|From Biba’s Italy: Favorite Recipes from the Splendid Cities (Artisan, 2006)
Umberto, the owner of the quaint Osteria del Caffè Italiano, is a man with a mission: he wants his customers to enjoy his food and to have a good time. The night my daughter Paola and I were there, he took over the duties of the not-too-personable server assigned to us and proceeded to feed and charm us with his boundless energy. After I asked him to choose our dinner for us, he brought to the table an antipasto of mixed locally cured meats and assorted crostini. Then came the arista, a bone-in rack of pork loin roast. The roast was golden brown and succulent, and the potatoes that had been roasted in the same pan were crisp and fragrant with the taste of the pan juices. After talking with Umberto, this is what I learned: Leave the meat at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before roasting. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper (Tuscan people like no salt in their bread, but plenty on their roasts). Use only fresh herbs; dried won’t do it. Don’t overcook your roast. And finally, let the roast rest, loosely covered with foil, before slicing it. The arista can also be made by using a boneless center-cut loin.
6 medium boiling potatoes (2 to 2-1/2 pounds)
- Peel the potatoes. Cut them into thick wedges and place in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine garlic, rosemary and sage, and season with the salt and pepper. Loosen the fat around each bone slightly and pierce the meat in several places with a thin knife. Press some of the herb mixture into the cavities and inside the loosened skin around the bones, and rub a bit more herbs all over the roast. Let the roast stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Pour all but 2 or 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy roasting pan and place the roast in the pan, fat side down. Pour the remaining oil over the meat and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, pat dry with paper towels, and add to the roast. Cook, basting the meat every 15 minutes or so, until the roast is golden brown and it registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 hour. At this point, the meat should be slightly pink.
- Transfer the roast to a cutting board, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Check the potatoes which at this point should be tender and golden brown. If not roast them a little longer.
- Cut the pork between the bones and serve with some potatoes and a bit of the pan juices.