Thursday, July 18, 2013

The good butcher

I once had a butcher in Portland. His name was Jarrod. The man made my life better.

A few days ago, while on a road trip through Maine's lake regions, I noticed a message from Jarrod in the email box. This surprised me as we had never communicated in this manner before. We talk at his counter, sometimes in the walk-in when he wants to show me something special. Never like this.

"I am no longer at the Rosemont Market," Jarrod My Butcher wrote. "I'd love to catch up and chat. Here's my number."

Six hours in the saddle of a vibrating motorcycle had wrecked havoc on an already aching back, but the pain that shot through me at this moment had a far more profound impact.

A man needs a good butcher in his life. And I no longer had one.

I'd only seen Jarrod a week ago. I had asked if he had a pork shoulder that I could prepare in the wood oven. He said that he did, but not the kind that I like. A good butcher knows what you like. Mine knew that a good pork shoulder — to me — had the bone in and the skin still attached. Jarrod had a bone-in shoulder, but its skin had already been removed.

"I think I can fix you up," he said with the kind of enthusiasm a man must possess in order to be a good butcher. "Come back later."

Just as promised, Jarrod My Butcher fixed me up. By carefully tying a slab of pork skin to a beautiful nine-pound, bone-in shoulder.

Which I seasoned with salt, pepper, and a touch of fennel pollen.

And stuffed with fresh herbs from the garden.

Scoring the skin every couple inches is the way to go, I think. Better for basting, and the cooked skin is easier to cut up and eat.

In a deep roasting pan went celery, whole (slightly crushed) garlic cloves, bay leaves, some thyme, like that.

The pork sits on top of all that and then two cups each of white wine and chicken stock are added. Cover in aluminum foil before placing in the oven.

Speaking of which, this is a slow-roasted deal we're talking about here, and so the oven temperature should be around 200 to 250 degrees F.

Every 20 minutes or so be sure to baste the roast.

You can see that there's a lot of liquid in the pan, even after more than six hours.

At around the six hour mark remove the foil. Then, when the roast is pretty much done to your liking, crank up the temperature to around 450 degrees so that the skin has an opportunity to crisp. This should only take half an hour, if that.

This baby was in the oven around 8 hours total.

And was one of the moistest, tenderest pieces of meat that I ever ate.

Grazie Jarrod!

My Butcher.


Arlene said...

This looks divine. It's so nice to have you back - you were missed!!

kennebunksgossip said...

Nice recipe ..looks so good..have a question

Can I use a port butt? do not really understand difference between the two cuts. Are they interchangeable??

thanks for any help!

Mister Meatball said...

They're the same thing.

3M said...

A good butcher can make all the difference in the world, and they are not easy to come by. I'm so sorry you lost Jarrod, but I hope he is happy and successful in his next endeavor. Btw, I made it to Texas and am on the hunt for my own butcher - wish me luck! The pork roast looks fabulous and I will certainly give it a try.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

One of my favorite fictional characters I've been privileged to have "show up in my head" was Burt Burt (yes, that's his first and last name) the butcher. He first appeared in STRAY AFFECTIONS. Once a week he served free "durves" in his shop. There was always a line for his latest concoction. He had a rhythm about his slicing and a heart as big as a full moon. I was CRAZY EXCITED when he showed up in a second novel, FINDING OUR WAY HOME. He's a reader fav.