Kitchen Focus

October brings us crisp weather with temperatures that make us want to pull out our sweaters. That means it's a perfect time to turn to roasting for your meal needs. When you roast something, you are cooking it with dry heat, and the heat surrounds the food. In roasting, the food is cooked from the outside in, and the heat surrounds the food. Originally, roasting meant putting a chunk of meat on a spit and setting it over an open fire, and turning it frequently so that the fire seared and cooked the entire cut of meat. Now, most of us do our roasting in a conventional or convection oven.

Roasting is a good cooking method for large, tender cuts of beef, pork or lamb. It’s also a great way to cook poultry and fish. You can roast vegetables, too, especially if you roast them alongside the meat. The best vegetables for roasting are starchy root vegetables. You can roast firm fruits, like apples, pears and tomatoes, too. In short, you can roast just about anything.

There are four different schools of thought about what temperature to roast foods at: low heat, high heat and two combinations.

  • Low heat: Cook at 200 degrees F. You are less likely to overcook the food on low heat, but it takes longer to cook, and it does not develop a nice crust on the outside. Roasting on low heat gives results similar to braising or steaming the food.
  • High heat: Cook at 500 degrees F. On high heat, there is danger of overcooking the food. Roasted foods continue to cook after you remove them from the oven, and if you cook it too long, it will be dry. With high heat, however, the meat does develop a crust.
  • Low, then high: Start at 200 degrees. When the food is almost done, remove it and turn the heat up to 500 degrees. Put the food back in the oven and let it finish cooking. This gives you a nice crust, and a moist roast.
  • High, then low: Start at 500 degrees and cook until a crust forms, then turn the heat down to 200 degrees and finish cooking it. This, too, produces a nice crust and a moist product.

After you remove the food from the oven, let it sit for a few minutes to finish cooking and to absorb and redistribute the juices. Remove the meat and/or vegetables from the pan, and use the drippings to make a pan sauce to go with them, and you’ve got a wonderful meal for family or company. To get you started, here's a good meal in a pan recipe. Enjoy!

Roasted Pork and Autumn Vegetables

  • 2 fennel bulbs -- (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil -- divided
  • 4 cups rutabaga -- (1-inch) cubed peeled
  • 16 baby carrots -- (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 (2 1/4-pound) boneless pork loin roast -- trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage -- chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt -- divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper -- divided
  • 3/4 cup fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Trim the stalks from the fennel and discard. Cut each fennel bulb into 8 wedges. Peel the onions, leaving the root intact; cut each onion into 8 wedges.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and onion, sauté 8 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan. Add the remaining oil, rutabaga, and carrots to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Place the pork on a rack coated with cooking spray; place the rack in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle the pork with sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Arrange the vegetables around the pork; sprinkle them with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Bake at 400º for 50 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160º (slightly pink). Remove the pork and vegetables from pan; cover loosely with foil. Remove the rack. Place the pan over medium heat; stir in the broth, wine, and mustard, scraping the pan to loosen the browned bits. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve the sauce with the pork and vegetables.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour