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Arista - Roast Pork Loin with Herbs

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Arista
© Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com
Pellegrino Artusi included many interesting recipes in La Scienza in Cucina, one of the first cookbooks in Italian (he published it in 1891, and it's still selling briskly today).

If you're historically inclined, his recipe for roast pork loin with herbs is one of the most interesting. It's also quite tasty, and a staple in Tuscany. As is often the case, Artusi doesn't say much about temperatures or cooking times: In his day people either used a wood-fired stove, or cooked on the hearth.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • A pork loin with ribs weighing up to 7-9 pounds (3-4 k)
  • Garlic, slivered
  • Fresh rosemary (2 6-inch, or 15 cm sprigs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Peeled potatoes (optional)

Preparation:

Artusi's Recipe:

During the Council of 1430, held in Florence to resolve some differences between the Roman and Greek Churches, this dish, then known by another name, was served to the bishops and their retainers.

They liked it, and began to say: arista, arista! (good, good!): This Greek word, after four and a half centuries, is still applied to pork loin cooked this way. Alas, the Patriarch died before any progress was made, and is buried in the right hand transept of Santa Maria Novella.

By pork loin, in this case, I mean a loin with the ribs, which can weigh up to 7 to 9 pounds (3-4 kilos). Tuscans eat it cold, considering it much better that way than hot.

Stick the meat with garlic and sprigs of rosemary, going easy, as these herbs easily return to bother one, and season it with salt and pepper. Spit the meat and roast it over the coals, which is better, or roast it in the oven, using the grease it gives off to flavor either boiled greens or potatoes.

This dish is well suited to families, especially during the winter, when it keeps well.

Notes:
As I said, Artusi is cursory.
  • If you're roasting the arista on a spit, set it about six inches from the coals (in front of them rather than directly above, and set a drippings pan under the spit to catch the drippings) and cook it for an hour and a half.
  • If you're cooking it in the oven, set the temperature to 350F (175 C) and figure 30--35 minutes per pound.
In either case the internal temperature should reach 185F (85 C), and the meat should be white or gray, not pink. If you do it in the oven, about 40 minutes before the meat's done, you can add three to four potatoes, cubed, to the pan, and turn them occasionally -- they'll absorb the grease from the arista and taste heavenly. Italians call potatoes cooked with a roast patate alla ghiotta, after the ghiotta, the oval pan that's used to catch the drippings that flow from the roast.

Artusi also has another much more elaborate recipe for roast pork that's suitable for company.

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