Summertime, and the livin' is easy in the kitchen, to paraphrase Gershwin.
Slice tomatoes. Boil corn. That's really all you need for side dishes. Oh, maybe slice some cucumbers, too.
As for the main dish, Madeline Arthur Hawkins, a friend's grandmother, used to say sagely, "A pork roast is as good as any steak." Of course, she was saying this back in the days of what I like to call "happy pigs." You could taste contentment in their meat.
Happy pigs were raised outdoors instead of in factory farms and were free to root around. It was not yet fashionable for pigs to be ultra-lean, either; if you study photos of champion pigs of bygone days in old books, you will see what I mean.
But I digress from the matter at han - supper.
Cold roast pork is wonderful sliced the next day, making it an ideal do-ahead for company.
These days, in order to get a succulent pork roast, you need to find fresh pork shoulder, often labeled picnic roast or Boston butt, contradictory as that may sound. In communities where the word for roasted pig is lechon, you are more apt to find a large shoulder cut, but if you plan ahead, you can ask a butcher to order one. Or ask for a loin to be boned but take the bones home and cook the roast on top of them for more flavor.
If the meat seems hopelessly lacking in fat, "lard" it by draping it with bacon, or rub it with a paste of herbs such as thyme and rosemary (heavier on the thyme), salt and olive oil.
Once, pork roasts could be cooked on a rack, with no additional moisture added to the pan underneath. In today's world of dry meat, you need a bit of liquid to create steam.
I am a fan of cooking roasts long and slow for maximum tenderness. If you don't sleep too late, you can let it go all night. (A hunk of beef brisket, too, can be cooked all night by the slow method.)
Now what could be easier than that? It's summer.
Slow-roasted pork shoulder
1 (7- to 8-pound) bone-in pork shoulder, with skin on
8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
2 tablespoons kosher salt or a little more than that if using sea salt
Combination of fresh herbs to make 1/4 cup: thyme, marjoram, rosemary needles (see note)
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1. The evening before you plan to serve the roast, wash and pat it dry. Cut slits all over the roast, in skin and fat, down into the pork, about an inch apart. Insert slivers of garlic into these slits.
2. Grind together salt and herbs, adding olive oil to make a paste. Rub paste all over surface of roast and into garlic slits. Let roast stand at least 1 hour at room temperature.
3. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place wine and 1cup water in roasting pan and set pork on rack above, skin-side up. Roast for about 50 minutes, until skin is browned and fat is bubbling. Reduce heat to 225 degrees, tent with foil and continue to roast for 4 to 6 hours, until fork tender. (Check occasionally to see if you need to add water.) Temperature of the meat should reach 170 degrees on a meat thermometer.
4. Let cool. Serve sliced across the grain, about half an inch thick, drizzled with pan drippings. (Refrigerate if the meal is not being served for many hours; set out about an hour ahead of serving.) Makes 10 servings.
Note: Don't use all rosemary, but you can use all thyme. If there's no marjoram, use more thyme and less rosemary, or add some sage, a flavor that goes well with pork. If herbs are dried, you'll need only about half as much.