We’d been invited to a carry-in dinner. I love those. We were each giving the other the gift of a fine meal amidst gentle company, everyone contributing some, and all receiving a lot.
Cheery aromas met us when we arrived. I quickly popped my food offering into a warm oven.
The tables were decorated. The company—carefully chosen to be compatible—was chatting with small laughter and anticipation. There was even entertainment.
How irritating, that someone had merely grabbed some southern-fried, pretend chicken and shrugged it off to the luck of the draw! I was shocked.
These friends may think they were invited to a pot luck, but it was a dinner. I mean, we were going to dine. Each of us had brought a carefully planned special dish to complete this meal, to gift each other.
Into this amiable atmosphere, someone had inserted the harsh fragrance of overused grease and overbrowned double coating.
Somewhere there is a disconnect. People sometimes don’t get it. Just because it looks pretty on the package and the label has food words, does not mean it really is food. Not all that glitters is gold.
However, not all of us have the Midas touch. Fine food can be expensive, time-consuming, right?
Nope. Just because it would do in a pinch does not mean you have to be in a pinch.
Here’s how I made a marvelously rich and fork-tender roast, just for my friends, with only about $5.00 and maybe fifteen minutes effort. You can do this, or something like it, instead of letting the discount store make your apologies.
In addition, I’m gifting you with a recipe requested more than once, last week, to go with the fruitcake recipe: That is, the cranberry/cream cheese sauce I mentioned and pictured with it.
- 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce, made according to instructions on package of cranberries.
- Grated zest from one lemon
- In small bowl of mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light.
- With slotted spoon, scoop berries from sauce to make ½ cup, and add to cream cheese
- Add grated lemon zest. Beat well, scraping beaters and bottom and sides of bowl, at least once.
- Add juice from cranberries to sweeten to taste. It should not be too sweet.
- For gifting, spoon into small jelly jar, leaving about an inch at the top of the jar.
- Cap and refrigerate.
- Once spread is cool, spoon additional berries into jar to cover the spread, leaving about ¼” at the top.
- Add a lid, decorate, and return to refrigerator, until time to gift it.
- Variations include adding orange instead of lemon zest, powdered cayenne, cocoa, cinnamon, or chopped pecans, to taste. Children love it best with marshmallow bits stirred in.
- This sauce keeps 2 weeks in the refrigerator if you hide it well.
And, yes, I actually also did bring the fruitcake to the dinner. The sauce can make a good gift for the hostess at holiday time. It can also be served refrigerated as a spread, elevating anything whether fruitcake or a lowly bagel and looks appropriately festive.
What’s not to love?
Especially when you experiment with add-ins.
You’ll want to sample these two foods until they are gone, so it might be wise to make one round just for the family and to become confident with the procedure. This will allow you to nail your preferences as to the variations. It might also ensure you will have some to carry to that dinner.
Besides, practice makes perfect, don’t you think?
- 1 cup salt
- 1 gallon purified water
- 2-3 pound pork loin roast*
- 1 ½ cups purified water
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet Browning and Seasoning Sauce
- 2-3 drops liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium onion (about the size of a tennis ball) thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon dried Italian herbs (or 3 Tablespoons fresh Italian herbs)
- Powdered cayenne to taste, optional
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 3” lengths
- Gravy: (optional)
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup water
- Heat 2 cups, from the 1 gallon of water, with 1 cup salt in it, stirring until all salt is dissolved. Add to rest of 1 gallon of water, in a large non-reactive container you can cover tightly.
- Place pork loin roast into salt water. Seal. Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
- Remove roast and rinse briefly. Allow to drain briefly.
- Into a 7” x 11” x 3” baking pan that has a lid, place 1 ½ cups water, Worcestershire, Kitchen Bouquet, Liquid Smoke, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir to blend.
- Cut roast (a filet knife works well for this) making six parallel slits, against the grain, down into the top (fatty) side of the roast, about an inch apart, and long and deep enough to accommodate the onion slices. The slits should be about three inches deep and three inches across. If your onion slices are too large, remove outer rings to fit. Do not slice all the way through the roast; only cut slits into it. Especially do not cut the sides of it.
- Insert onion slices into these slits. You may lengthen slits or remove outer rings of onion slices to make them fit.
- Place roast in water in pan.
- Spread Italian herbs over top (fatty layer) of roast. Sprinkle with scant amount of cayenne powder, or to taste.
- Arrange carrots and any remaining parts of the onion around the roast, pressing into the water as much as possible. The pan should be crowded and nearly full.
- Cover. Bake at 325 degrees for 2 ½ hours.
- IMPORTANT: Allow roast to cool, covered, ½ hour before removing from pan.
- Remove roast and vegetables from pan. Slice and arrange on platter with carrots and onions.
- Pour broth from roast into small sauce pan. Bring to boil.
- Mix cornstarch with water and add, a little at a time, to boiling broth, while stirring with a whisk, until desired thickness is achieved.
- Serve alongside roast.
- Please do not confuse pork loin roast with pork tenderloin. These two are not the same. You want the cut of boneless pork that is roughly five inches in diameter and can be around two feet long, with a layer of fat over one side. You do not want to buy a piece that is scarcely a foot long and maybe two inches, maximum, across. No. That is the tenderloin. You want a pork loin roast. One-third of it should be about the size you need to feed four to eight people.
- You may add one pound of cut-up potatoes to the carrots. You will need a slightly larger pan for it.
- German -Substitute sage and white pepper for Italian herbs and black pepper. Omit Kitchen Bouquet, Liquid Smoke, cayenne and bay leaf. Do include potatoes with carrots. Also add one celery stalk and one garlic clove to the vegetables, to be removed at serving time.
- Springtime – Substitute new potatoes for carrots. Substitute mint, grated lemon peel, fresh rosemary blossoms, and ground white pepper, for Italian herbs, bay leaf, and black pepper. Omit Kitchen Bouquet, Liquid Smoke and cayenne.
Katharine Trauger is a retired educator and a women’s counselor. She has spent 25 years managing a home and school for children who would otherwise have been homeless, and has worked 15 years as contributor and/or columnist for several small professional magazines, with over 60 published articles. She blogs about the rising popularity of “being at home” from a sun room on a wooded hilltop in the Deep South at: Home’s Cool! and The Conquering Mom and tweets at Katharine Trauger (@KathaTrau). She is currently working on a self-help book entitled: Yes, It Hurts, But . .