The central mantra of Grill Every Day (2007) is, as you may have guessed, that one should be able to “grill every day”. Author Diane Morgan believes that grilling needn’t always be a day-long ordeal, and her cookbook focuses on recipes that can be prepped, grilled, and on the table in about an hour. I’d go even further to say that grilling every day means ignoring the weather. Ms. Morgan is from the Pacific Northwest like I am, and I’m sure has grilled more than a few meals in the winter rain. So this weekend I set out to my usual specialty butcher determined to grill in spite of the gloomy forecast, and came across a beautiful, locally sourced six-bone pork roast. And I realized it would be a crime to separate such a beautiful piece of meat into individual chops, and that the cold weather kind of had me craving a pork roast anyway. And thus the recipe below was born, marrying one of Grill Every Day’s delicious rubs with my traditional pork roast preparation.
When Grill Every Day was published in 2007 coffee-rubbed meats were kind of having their moment, and were a fixture on restaurant menus. There’s still a place in town that serves an espresso-rubbed short rib, but it’s been years since I’ve seen the once-ubiquitous coffee-and-chili flank steak. Ms. Morgan’s version is a riff on a cowboy-grilled ribeye she had at an Arizona dude ranch. She was impressed with how the coffee caramelized during grilling and deepened both color and flavor. After noodling on it for a bit she came up with an Espresso-Cardamom Rub that works well not just for steak, but for pretty much any meat you can think of. Her decision to include cardamom to the mix is both unique and inspired, and adds a little bit of fruitiness to the bitter-hot chile-coffee combination.
So I’ve got a great rub recipe and a great cut of meat, but one unusual problem: there aren’t any coffee drinkers in our house. I’ve cooked with coffee in the past but use it so infrequently that I’ll end up throwing most of it out. Over the years I’ve found that coffee substitutes, like Inka or Pero, last much longer in the cupboard without deteriorating in quality. They’re not much to drink, but they substitute one for one with instant coffee powder with similar results. They’ve served me well for making the occasional batch of mocha brownies or coffee ice creams, and I’m happy to report that they work just as well in a rub. They still give the same dark brown roastiness that I remember from coffee-rubbed steaks in their heyday, and I’m not sure that the subtle flavors of a premium roast coffee would stand a chance against charcoal-grilled meat anyway.
Now on to the meat. In my opinion the one true way to prepare a pork roast is the sous vide method. Maybe I’m just a bad home cook but since switching to sous vide my experience with pork has been night and day. I had sort of gotten the hang of making a nice tenderloin, but all of my pork loin roasts would turn out raw or dry. They were still plenty tasty, so long as you had some gravy on hand, but were never my go-to meat. With sous vide I can take a two dollar a pound pork loin roast and turn it into something special and memorable. If you don’t have access to sous vide gear I’ve provided an alternate reverse sear preparation method in the recipe. I can’t promise that it will turn out quite as juicy, but you’ll get the same grill-finished smokiness.
This pork roast is potent, both from the strong flavors in the rub and the bacony goodness that comes from the grill-finished fat. In the recipe below I’ve paired it with an equally potent side of grits, seasoned with the same rub used on the roast. Instead of being redundant it unifies the meat and the starch. Another option would be the saffron-scented Risotto alla Milanese that I’ve adapted from a vintage Junior League cookbook. Both are strong, bold sides with a creamy nuttiness that complements the richness of the roast. The vegetable should be a strong contrast, either bitter braised greens or – while you’ve got the grill going – the sweet Vanilla-Maple grilled acorn squash from the same cookbook. Enjoy!
For the pork roast:
- 6 tbsp Caffeine-free Espresso-Cardamom Rub
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 frenched pork loin roast (5-6 bones)
- 1-2 tbsp neutral cooking oil
For the grits:
For the pork roast:
- Pat the pork roast dry, and tie in three or four places with butcher's twine. Tuck the rosemary underneath the twine near the bone and rub generously with the Espresso-Cardamom Rub.
- Prepare a water bath to 145º F four sous vide. This will cook pork to medium, and the end product will be firm and juicy with just a hint of pink.
- Wrap plastic wrap around the tips of the bones to prevent sharp edges from piercing the plastic bag. Seal the roast in a bag using a vacuum sealer, or use the water immersion method to place the roast in the bath.
- Cook for 3-5 hours. Drain juices and reserve for another use. Gently pat dry and coat with a thin layer of neutral cooking oil. Add more rub if desired.
- Grill over a hot grill (450º F+) for 1-2 minutes per side, ensuring that all surfaces receive heat. Remove to a platter and let rest for ten minutes before serving.
For the grits:
- Bring water to a boil. Add the rub and stir in the grits. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes until desired texture is reached.
If you don’t have sous vide equipment but still want to use your grill a reverse sear method is your best option. Prepare a two-zone fire by piling your coals to one side of the grill. Sear 1-2 minutes per side directly over the coals, then move to the “cold zone” for indirect cooking. Cover and cook to an internal temperature of 165º F, about 90 minutes total.