A bit of simple knife work, a few inches of string, a dash of salt, and some time are all you need to make a centerpiece roast that guests will still reminisce about years later.

By Mary-Frances Heck
Updated February 26, 2020
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Chef Lena Ciardullo, of New York’s Union Square Cafe, advocates for whole-animal butchery and loves creative and simple methods that highlight each cut’s flavor. One of her favorite cuts is the bone-in rack of pork, which she seasons then roasts over a bed of aromatics. “My friends always ask me what makes this dish so great. They don’t believe me when I say to just season it really generously at least a day before cooking,” she says. After studying her technique at the restaurant, we returned to the F&W test kitchen to figure out the best way to re-create it at home.

Victor Protasio

First, source the best bone-in pork loin available; even pre-seasoning can’t hide low-quality meat. Look for heritage breeds, like Berkshire. A whole bone-in loin includes seven or eight rib bones running across the loin and will serve eight. If cooking for fewer people, order approximately one pound, typically one rib, per person. (Any leftovers can be thinly sliced for sandwiches.) Order the cut untrimmed, but be sure to specify to your butcher that the chine bone be removed, which requires a saw. The chine bone runs lengthwise along the loin and is attached to the bones; it can’t be removed with a knife and will hinder carving the gorgeous finished roast.

Finally, and most important, build in enough time to prepare the pork one to three days ahead. The final result will be far more delicious than pork that hasn’t been expertly butchered (by you, using the technique below) and pre-seasoned. When you’re ready to roast, you can take it straight from fridge to oven. At home, Ciardullo keeps it simple, seasoning the pork with a dry brine of salt and pepper and roasting it over a bed of white mirepoix in lieu of a rack. “The delicious rendered pork fat will mingle with the sweet, slow-cooked vegetables, making for a great accompaniment to the carved centerpiece roast,” she says. Just add polenta! Here's how to cook a bone-in pork loin roast, step by step:

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1. Prep the Loin

At least 1 day and up to 3 days before serving, place pork on a cutting board; pat dry with paper towels. Have a sharp, thin knife and butcher’s twine at the ready.

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2. Trim the Loin

About 1 inch from tips of rib bones, make a crosswise incision the length of the loin, pressing the knife until it scrapes the bones. Turn the knife, and use a filleting motion to cut a strip of belly from bones. Cut belly strip crosswise into 1-inch pieces; reserve.

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3. French the Rack

Score a line in membrane across exposed portion of bones (about 1 inch from tips of bones and running the length of the loin). Slice down the rib bones, make a U-turn at the loin, and slice up the next rib. Repeat to remove all meat between exposed rib bones.

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4. Tie the Roast

To ensure that the fat cap remains over the loin and bastes it as it roasts—and so the meat maintains a uniform shape for even cooking—tie the roast, looping twine between bones.

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5. Remove the Membrane

On the membrane side of exposed rib bones, make a vertical slit in membrane to expose bones beneath. Use a towel to grip membrane and remove as much as possible.

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6. Scrape the Bones

With rib bones placed against the cutting board, use a downward scraping motion to remove any membrane or meat that is stuck to exposed rib bones.

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7. Season the Pork

Combine vegetables and rosemary in a roasting pan. Top with pork; scatter reserved pork belly pieces around pan. Sprinkle pork evenly with salt. Cover and refrigerate 12 to 36 hours.

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8. Roast the Pork and Let It Rest

About 3 hours before serving, remove pan from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in center of oven. Sprinkle loin evenly with pepper. Roast pork until golden brown, about 45 minutes, rotating pan occasionally. Remove from oven; using tongs, toss aromatics to coat in rendered fat. Add wine to bottom of pan. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; roast until a thermometer inserted in loin reads 140°F, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and let rest until pork reaches 150°F, 10 to 30 minutes.

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9. Carve the Roast and Serve with Vats of Polenta

Place roast on a carving board, remove butcher’s 
twine, and carve pork between bones into chops. Discard rosemary; serve pork with vegetables, pan juices, and polenta. Garnish with fennel fronds and revel in your achievement.