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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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