Pork has a reputation for versatility, heartiness and depth of flavor. It facilitates the use of a wide array of spices, with flavor profiles ranging from mild and subtle to piquant and aggressive. Although the use of spices and seasonings largely depends on personal choice, certain spice blends — such as China’s five-spice powder, herbs from France’s Provence region and spices from the American Southwest — bring out the best in a pork roast.
Assertive flavors, bold aromas and rustic preparations represent the culinary tradition of the American Southwest. Mexican cuisine influences the flavor profiles common to this region, and often includes items such as cocoa, chili peppers and garlic. Pork has the heartiness and depth of flavor necessary to include such aggressive tastes, and permits the use of several seasoning methods, such as spice rubs. An ideal spice rub for pork roast from the American Southwest would include 2 tsp. each unsweetened cocoa, freshly ground black pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder, and kosher salt to taste. Rub the spice mixture thoroughly over the surface of the roast one hour prior to cooking. This allows the salt to begin mobilizing the moisture it contains, which results in a juicy final product.
For some, French cuisine has a reputation for luxury and extravagance, and for others ostentation and pretension. However, French cookery is accessible by the tenured chef and home cook alike, and provides many preparations commonly used in 21st century America. For instance, herbes de Provence, a herb blend common to the Mediterranean region of France, softly highlights the taste and gustatory nuances of pork without masking its flavor. A pork roast from the Departements de Provence would include 2 tsp. each chopped fresh rosemary and basil, 1 tbsp. each chopped fresh curly parsley and thyme and 1 tsp. each chopped fresh sage, tarragon and oregano. Mix all herbs with 1/2 cup olive oil, and one hour prior to cooking, coat the surface of the pork with the mixture. Before roasting, season all over with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Pork plays a dominant role in traditional Chinese cuisine, particularly in the foods of the Schezuan, Jiangsu, Guangdong and Shandong provinces. However, one flavor profile common to all China is five-spice powder, which incorporates the five taste elements — umami, sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Grind equal amounts of cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, star anise and Schezuan peppercorns in a spice grinder. Many chefs use a coffee grinder as a spice grinder, and clean it by grinding a piece of bread after. Coat the pork roast one hour prior to cooking, and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper before placing in the oven.
Germany has a rich and diverse culinary history, and draws several influences from its border countries, most notably France, Belgium and Czech Republic. The rustic quality of German cooking lends itself well to pork roast, particularly the culinary styling of Bavaria. A combination of equal parts ground white pepper, juniper berries, allspice, clove, sage and thyme make an ideal German-style seasoning for pork roast. Add the spices one hour prior to cooking and season to taste with kosher salt before roasting.
- "The Professional Chef 8th Edition"; The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.