By Spencer Ackerman
Not that I’m upset or anything, but I wasn’t able to attend the IFA’s excellent-looking Thanksgiving meal on Saturday owing to a prior commitment that the other writers for this blog were totally 100 percent aware I had. But whatever. It’s not all about me. It’s about how my friends are disloyal and insensitive. And that’s fine. It happens. Whatever.
But sometimes you get stranded away from your adoptive D.C. family, all because you’re trying to be a good boyfriend who’s assisting with a potluck Thanksgiving for something like fifty people, and you need some comfort food. What can you cook to cheer away the holiday blahs brought on by the sure knowledge that your friends are content to party without you, all while you sigh to yourself in a shower stall? The answer is probably going to involve pork.
Thanksgiving is funny about proteins. Most other holidays allow for some versatility and experimentation with center-plate dishes. No doctrinal bull or edict demands ham be served on Thanksgiving. Burgers aren’t mandatory on the 4th of July. Jewish and Muslim holidays often tell you what you can’t eat, but rarely stipulate what you must.
Thanksgiving, though, sort of demands turkey. And given that everyone’s expecting turkey, you should think long and hard about denying turkey to your guests. But that doesn’t mean you can’t supplement your turkey. But with what? Beef would overshadow your bird. Chicken goes with turkey like black goes with navy. Fish — I can see an argument. But pork is a perfect accompaniment: still a white meat, but with a totally different texture, susceptable to gravy but not in the same way.
And if you’re going in with pork, you might as well go all in. The December issue of Food & Wine features a dish so trayf it could be served at the dinner reception for a Holocaust-denial conference in Teheran: bacon-crusted pork loin roast. I played around with this — ginger? I don’t think so — and it turned out so good I didn’t have to sing Alanis Morissette songs into a hairbrush to soothe my IFA-related soulache, not that I felt any.
Here’s what I did, and it’s really simple. Get yourself a package of bacon — 16 oz., just what you’d buy in the store — and run your knife through the strips so you get something resembling a dice. Put the diced bacon into a food processor with about a tablespoon’s worth of vegetable oil, a couple teaspoons’ worth of mustard seeds (I don’t see why you couldn’t use dijon, if that’s what you have around) and the same of some woodsy herb — I used caraway seeds, like the recipe calls for, but you could use rosemary or thyme. Put all of that into a food processor, and grind until you have a bacon pate. Yes. A bacon pate.
Now go to the store and buy about a 4 lb bone-in pork loin for roasting. Really anything between 3 and 6 pounds should work. Slather the loin in the bacon pate, on the meat side and not the fat side, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bring the roast out to room temperature, season with salt and pepper, and put the roast fat-side-up in a 400-degree oven for about ninety minutes.
What you get is a juicy, tender, savory pork roast that complements turkey wonderfully. The pate is going to blend with the pork fat to create a crisp crust, giving a wonderful bite to contrast with the doneness of the roast itself. And of course you have your cured pork complementing your roasted pork. It’s going to be a good Thanksgiving. You can get through this. Just don’t stop trying.