Going Whole Hog
|Mr. B's Root Beer Roasted Pork Leg|
Before I told Mr. B that we were going to consume a more plant-based diet, I had a few issues to contend with, the first, was figuring out what to do with a freezer full of meat.
Of course, living with a carnivore made things easier, but the whole point of the journey was to feed Mr. B less meat, not more. Like any good strategist, though, I figured that the best solution for tackling both issues was to let the man eat meat, and plenty of it, too.
My thinking was that after eating an ungodly amount of meat, he would think that the vegetarian fare headed his way would look pretty darn good.
I hate to admit it, but I take after my grandmother, who was notorious for having a chest freezer packed to capacity. There was even a family joke that she had containers of food hidden deep in the depths that had been there for decades. But, she was our grandmother, so she was forgiven, and not only were we thankful for her cooking, but we knew that her habits were borne out of having survived The Great Depression under the worst of possible circumstances.
As for myself, I had no excuse. The truth is that grocery shopping is a hobby and I'm far more likely to go in for the impulse buy when I'm shopping for food than I am when I'm on the hunt for shoes. I'll confess, too, that on more than one occasion, I've arrived home and as I've unpacked my grocery bags, found myself startled by some of my purchases, which is the case of how there came to be a pork leg in my freezer.
As someone who can pass a weekend in front of the stove, I like to have my options open, but honestly, I can't remember when I've ever said, "Gee, I sure wish I had a pig leg on hand." So it was in a conspiratorial tone that I shared my find with Mr. B and as anyone who knows him can well imagine, he went--pardon the pun--hog wild with excitement and immediately began brainstorming how he'd go about tackling this massive piece of meat.
Eventually, he settled on roasting it in the oven and glazing it with a reduction of hard root beer--another impulse buy--fortified with brown sugar, cloves, bay leaf, star anise, garlic, and onions simmered until they turned so soft they disappeared.
The pig had been raised locally and the morning Mr. B cooked it, I had errands to run, but hours later, upon my return, the whole house had taken on the aroma of wild meat slowly roasting away in the oven. The air was punctuated with the muskiness of the animal, but the underlying aroma of warm spices and the nuances of vanilla were inviting, creating visions of thick slabs of meat sandwiched between soft white bread.
The cats were restless; pacing to and fro and following either of us into the kitchen each time we opened the oven door, on pretense of monitoring the temperature, but mostly to paint on coat after coat of thick, syrupy glaze.
After what seemed far too long to wait, Mr. B extracted his artistry from the oven and like two wide-eyed children on Christmas morning, we stared at it in awe. Of course, I was the first to impulsively reach out to touch it. Beneath the tip of my finger, I felt how the glaze had turned into a thick candy-like layer--like the burnt sugar on a creme brulee--and in spite of my overwhelming desire to try the vegetarian lifestyle, I couldn't stop my mouth from watering in anticipation.
Thankfully, Mr. B is always willing to overlook my shortcomings and keep his comments to himself. I'd like to mention, too, that among other things, he makes a mean roast pork.
Mr. B's Root Beer Roasted Wild Pig
1 6-8 pound uncured wild pig leg
3 bottles of hard root beer
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of allspice
2 pieces of star anise
4 bay leaves
1. Put the pig leg on a sheet pan and pat the skin down with paper towels until it's completely dry; generously salt and pepper.
2. Roast in a 325 degrees oven.
3. In a saucepan, bring the root beer to a boil and then add the brown sugar, spices, and bay leaves and cook until reduced and syrupy.
4. As the pork cooks, baste regularly with the glaze; cook the pork until the internal temperature registers at 155 degrees; let rest for 10-15 minutes.
5. Serve sliced, sandwich-style, on thick, warmed flat breads; top with the drizzled glaze and fresh shredded cabbage or fennel and red onion slices.