Today is the five year anniversary of my brother’s death. Yes, five years is a long time, maybe too long to still be thinking about it so much. But somehow, five years feels bigger than two or three or four. I don’t remember him – the things he said, the way he talked – as clearly as I used to, and that fact is hard to accept.
Like a couple of weeks ago, my family held a memorial unveiling for him. My aunt read a speech, using material from a Snapfish memory book we all contributed to several years ago.
When she mentioned a pot roast, it took me a few moments to remember that this was my memory. My brother, who was probably in his early 20s at the time, was on the phone in my parents’ kitchen, and he was ready to hang up. “I have to go,” he told the person on the other end of the line. “I’ve got a pot roast in the oven.”
Of course, there was no pot roast. I loved to make fun of him for this excuse though. Have you ever heard of anyone making a pot roast in the last few decades? I’d buy that he had a chicken in the oven, or a pork butt, or a batch of cookies. But a pot roast? Come on.
Also, I never saw my brother make anything except 10,000 protein shakes and two steaks.
So yesterday, even though I had some business profiles and grant applications to write, I just had to take a break and walk a good distance in the steaming frickin’ humidity to Whole Foods for a pot roast. Who in the hell was going to eat that roast, I didn’t know. Red meat isn’t my or Kenny’s thing.
But I was making it more for the symbolism anyway, because I felt like doing something to commemorate the day. Cooking seemed like the best thing to do.
It turns out that my pot roast just wasn’t meant to be. I needed to get a blade cut chuck roast, but all I could find at the store were blade cut chuck steaks. After some thought, I decided that having a big hunk of meat was more important than buying the right type of meat. I bought a two-pound pork shoulder instead.
Using this Alton Brown pot roast recipe, I seasoned the meat with salt and cumin, then seared both sides in a hot, dry pan.
While the meat was searing, I combined half a chopped onion, five cloves of garlic, tomato juice, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives, and dark raisins in a sauce pan, and reduced the liquid by half. (This sauce was amazing, by the way. I loved the salty/sweet combination of the olives and raisins.)
While the liquid was reducing, I tore off sheets of aluminum foil and folded up the edges on all sides to make a tent. I scooped up half of the sauce and poured it in the bottom of the tent. Then I laid the pork on top, covered it with the remainder of the sauce, and sealed up the package with a second layer of foil.
I layed the foil package in a deep-sided pan, and cooked the meat at 200 degrees for 3 hours. I let the pork rest for half an hour after cooking, then pulled open the tent.
Inside, there was still plenty of liquid nestled in the folds of the foil. I poured that into a bowl, added some “chunkies” (the olives, raisins, etc.), and blended everything together with an Immersion Blender. (Note: I was hit with a continuous light spray of sauce for the duration of the blending.)
To serve, I just sliced the pork; scooped some olives, raisins, onions, and garlic on top; and poured a few spoonfuls of sauce on the meat. I added a few scallions too, just for color.
Do you ever feel moved to make food just because it’s tied to a memory? I’d love to hear your story.