Updated: Jan 12, 2021
Being a #nontraditional Pastor's wife meant that I didn't teach Sunday School, I didn't play the piano, I didn't lead the children's choir - I brought my gifts in different ways. Early on in my marriage, I tried being a traditional pastor's wife and I found that I was not very good at it. It felt burdensome and inauthentic. So over the 20+ years of being a Pastor's Wife, the ways I shared my gifts evolved.
One of my pleasures was to host church gatherings at our home. These dinners tended to be from about 20-40 people on average (although our Christmas parties were >100). While these gatherings were a labor of love (emphasis on labor), they were also a joy. Community built through shared table, laughter, and love.
I found over the years though there were several ways to make these events easier and in this and future blogs, I'll share some of those tips and tricks. By the end of my tenure as a #pastorswife, I found that I could pull off dinners with much more efficiency, less prep, greater ease and very much enjoy myself. One of my favorite memories was one Sunday morning in the Fellowship area after worship, a woman came up to me and said, "What can I bring tonight?" To which I said eloquently, "Eh?" She tried again, "When I come to your house for dinner tonight, what would you like me to bring?" Lightbulbs started to click - Oh, I'm hosting a dinner tonight, and I didn't know about it! Roger!! "Oh, yes, of course! That's tonight! Right!" My mind reeling through what food I had at home, state of cleanliness of the main floor, what else was on the kids agenda for that afternoon, whether the yard had been mowed, etc. "I'd love if you could bring a large salad." "Wonderful", she said, "See you tonight!" Lest you be judgemental wrt the surprise, don't. With the busy lives we led, that type of miscommunication is bound to happen. It's all good. To start us off today though, I'll share one of my favorite winter gathering recipes to whet your appetite.
When cooking for a large crowd (yes, one day - post #covid19 we will again be able to gather), my priorities were 1) Delicious 2) Not too much work (particularly right before serving) 3) Ability to accommodate gluten free and vegetarians 4) Inexpensive. This recipe accommodates priorities 1, 2, and 4. While mostly GF, it doesn't feed our vegetarian friends.
Fruit Stuffed Pork Shoulder, with Soy-Honey Glaze
Derived from Ben Towill's recipe in Food and Wine, 2011
Lovely, Savory Crowd Pleaser - a go-to dish in winter, early spring
Think "Session-Deacon" Christmas dinner - many, many years
1/4 c of minced garlic*
1/2 c of dried fruit**
1/2 c of dried shitake mushrooms
cheap white wine
Salt, Pepper and Red pepper flakes
3 T of rice wine vinegar (mirin) or sherry
2 T of soy sauce (lite is what I use)
1 T of honey
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T toasted sesame oil
*I go through a ton of garlic and always have that large Costco garlic container in the fridge
** I've used several fruits - the original recipe called for 5 dried apricots, halved. We are in Oregon, so I've used local dried cherries primarily. I would think you could also use fresh cherries, but I've never tried it. If you do, let me know how it goes!
*** Depending on how many you are serving you can scale up or down this recipe with ease. I usually just buy the biggest pork shoulder available in the grocery store. This is where you really save on this recipe, because pork shoulders with bone in are usually very inexpensive per pound. Usually folks advise 1/2 lb per person, But I've found at gatherings where lots of people bring salads and sides, you can budget more like 3 people/lb. If you have never deboned a pork shoulder - it isn't fun. It's hard work and even after many times I still make a mess of the bone removal. But, the outcome is SO tasty and it doesn't matter AT ALL if it looks like a mess on the inside of the shoulder - don't sweat it. Get in there, literally roll up your sleeves, figure it out, and make yumminess!
1) Preheat oven to 275*. You'll need a roasting pan and roasting rack preferred.
2) Prep the Fruit: Put the dried fruit, dried mushrooms in a 1 c pyrex, covered with cheap white wine, and microwave for 1 min. Let stand while you debone the shoulder to absorb the wine. Approximately 10 min.
3) Debone the meat: Debone the pork shoulder, and after the bone is removed, use your knife to make a pocket in the meat down through the rest of the roast, be sure not to poke through though. Make a pocket.
4) Season the inside of the Roast: Rub the inside of the shoulder on both sides of the pocket with the garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Then drain your fruit and mushrooms and spread throughout the inside of the pocket. You can save the wine if you want to for a sauce or soup or discard.
5) Tie up the Roast: Tie up the roast with strings. I've been working on this technique. But I also have children in my house, which means that my cotton twine is gone more times than it is present - so don't tell anyone, but I often also use BBQ kabob skewers to close up the roast. :P
6) Prep the outside of the roast: Season the outside of the roast with the seasonings as well. Place in roasting pan, Fat side up. If possible, put your roasting rack at a slight angle to keep all the juices in the pocket as it cooks.
7) Cook the roast: Roast for at 275* for approx 3 hrs, until internal temp is 145, the new USDA guidelines for pork.
8) Prep the Glaze: Mix up the ingredients of the Glaze, you may need to microwave a bit to melt the honey.
9) Finish the Roast: As the pork nears completion (10-20 min left), brush the glaze on, 10 min, brush again, 10 min. Pour on remaining as you remove the roast. Cover with foil and let sit. It can rest for 3-20 min, prior to carving. It's a very forgiving piece of meat.
10) Carve the Roast: To serve for large gatherings, I then remove the string, slice the roast in approx 1/2" slices, then cut those in half.
11) Make a Sauce: While carving, remove the roasting rack, and place your roasting pan (Assuming it's ok for stove top use) on a burner, and boil down the juices. Ask one of your guests to stir with a whisk, and give them an apron. Boil down till thickened. Pour into a gravy boat.
12 ) Prep your cleanup: Then ask your guests to start serving themselves. While they are doing that, take the roasting pan, roasting rack, and put a good bit of water in the pan (above the juices line) and a squirt of detergent, and stick it back into your still warm oven. By doing this, 1) the pan is out of sight with free counter space (a commodity in any gathering) 2) it is doing a marvelous presoak that will make clean up easy peasy.
13) Enjoy! Side dishes I usually include asking a few folks to bring salads, green vegetables, and then a big pot of mixed wild rice with sliced almonds (You can throw that wine in the broth of the rice!).