Penelope’s Kitchen: ‘Slow and low’ for Christmas


Traditions over the holiday season extend to food.

Those traditions in my family have followed a progression: Thanksgiving turkey, seafood pasta on Christmas Eve, a roast on Christmas and a cold smoked fish platter with champagne on New Year’s Eve.

The notion of Christmas cooking somehow feels more labor intensive, perhaps because the feasts on the 24th and 25th follow one after the other and are diverse. So roasts, which don’t require much fuss, fit the bill nicely for Christmas dinner.

When I lived in Manhattan, I explored restaurants in Chinatown, a real adventure for foodies. Those that specialized in barbecued meats had a real knack for roasting so they were succulent. An owner of a restaurant near Center Street, which closed years ago, told me the secret to a perfect ham roast: “Slow and low.”

The beauty of this recipe is that it is simple and roasts while you sleep!

Ham Roast 
(Serves 12)

8 to 10 pound fresh pork shoulder/picnic, skin/fat left on
Water as needed
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
Handful of bay leaves and whole cloves

Score skin with a diamond pattern; with a skewer, poke holes all over the meat.

The day prior to serving, allow meat to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Fill a pan with water, add the onion, garlic and bay leaves and put on the bottom of the oven.

Rub ham with olive oil, salt, pepper and sage. Then place the ham on a rack in a roasting pan.

Put the roast in the oven with the meat thermometer visible. The oven door should be left shut so that the meat does not lose moisture.

The roast will take about 12 hours until finished. The pan at the bottom of the oven will help keep the ham moist.

When the internal temperature of the roast has reached 155 degrees on the meat thermometer, remove the ham from the oven and allow it to rest 15 minutes prior to slicing to retain the juices.

Immediately prior to serving, if desired, the roast can be placed in the oven set at 500 degrees to further brown the skin.