I grew up having Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house. We ate the same meal every week – roast beef, green beans, corn, pearl onions (all from cans opened with an electric can opener), potatoes (baked for the grownups, mashed from flakes that came in a box for the kids) and gravy. The menu never changed. Even during the years that my parents toyed with vegetarianism, we would all eat a Boston rump roast on Sundays. I loved Sunday dinner, and not just for the forbidden treats like Pepsi and potato chips that we kids would snack on while playing board games and watching the Sunday movie, waiting for the meal.
I’ve mentioned before that my marriage is based on food. I sometimes say that I married my Husband because he could cook, and, while he does have a couple of other things going for him, that’s not far off. We cook and we eat, and we talk about cooking and eating. And we love Sunday dinner. Back in college we would cook pasta or chicken fajitas for our friends on Sundays. Now it’s the showcase meal of the week for our family. It’s usually just the four of us, although sometimes we invite friends. We don’t live near family, but if we did I’m sure we would share Sunday dinner with them. Our menu, unlike my grandparents’, changes week to week, although our daughters will complain that my Husband can sometimes get into ruts (oh goody, tri-tip and beans, again!). If I’m honest, I sometimes complain myself, although I try to bite my tongue, given that my Husband generally plans the menu and does the farmer’s market shopping on Saturday. Shut up and eat your tri-tip.
This past Sunday we watched the Giants (Go Giants!) beat the Royals in game 5 of the World Series and had a beautiful pork roast dinner that tasted like fall. We will be having plenty of pig parts for the next few (several) months. See, we bought half a pig from a friend’s sister-in-law who raised it for 4-H, feeding it mash from the local brewery. It’s delicious! And it’s taking up all of the space in the freezer in our garage and most of the space in our kitchen freezer as well. Oink!
There were no tears at dinner per se, everything’s better when the Giants are winning, but things felt a little on the verge. Daughter 1.0 watched the game snuggling on the sofa with the boyfriend, eking out every last second of the end of her October break. Yeah, I know, October break? Who has a week off in October? The French, apparently. And my girls go to an international school with Francophile leanings. 1.0 mourns the end of times that make her happy. When she was younger she would sometimes sob at the end of a particularly wonderful day, knowing that day would never come again. I could almost see her gearing up for the end of vacation, even as she cheered her beloved Giants and gave the boyfriend a back rub.
Daughter 2.0 was hormotional, teetering on the edge of a downward spiral all weekend. She only began work on the 60 pages (60 pages!) of math problems assigned for the break on Friday and had spend much of the day in her room with the door closed, up to her eyeballs in geometry. She hates geometry, much prefers algebra. I am no help with either. 2.0 had ventured out of her room before the start of the baseball game in something of a wound up manic mood. My Husband had recommended she do some meditation. 2.0 had stormed back to her bedroom and slammed the door.
Dinner was prepared the way I like best, it was a joint effort by my Husband and me. He is the menu planner, the executive chef as it were, and I am a very good sous chef, mostly following directions (mostly). Ok, there is a second way I like best (bester, bestest?). That’s when my Husband does ALL of the cooking and tells me just to sit there and sip white wine and look pretty. That’s awesome!
We had finished eating but were still at the table. The boyfriend had stuck around, but didn’t eat with us. He would eat later at home with his father. We eat Sunday dinner early, usually around 6:00. The game was still on. We leave the TV on during dinner for important sporting events. Any time the Giants are playing and Sunday night football are important sporting events.
My Husband had angled his chair toward 2.0’s to have a better view of the TV. He rested his feet on her chair rails. “Don’t put your feet there! How many times do I have to tell you? It’s disgusting! I can feel them moving under my bottom!” 2.0 has a thing about feet. She hates them. They gross her out.
My Husband moved his feet. “Someone needs to spend less time in her room,” he observed. Now, some background. One of my Husband’s chief complaints about our daughters is that they spend entirely too much time in their bedrooms staring at some form of screen – iPads, computers, TV’s. 2.0 has something of an addiction to YouTube and The Sims. We have had battles over screen time. I knew that this comment of my Husband’s would send 2.0 stomping back to her bedroom. He knew it too. 2.0 picked up the small glass of wine which we had poured her for dinner (our children have had wine with Sunday dinner since they were teething and we soaked bread in wine for them to chew, my Husband’s Italian after all) and started to leave the table.
“You can’t drink wine in your bedroom,” I said. We have standards.
2.0 put down her wine glass and headed to her room.
“Stay,” I called after her. “The Giants need you!” I pleaded. It’s embarrassing how often I find myself pleading for 2.0 to stay. She slammed her bedroom door.
I glared at the Husband. He glared back. At least the Giants went on to win.
Sunday dinner: Pork shoulder roast with onion marmalade served with roasted pumpkin and dandelion greens
Pork Shoulder Roast
One bone in pork shoulder roast
Pork brine (to make this you’ll need kosher salt, honey, bay leaves, rosemary, italian parsley, garlic & black pepper corns)
Handful of fresh sage leaves
A couple tablespoons of rosemary
4 cloves of garlic
Half a lemon
Make the pork brine the day before by combining 8 cups of water with 1 cup of kosher salt in a large sauce pan. Add 1/4 cup of honey, 10 bay leaves, a couple of rosemary sprigs, a handful of italian parsley (stems and all), 8-10 garlic cloves, crushed and 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns. Bring to a boil and stir and turn off the heat. Cool to room temperature then refrigerator until ready to use.
In the morning, place the pork roast into a large bowl and cover with the brine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no more than 4 hours. Remove the pork from the brine and rinse under cold water and pat dry. Discard the used brine.
Preheat oven to 425
Grind about a tablespoon of black peppercorns with 2 teaspoons of whole cloves using either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Chop the sage, rosemary, garlic and lemon together and combine with the ground cloves and pepper. Stir in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Rub this concoction all over the pork roast. Place the pork in a roasting pan skin side up and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. Lower the temperature to 325 and continue to cook for another 4 hours, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 on an instant read thermometer. You can cover the roast with foil if it gets too brown during the cooking. Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest. Turn the oven back up to 400 to roast the pumpkin.
1/4 cup olive oil
3 yellow onions peeled and sliced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon piment d’espelette pepper or hot paprika pepper
Heat the olive oil in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a bowl. Lower the heat and cook on a high simmer until the liquid is evaporated, about 30 minutes, maybe longer.
Two small sugar pumpkins
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
3 cloves chopped garlic
Salt and pepper
Carefully cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon. You can clean and roast the seeds for roasting for snacking if you want. Peels the pumpkin halves then cut the pumpkin into crescents. Toss the pumpkin with the sage, garlic and olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the pumpkin pieces on a rimmed cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Two bunches of dandelion greens. If you can’t get dandelion, this recipe works just as well with spinach.
Chopped garlic, 2 cloves or so
About a tablespoon of chopped preserved lemons
Cut off the stems from the dandelion greens and steam them until wilted. This will only take a couple of minutes. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant but not brown. Add the preserved lemons and dandelions and stir once or twice to combine. Add salt to taste.