How are you? How are you living these days approaching Christmas? This year we have not made plans or programs, we will take things as they come, lightly, playing impromptu. Once in a while you need it, don’t you think? We would like to give ourselves a few days of old-fashioned Christmas holidays, with afternoons filled with tea and biscuits, books and films, looking out of the window hoping for some snow. These are days made to meet friends, or simply to have a breather.
A parenthesis, that’s what we need. A Christmas break, with rich silence and plenty of time for us and for our passions, for what makes us feel good.
In days like these, the kitchen becomes a safe harbour, a corner where you can feel yourself, the master of your own destiny, a maker and an artist. And it is precisely in moments like these that the roasts come back: traditional, comforting, generous dishes, the protagonists of winter.
To celebrate this upcoming Christmas, I’m sharing a recipe which drifts apart from the Tuscan classics, the Bavarian beer roasted pork.
It doesn’t differ so much from my way of cooking, though: a traditional, slow cooked roast that gives you time to invest in something else, maybe to knead a bread or to make a batch of ricotta tortelli. This recipe is developed in cooperation with #LaBavieraNellaMiaCucina, an initiative supported by Alp Bayern, the agency for food products from Bavaria.
I accepted with enthusiasm to take part to this project, because the simple thought of Bavaria immediately filled my imagination with woods, snowy landscapes, genuine products, castles, good beer: a perfect way to get into a Christmas mood.
Bayerischer Schweinebraten. Bavarian Beer Roasted Pork
The roasted pork belongs to our festive menus, too. While I was reading the recipe for the Bayerischer Schweinebraten I noticed so many similarities with our roasted pork, so I decided to follow the Bavarian recipe, but I chose a very Tuscan cut, the arista, the pork loin.
I also asked the butcher a piece of pork rind to wrap the loin, thus reproducing the appearance of the Bavarian dish. As always, Luciano, my butcher, chose the meat of Grigio della Montagnola, a local free-range pig bred in the woods of the Montagnola, around Siena, a cross with the ancient breed of the Cinta Senese. These pigs have a better diet than us, feasting on acorns, truffles, mushrooms, tubers and all that the forest can offer.
This means that the meat is deliciously marbled with fat, which melts thanks to a long, gentle cooking, making the meat soft, juicy and tasty. If you cannot find Grigio della Montagnola – and it might happen, as it is a very local product -, opt for free range pork. This will improve the taste and quality of your meat.
I substituted the traditional Tuscan herbs used for roasts – the sacred triad of garlic, sage and rosemary – with ground cumin, a spice that I had never tried with pork and which instead filled the kitchen with an inviting, wintery aroma. Instead of the white wine, I used a Bavarian Weiss beer, with a pronounced acidic note.
Bavarian Beer Roasted Pork
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) pork loin, wrapped in pork rind
- 2 golden onions
- 1 carrot
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ celeriac
- 250 ml (1 cup) Weiss beer
- Black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F).
- Carve the pork rind with a sharp knife in a diamond shape pattern, then wrap the loin with it. Secure it with butcher's twine.
- Season the meat with salt, ground black pepper and cumin, and rub it thoroughly.
- Cover with extra virgin olive oil the bottom of a pan, heat it over medium heat and brown the meat on every side, then transfer it into a baking pan.
- Now prepare the vegetables that will go around the meat. Cut the onion into wedges, wash and peel the carrots and celeriac, cutting them in chunks.
- Place the vegetables and the garlic around the meat, season with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and roast the meat in the oven for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, take out the meat, pour over the beer and stash it back in the oven, roasting it for about two hours.
- Now the meat will be almost ready, you just have to brown the rind.
- Turn up the oven to 210°C (410°C), and baste the meat with the cooking juices.
- Roast the pork for the last 20 minutes, basting it often.
- Now remove the meat from the oven and keep it warm. Serve it cut in slices, dressing it with its cooking juices.
Serve the Bavarian Beer Roasted Pork with…
I imagine a festive lunch. Maybe not Christmas, or Christmas Eve, but one of those days when you almost lose count of what is happening, when you feel suspended in a festive, light atmosphere, when you don’t need an excuse to get together with friends, spending time around a table dressed for the occasion. So prepare the gnocchi with the sausage ragù, serve the roast pork a side dish of roasted the fennel and close the lunch with an apple strudel, perhaps accompanied by a little English cream.
- Potato gnocchi with sausage ragù. The sausage ragù is a quick and clever alternative to the classic meat sauce you would make on a Sunday. It requires half the cooking time of a meat sauce made following all the rules, but it will bring in your dish all the richness and flavour of an timeless dish.
- Baked fennels. Fennels are the main ingredient of the quickest winter salad, perfect as a side dish to a pork main course, when you add thin slices of oranges and black olives. But at the moment my favourite way of having fennels is to bake them: I cut them into wedges, brush them with a garlicky citronette of olive oil and lemon juice, then when they are almost caramelised I finish with a shower of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Apple strudel. Today when I make a strudel – whether it is sweet or savoury – I almost always use this dough, with rare exceptions (as in this butternut squash and potato strudel, made with a quick and incredibly flaky butter dough). Made only with flour, water and extra virgin olive oil, the dough remains light and delicate. You can make it in just a few minutes and, after a night of rest in the fridge, it is also very easy to roll it out.