I’m back with the latest installment of the Holiday-Fun-Time-Blog-Party-Extravaganza Megan from Cream + Honey and I have put together for you!
This week I want to talk about traditions--honoring old ones, creating new ones and ditching the ones that don’t serve us anymore.
Time-honored rituals can provide a comforting sense of continuity. They remind us of family ties and Christmases past. In the things they include and leave out, they contribute to our sense of identity: Are you the sort of person who strings popcorn on the tree while sipping a mug of mulled cider and singing carols? Or the sort of person who decks a Charlie Brown tree in mismatched lights while getting lit on eggnog and watching arthouse holiday films on your laptop?
I think traditions are great. As long as they make you feel good! But in observing my own life and those of people around me, I see a lot of holiday ties that bind instead of anchor. The season can be filled with a sense of obligation: We buy gifts because we always have. We cook the same meal because that’s the way we’ve always done it. We schlep ourselves and our families from one gathering to the next with barely any time for real connections.
Here’s my radical holiday suggestion: wipe all the shoulds off the slate and only do the things that really gave you joy. Sledding with the kids on Christmas day instead of driving to the in-laws. Skipping the office holiday party to watch old movies on the couch with your special someone. Hiking to a remote cabin in the woods to spend the day in peaceful solitude. Cooking an elaborate multi-course holiday meal with each dish based on one of the Seven Dwarves. Whatever floats your boat!
I know this might feel selfish to some of you. It certainly did to me when I stopped doing all the things I was “supposed to do” for the holidays: give lots of gifts, bake a million cookies, send cards to friends and family, throw an amazing Christmas party. But I’m a big fan of quality over quantity when it comes to time with loved ones. Quality time can only come when we aren’t frazzled and harried and cracking under the stress of a mile-long to-do list.
This year, I’m giving you permission (because sometimes we need that) to ditch the whole host of holiday obligations. Spend some time thinking about what you’d love to do this holiday--whether it's celebrating old traditions, creating new ones or forgoing tradition all together--and follow that instinct.
And for those of you looking for something festive and decidedly un-traditional to cook this Christmas, I’m nominating this Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Garlic, Citrus and Cilantro from Alison Roman’s magnificent Dining In. If you’ve been following my stories on Instagram, you know I’m in love with this cookbook. I've been cooking out of it like crazy and gifting it to all my favorite people. (If you’re giving gifts this year and have friends who like to cook, this needs to be at the top of your shopping list!) But back to this stunning roast... It’s easy, can be made in advance and would make a brilliant centerpiece for a California- or Mexico-themed holiday supper. Most importantly, it's crazy-delicious.
For more non-traditional-but-super-sexy holiday deliciouness, click on over to Cream + Honey to check out Megan's Potato, Cheddar and Onion Focaccia.
I’m off to pack up all the holiday cookies I baked (a tradition I realized I love once I stopped forcing myself to do it!). I’ll be back next week with more tips for keeping the season fun and bright!
Alison Roman's Slow Roasted Pork with Garlic, Citrus and Cilantro
- 1 3 ½ - to 4-pound boneless, skinless pork shoulder
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon neutral tasting high-heat oil (I used avocado oil)
- 1 orange, halved
- 2 heads garlic, halved lenghtwise
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 3 chiles de árbol or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 4 limes
*Note: Pork can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Heat in a 325° F oven until warmed through.
Preheat your oven to 325° F.
Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. (I used a Dutch oven.) Sear the pork, fat-side down, until it's really well browned, 8-10 minutes. Turn the pork and brown on the other side, another 8-10 minutes. Transfer the pork to a large serving platter or cutting board, and drain the pot of all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
Add the halved orange and garlic to the pot, cut-side down, followed by the thyme, bay leaves, chiles, and coriander. Cook, stirring for a second, to lightly brown the oranges and garlic. Add the orange juice and 2 cups of water, stirring to scrape up any bits. Return the pork to the pot (the liquid should come a little less than halfway up the pork--add more if it doesn't). Cover and transfer it to the oven.
Roast the pork until it is super tender but not quite falling apart (you want to be able to slice it, not shred it). If you're using a thermometer, this is when the pork reaches around 175-180° F. (Alison states a cook time to 3-4 hours but my 4-pound roast was done in about 2. I'd start checking for doneness at around an hour and a half if I were you.)
Remove the pot from the oven and, using tongs or two large serving utensils, carefully transfer the pork to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut the cilantro stems from the tender tops, tie them together with kitchen twine and add them to the pot with the juices. Cook until the juices have thickened slightly then remove the cilantro stems and discard them.
Slice the pork and place it on a serving platter along with the oranges, garlic and chiles (if desired). Pour the juices over the pork. Slice the limes into halves or quarters and arrange them on the platter for guests to squeeze over their pork. Pick some leaves and/or tender stems from the cilantro tops and scatter over the pork before serving.
Adapted slightly from Dining In by Alison Roman