with traditional buildings.

Cathedral in Zipaquirá

Cathedral in Zipaquirá

I was in Colombia for nearly 2 weeks, at it took me my entire stay to finally figure out how to pronounce Zipaquirá. Everyday I would try to pronounce it; and every day my Colombian hosts would gently laugh at my mispronunciation. Finally just as I was preparing to return home, I became accustomed to the uniqueness of Colombian names.

The highlight of my trip to Zipaquirá was my visit to the Salt Cathedral. 660-feet below the earth’s surface is a massive cathedral built within a salt mine (main cathedral can seat 8,000 people). It has a series of 14 chapels as you make your way deeper and deeper underground, until you finally reach the huge main cathedral. While the mine dates back to pre-colombian times; the cathedral was built in phases mostly beginning in the early part of the last century.

Bogota, Colombia

January 16, 2016

There is a common misconception of people who have never visited Colombia that it is one of the most dangerous places in the world; fueled by Tom Clancy novels and images of Pablo Escobar. Regardless of how true those images may have been in the past, today’s Colombia is a place of incredible beauty and sincere friendliness. The country was filled with hustle and bustle, but even in the main tourist areas, I heard only Spanish. The country feels genuine; not spoiled by foreign tourism.

started in 1807 during Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá was begun under Spanish rule and completed after independence in 1823

Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá was begun under Spanish rule and completed after independence in 1823

The main tourist areas of Candelaria and Monserrate are beautiful and filled with Colombians enjoying themselves. The center is extremely colorful, and filled with far more museums and restaurants than I had time to visit. I would have especially liked to visit the National Museum, Gold Museum, and the Gabriel Garcia Marquez cultural center (one of the principal reasons I learned Spanish was to read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in Spanish).

One of Bogota’s most beautiful sights is the panoramic view of the city from the heights of Montserrate. While I would have liked to try the foot path, the elevation gain of over 1,560-feet (500m) is formidable. I chose the teleferico (gondola), especially because I had not yet acclimatized to the 10,000-foot elevation.

It was my birthday, and we celebrated with a wonderful lunch/dinner in the restaurant at the top of the mountain. Our waiter suggested taking this photo of everybody admiring the view; and later we joked that it was a trick and that he would run away with the camera while our backs were turned. But our waiter was right; it is one of my favorite photos of the entire trip.

I would recommend going up in the late afternoon, so that you can see the view both in the daytime and nighttime. The view from Monserrate in the nighttime is spectacular; and the lines to go up in the nighttime are usually double, triple or quadruple the length. The mountain was all dressed up for the holidays and was especially colorful.

The next day we went hiking in the Natural Park of Chicaque, about 30 minutes outside of Bogota. It was a full-day hike. While the first half of the day was all down hill, the afternoon was extremely strenuous as we climbed the nearly 2000-feet back to the canyon’s rim.



Happy New Year

January 15, 2016

I know that I am a little late with my annual summary of favorite recipes; but I was traveling in Colombia and I was not able to really write much of anything while I was away. I hope to publish my travel posts, and additionally, I have about 5 new recipes that I need to publish. Hopefully I will be able to catch-up this week.

Best meal of the 2015.

Best meal of the 2015.


My top 5 recipes for 2015 were:

  1. Pot-Au-Feu. This was an amazing meal. The first time I have cooked with bone marrow; wow, I never knew bone marrow added so much. This recipe is an absolute must.
  2. Semi-Boneless Grilled Leg Quarters with Lime Dressing. This recipe was based upon Chris Kimball’s recipe, but I de-boned the thigh and trussed it back up (as in Julia Child’s turkey recipe). By combining these two recipes, it made a delicious 5-star recipe even better. I made the recipe many times over the summer, and had the biggest impact on my daily menu of any other recipe this year.
  3. Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks. Wow, perfectly evenly cooked steaks from edge-to-edge. The results are better than any other steak that I’ve ever cooked. It’s almost impossible to otherwise obtain such professional results at home.
  4. Authentic Baguettes at Home.  I know that I am not alone in my love of Paris, both for the food and for the sights. I made these Authentic Parisian-style baguettes that took two or three days to make; which required a few special tools and a lot of patience. I’m not sure that I will make them again; but it was definitely the best bread I made all year.
  5. Shrimp Scampi. While this recipe is for a non-Chris Kimball shrimp scampi; he recently came out with an updated recipe(which I have made, but not yet posted). His previous recipe was quite old, and lacked both punch and sufficient sauce.

Of course, the biggest (and saddest) news of 2015 was that Chris Kimball will be leaving the Cook’s Illustrated/ATK organization that he created. I hope to continue to follow him whatever his future endeavors may include.

%d bloggers like this: