alison roman's slow roasted pork with garlic, citrus and cilantro

slow roasted pork // image: Olaiya Land

Hello people!

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? 

slow roasted pork // image: Olaiya Land

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.

slow roasted pork // image: Olaiya Land

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

slow roasted pork // image: Olaiya Land

roast leg of lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto and white bean puree

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

I don't remember the first time I tasted lamb. I was raised on the sacred American trinity of beef, chicken and pork, so it was likely when I headed off to New Haven for college. I suspect it was under the tutelage of my more cosmopolitan friends who also introduced me to Indian food, real bagels and homemade hamantaschen sent in care packages from Brooklyn. (Thank you Mrs. Levine!) What I do know is that once sampled, lamb quickly became one of my favorite meats. Despite this, I rarely cook it at home. Or at least I rarely cooked it at home until now. 

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a stupendously easy technique for cooking a boneless leg of lamb while reading Diana Henry's excellent cookbook, A Change of Appetite. This is one of my favorite cookbooks and my go-to for healthy meals that lack neither flavor nor sophistication. 

With Diana’s technique there’s virtually no prep and the lamb is in and out of the oven in 30 minutes, cooked to rosy perfection. No need for marinating, trussing or even a thermometer. My kind of recipe.

Of course, because I can’t not tinker with a recipe and because I always want something garlicky with lamb, I added a garlic-cumin rub. I also added a bright and slightly spicy cilantro-pistachio pesto to jazz things up a bit. 

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

At a recent dinner party, I served this lamb alongside a white bean puree and thought the creamy, earthy beans were a nice foil for the heat of the pesto and richness of the lamb. So I’ve included that recipe as well. I recommend a green or shaved vegetable salad dressed simply with lemon juice, salt and a drizzle of olive oil to round out your supper. 

I’ve made this recipe twice in as many weeks, so I’m going to say it’s officially entered my repertoire. If you love lamb, it should most definitely enter yours. Let me know in the comments if you give it a go!

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

Roast Leg of Lamb with Cilantro-Pistachio Pesto

  • 2 ½ lb butterflied boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of all but ⅛ inch of fat cap
  • 3 cloves garlic, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon toasted and freshly-ground cumin seed
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup shelled unsatled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely-packed fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 red Fresno chiles, seeded (if desired), and finely diced (or a generous pinch of chile flakes)
  • 1 tablespoon finely-grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

*Notes: You can use the same technique and cook times on a larger piece of lamb if it is butterflied. The thickness determines the cook time here, not the weight of the roast.

- If you don’t want to fuss with the garlic-cumin rub, just generously salt the lamb before roasting.

- The pesto will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. It is also delicious on roasted salmon and roasted root vegetables, especially carrots. Bring to room temperature before serving.

roast lamb with cilantro-pistachio pesto //

Pound 2 cloves of the garlic and ½ teaspoon of the salt in mortar. Add the cumin and pound to combine. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and stir until you have a thick paste. Rub the spice paste all over lamb and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes. (You can season the lamb up to 24 hours in advance. Keep refrigerated until 30 minutes prior to roasting.)

Preheat oven to 425° F. Place the seasoned lamb on parchment-lined sheet pan, fat side up. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven oven temperature to 375° F and roast for 15 more minutes for medium-cooked lamb (20 for medium-well). Remove from oven and rest for 15-20 minutes.

While the lamb is roasting, make the pesto: Mince or press the remaining garlic clove. Combine the garlic, pistachios, cilantro, mint, chile, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Add the remaining oil and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

After the lamb has rested, slice to desired thickness. Salt the interior of the lamb and serve atop the white bean puree (recipe below) with the pesto spooned over the top. 

Makes about 6 servings of lamb and 2 cups pesto.


White Bean Puree

  • 3 cups cooked white beans, preferably homemade (this is the equivalent of 2 cans if you don’t have time to make your own)

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons tahini

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

*Notes: I highly recommend making your own beans for this recipe as they taste so much better than canned. Post in the comments if you have questions about how to cook great beans. :)

- My favorite brand of tahini is Joyva. Whatever brand you choose, make sure you get a roasted sesame tahini and not a raw sesame paste.

- If you want to serve this white bean puree warm, you can either heat the beans in their liquid or a little bit of stock or water until hot, then process and serve immediately. Or you can make the puree and heat it in a large metal bowl set over a pot with 1 inch of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until hot.


Place the beans, lemon juice, salt, tahini and garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Process until the puree is very smooth, 3-5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Makes about 4 cups.