When I was a boy, a huge dinner had a place in the big enchanting kitchen of the Villa at the beginning of every January: it was the day our farmer slaughtered the pig. On that occasion, we ate only the pig and all of the pig! Our farmers and their helpers came to this feast, so did the one who slaughtered the pig, il norcino, who was also a poet, singer and guitarist. Both illustrious and humble friends of the family showed up, together with all our family. We called it La Smaialata, which means both the dinner on the pig and of the pig! Once I was sitting next to the American wife of a dear sculptor friend and she asked for my advice. My grasp of English was almost nothing at that time, but I understood that she wanted to know what to put on her plate. She would put one piece to try and, if it was okay, other pieces followed. This happened for the pieces of pig’s liver as well, and she ate 12 of them while I man- aged to put away 36. Then her husband asked her if she liked pig’s liver and she made a terrible face, saying, “No, no, thank you.”
Arista with potatoes was and is the important dish of the feast. The real name is Arista alla Fiorentina, but because fiorentina has become synonymous with spinach in
America, I changed its name. The epithet fiorentina comes from the Queen of France, Catherine de’ Medici, who was from Florence and introduced many dishes and ingredients like spinach to France. The French hated their queen and used the name of her city of origin not to say her name. Arista is a very classic dish, very appetizing. In Florentine trattorias it is often offered cold covered in its warm sauce. The name arista comes probably from the Latin arista, which means “something from the best part,” of the pig’s body; or from the Greek, ariston (the best).
And now the recipe and buon appetito!
Roast Pork Loin with Potatoes
Arista alla Fiorentina con Patate
1 pork loin, about 3 pounds, bone in
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, leaves only
2 tablespoons fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
2 pounds baby potatoes, scrubbed and pricked with a fork
Have your butcher prepare a loin of pork with the bone cut away from, but left inside the meat. Preheat the oven to 400°. Mince the garlic, rosemary and sage and mix with the salt and the pepper. Divide this mixture in two equal parts and mix one half with the butter using a fork. Mix the other half with 3 tablespoons of the oil. Lift the pork up vertically on one end and, with a sharp and narrow knife, cut a long hole through the middle of the pork. Make sure you do not cut all the way through to the other end. Enlarge the cut with a wooden spoon. Stuff the opening with the butter and herb mixture, pushing it all the way in with your finger, or the handle of the wooden spoon. Fill the entire cavity in this manner. Using butchers string (that you have soaked in warm water beforehand), tie the loin rather tightly, starting from the end at which you made the cut. Cover the outside of the meat and bone with the oil and herb mixture. Place in a roasting pan that is double the size of the pork loin along with the remaining olive oil. Put the pan in the oven. The meat will need to cook for 2 hours, being checked every 20 minutes and turned several times. After 1 hour and 20 minutes, add the potatoes to the pan, stirring well to coat with the olive oil and meat drippings. After 15 minutes, stir the potatoes. After another 15 minutes, add the wine to the pan, stirring to coat the potatoes. Allow to cook for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.
Wine pairing: Dry and crisp white
- This story and recipe were featured in the January 2011 issue of our e-magazine Cibo. To subscribe, please click here.