A toast to the roast

At hubby’s suggestion, we have decided to institute a new weekly tradition this winter — the Sunday roast. While we usually sit down as a family to eat most of our meals, the Sunday roast takes things one step further by adding an increased sense of reverence and occasion.

(As if we needed more incentive, the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine states “frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades in 11 to 18 year olds.” We’re starting our little guys young.)

The Sunday roast concept is nothing new where hubby comes from, and as we explore recipes and menus, I find it’s not much different than the family meals I grew up eating. Meat-and-potatoes-centric, heartwarming comfort food that’s perfect for cold winter days and nights.

For our first Sunday roast effort last weekend, we went the very traditional route of pot roast with potatoes and carrots. It turned out well, very much like the wonderful meals we’ve eaten at my mother-in-law’s house in Ireland, right down to the jus-based gravy.

In between the two Sundays, our Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a roast chicken (we had a very small crowd), stuffing, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. No sooner did we get those leftovers polished off than it was time to think about the Sunday meal.

Yesterday, we branched out to try something more ambitious – stuffed pork loin with roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts au gratin. For a little while, I was concerned we’d bitten off slightly more than we could chew. At one point, the kitchen was a total mess, every pot and pan was dirty, and hubby and I found ourselves up to our elbows in pork trying to butterfly, stuff and truss the loins. However, the beauty of a roast is that once you get all the prep work done, you have some time to chill while your dinner just hangs out in the oven for a few hours getting all tender and delicious.

spinach-stuffed pork loin with roasted potatoes

The pork loin was great, albeit the spinach/mushroom filling could have used a little more flavor punch and the meat was just the teeniest bit dry. Hubby made a good call by insisting we leave the outer fat layer on; I was all set to cut it off when he stopped me. In the end, the fat crisped up nicely to create a yummy, salty pork rind-esque crackling on top. Lesson learned. We’re already plotting our next pork loin attempt with a pesto/proscuitto filling.

A roasting tip from yours truly: invest in a good meat thermometer. I don’t know what I did before I bought my digital version. Overcooked a lot of meat, I suppose. Pull your roast out of the oven a few degrees shy of your target temp, cover it with a piece of foil and let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes before you slice in. You’ll have a juicy roast every time.

Brussels sprouts au gratin

The Brussels sprouts au gratin was another successful experiment, I thought. Much like my feeling that you can convert haters into believers by oven-roasting vegetables, drenching them in a cheesy cream sauce and baking until bubbly works well, too. The veggies, not the haters, of course.

We’ll be out of town this coming weekend, but we’re already discussing new roast ideas for the following Sunday. Haven’t done lamb yet, or maybe a side of salmon? You never know what you might find on our table next.