Family planning concerns more than just what happens before the kids come along. Once you have a family, you need to do more planning for it to function well and for everyone to grow, maintain their sanity, and be happy. I was up visiting my mother over the holiday weekend, and my grown siblings were all around. They were coming and going like crazy, and I needed to do some family-meal planning, or I was going to lose it.
Sunday Morning, I asked my mom, who had just hosted about nine people the night before, who might be around that day, and who might be coming for dinner. There were a few possibilities, including one sibling and her son. I had a friend and his son visiting. The numbers were creeping up there. I like a large party, and wanted to feed everyone. This was making my mother anxious, for I doubt she wanted to cook for another big group. She did that for decades when we were kids, and maybe now she’s feeling like she wants a break. I wanted to entertain everyone, so I pressed her on the menu. I knew I could do the cooking, as you all know from reading this blog, but I also knew that it needed to be something easy, affordable, and straightforward, or else I would really lose it.
My mother said to put “something in the oven” and “to make it easy.” What’s easy for me is universal—that is, I like doing what I’ve done before, and who isn’t like that? Don’t you hate it when your kids won’t try to learn something new? But think about it, when was the last time you tried to learn something new, screwed up at it, and then kept doing it? Really, tell me that, and I’ll have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
For example, I’ve known how to ski since I was a child, and once, on a pre-parent trip to Jackson Hole, I tried snowboarding. I fell frequently, and only sort-of got the hang of it. Not immediately satisfied, and facing the end of my vacation, I quit after two days went back to skiing. That had been my plan all along, but I bet if I had gotten the hang of it faster, I would have kept on snowboarding. Know what I mean?
So last Sunday morning I was trying to come up with an easy meal for what could be between five and nine people, depending on who might be staying for dinner. The best I could manage was pork chops, broccoli rabe, and pasta with pesto sauce (I forgot to mention that I made a batch of fresh pesto before heading out of town, and because I’m so food crazy—or is it just plain crazy?—I took the pesto with me, just in case I had a big group to feed; I also brought my own pasta).
Pork chops and those sides seemed easy. My sister was coming volunteered to bring the broccoli rabe, and I could buy the meat in town. Problem solved, until I got to the store, where my mouth fell open and I started to drool as I was taken in by the vast offerings in the display case. My mother’s town has an old-fashioned butcher’s market, and they had all sorts of cuts on display. As I looked at the range of meat, my eye fell on a glistening pork loin, and I remembered my go-to apple-and-sage pork-roast recipe. I could do what my mother wanted. I could put “something in the oven” and forget it.
So I bought, a nice, three-pound cut of pork loin. It was a decent price, and I roasted it atop some apples, garlic, and sage after poked it with bits of garlic and more sage. I put the roast in the oven at half time during the San Francisco/Atlanta NFC Championship game. I went back to watch the game, and the meat was ready before the 49ers triumphed.
Everyone loved the meal, and I got the highest compliment from my friend, who told me how much he liked it, and then added, "and you prepared it very stealthily." That just took a bit of planning.
Easy Sunday Pork Roast Recipe
- 1 apple, washed, cored, and sliced
- 1 bunch sage, washed
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, to taste
- One 2-3 lb boneless pork roast
- Salt, to taste
- dry white wine, about a half cup or so
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
Slice the garlic into thick pieces, and with a pointy knife, stab a bunch of holes in the top and sides of the pork roast. Put the garlic slices along with bits of sage into the holes
Salt the meat
Lay the apple slices on the bottom of a roasting pan (for a piece of meat this size, I use a small ceramic pan) in roughly the same area as the size of the pork roast
Lay a few sage leaves over and under the slices
Perch the pork roast on top of the apples. The apples should be under the meat. They can be stacked a few layers high. Just don't leave them in the pan uncovered by the meat.
Pour a bit of water in the pan so the bottom of it isn't dry.
Put the meat into the oven and roast for about 30-45 mintues. Make sure the pan doesn't dry out. You don't want anything to burn in the pan. Add more water as you go along, if necessary.
After about 30 to 45 minutes, turn the heat down to 350, and continue to roast until the meat is 150 degrees internal, about an hour to an hour-and-a-half total.
Sometime before the meat is finished, dress it with the white wine while it is roasting.
Let the meat sit for ten minutes before slicing and serving.
Gather the apples and sage in a bowl and serve on the side.