This weekend on SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11th 2018 is the 100th Anniversary (the Centenary or Centennial) of the ARMISTICE or End of the First World War. Sixty heads of State and 120 dignitaries will be in Paris for an international ceremony to commemorate the event, to celebrate the peace and the end of that war, even though other wars, instability and issues around the world still rage on. Historical reminders are necessary and important, because the First World War wasn’t enough (as we all know) to tame the more belligerent hearts, which lead to an even deadlier part 2, 30 years later, called the Second World War. The Paris Peace Forum will also be taking place on Sunday until Tuesday, which is not a commemorative event of the past but a reflection on preventive measures for promoting peace, improving governance and managing crises today and in the future. I’m glad to be attending of course.
I'm in Strasbourg today, a French city right on the border of Germany, in the most eastern part of France and northwards. The city has oscillated between being German and French countless times, but in appearance it’s both of these countries. It’s France’s 2nd international capital after Paris with a great number of international and European institutions.
They really like their pork (and some veal) in that region, in various shapes and sizes and in a great number of dishes. Cooked pork, cured pork, cold cuts, sausages, etc.. They also love the Christmas holidays, which are still far away but the world-famous Christmas Market begins there in 2 weeks on November 23rd and lasts until New Year’s Eve. I wish I could have been there 2 weeks later and not yesterday. I’m feeling particularly “Christmassy” this year.
This dish is not particularly French nor German nor very Mediterranean either but rather northern Italian, closer to the borders of both Switzerland and Austria (which are right under Germany). The Franco-German friendship after the World Wars, lead to the creation of the European Union and includes 28 member states today. We’re all allies now !
I like to imagine that this simple dish would have been a comfort to the fighting soldiers, the healing doctors and nurses and all the others who directly participated in both of those terrible wars. I also have a thought for those back home, preparing the dish while waiting/hoping for their loved ones to come back home, safe and sound.
Let’s make something tender, juicy and delicately flavored that’s not too complicated nor sophisticated either and let’s take our time making it slowly, while we remember and reflect on the past. It’s a traditional dish about warmth, reassurance and comfort and shouldn’t be rushed nor made too complicated.
My method is to first sear both the meat and vegetables, at high heat, then to tenderize and mellow everything out in gently simmering milk with sweet aromatics like sage leaves, over several hours and at low heat. I also give everything a quick broil and then keep it all warm in the oven in a covered casserole as the reduced milk-sauce is being prepared. It can be made a day head, and the meat and vegetables warmed up in the oven in a covered casserole and the sauce warmed up separately on the stovetop until serving time.
note : I’ve given you the recipe for a 1 kg roast even though I sometimes get a 750 gram roast and sometimes a 1,5 kg roast but it’s easier to scale up or scale down with a recipe for 1 kg. You should always try to have around two-thirds of the total weight of the roast in vegetables and enough milk to almost cover everything. In the end, the pork roast will shrink as it cooks and you’ll end up with equal parts of meat and vegetables ...
It’s warming, fragrant and savory, but with undertones of sweetness. It’s a dish for the tired and the hungry and the ones you care for and would like to shield from the world’s harshness.
I wish it would start snowing right at this very instant. A blanket of pure white to mask the mistakes of the past. Snow melts, flowers grow back in the spring . . . :)