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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Pork, on January 27th, 2016.

slow_roasted_spiced_pork

You’d think, old as I am, I’d have figured out that you CAN oven bake a pork shoulder as a ROAST – that it doesn’t have to be for pulled pork – that a pork shoulder can have another life other than in barbecue sauce or as part of a Hawaiian luau!

With a big family get-together planned (this was after Christmas), I dug into my freezer and found this pork shoulder roast that I had in there, probably longer than it should have been, but once defrosted it showed no signs of deterioration, thankfully. I’d recently watched Ina Garten prepare this recipe on her Food Network program, and decided it sounded really good. It was.

pork_shoulder_ready_to_bakeThe pork roast, with a nice, big fat cap on it, is punctured in numerous places all over so the spice mixture (a wet combo of onion, garlic, jalapeno, oregano, cumin, chile powder, apple cider vinegar and olive oil) that is spread all over the roast can permeate the meat. You could probably do this ahead of time – I didn’t – and it still had plenty of good flavor. The meat is put into a big roasting pan (I used my big, huge turkey roasting pan, but it’s perfectly okay for any kind of meat), slathered on all this gooey stuff, poured some white wine in the bottom and into a slow, 300° oven it went, covered in heavy-duty foil. After 2 1/2 hours, the foil was removed, a bit more wine added in and it continued to slow-roast for another 4-4 1/2 hours. I added more white wine (you use a whole bottle) near the end, though I wouldn’t have to since there was ample liquid there.

Once out of the oven, I tented it with foil and allowed it to sit for another 20 minutes until we were ready to eat. My son, Powell, carved the roast, with me hanging around his elbows trying to take the top picture above. The meat is served with lime wedges, which added a really lovely, bright taste to the meat. I wouldn’t have thought of the lime, but it was a very nice addition.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor of the meat. Pork shoulder is a fatty cut of meat, but when slow roasted, a tremendous amount of fat drains off. How much? I have no idea – probably not enough to call this healthy – but enough to make you not feel guilty eating it. I really enjoyed the spicy mixture flavor, although none of it was in the bites I ate because it sat on the top of the fat cap, but it flavored the interior somehow. And the white wine wafting around the roast during the long, slow baking time kept it moist too. It was really good – I’d definitely make this again if I was serving a big group. We had 10 people and there was very little left over from the 7+ pound roast I had.

What’s NOT: nothing really – pork shoulder might not be everybody’s cup of tea (high fat) but I thought it was very good.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork

Recipe By: Ina Garten, 2015
Serving Size: 12

7 pounds pork shoulder roast — (7- to 9-pound)
6 garlic cloves
1 large yellow onion — chopped
1 jalapeno pepper — ribs removed, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano — chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bottle dry white wine — (750 ml) such as Pinot Grigio
Lime wedges — for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Test your oven with an oven thermometer to be sure it’s accurate!
2. Score the fat on the pork diagonally with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern. With a small paring knife, make a dozen 1/2-inch-deep cuts in the top and sides of the pork to allow the seasonings to permeate the meat.
3. Place the garlic, onion, jalapeno, and oregano in a food processor and process until the ingredients are finely chopped. Add the cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper and process for 30 seconds to make a paste. Add the vinegar and olive oil and process to incorporate. Rub the mixture all over the pork, including the sides and the bottom, and place the pork in a large roasting pan, fat side up. Pour half of the wine into the pan and cover the whole roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 2 1/2 hours, remove the foil, and roast for another 4 to 4 1/2 hours, until the meat is very, very tender when tested with a carving fork. Every 2 hours, add another cup of wine to keep some liquid in the pan.
4. Remove the pan from the oven, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and allow the meat to rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Slice, sprinkle with salt, and serve with lime wedges on the side.
Per Serving: 520 Calories; 40g Fat (71.4% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 131mg Sodium.

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