New Year's Eve Pig Out

I don't really mean pig out in the sense of the word overindulging, but I do mean the preparation of one of my favorite pork roasts.  Since it requires 18 hours in your oven, it is the perfect dish to serve at the stroke of midnight -- at the very same moment that you sing Auld Lang Syne and kiss your partner under the mistletoe.  Instead of shouting "Happy New Year!" however, you may instead scream "Let's eat!" The vapors streaming from your kitchen at this point will be so intoxicating as to leave all formalities aside and have you rushing to the groaning board (a word whose derivation is most interesting.)  Let's figure this out and I'm telling you now so you can get the ingredients today.  If you put the pork shoulder in the oven tonight (Thursday, December 30th) at midnight, the irresistibly crackly sphere of meat will be ready for indulging at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow night -- Friday, Dec. 31st, the early hours of most New Year's Eve festivities. That's fine for many of you who like to eat at a reasonable hour, leaving you enough time to position yourself in front of some fireworks.  For those of you who are glued to your big screen television to watch the ball drop from the center of Times Square in New York City and join the world's choral countdown, then you'll need to put the pork in the oven around 4 a.m. (Friday, Dec. 31st).  That could present a problem, or not, but it is no different than what many Americans do on Thanksgiving Day. I can't tell you how delicious this pork roast is.  Flavored with fennel and cumin seed, garlic and fresh lemon, the skin becomes so crispy and the pork flesh stays so very moist because of the very low temperature at which it cooks.  There's a little kick at the end from hot pepper flakes and the whole thing goes amazingly well with champagne, whose celebratory bubbles cut through unctuous succulence and tempers the salinity.  Serve with a pot of oil-slicked bay-scented lentils (good luck in Italy) and a simple arugula salad splashed with balsamic vinegar (and maybe some crumbled blue cheese with pickled red onions!)  A simple carrot puree -- for color and contrast -- would also be nice.  Crank up the music and bring in the new year on high.

Here's what you need to do: 18-Hour Pork Shoulder with Fennel, Garlic & Lemon If you put this in the oven before you go to bed, it will be ready for dinner the next day -- all crackly, succulent and irresistible.

10-pound whole pork shoulder, skin on 2 large heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled 3 tablespoons fennel seeds 3 tablespoons cumin seeds 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Make deep slits in the pork skin, about 1 inch apart, going through to the flesh.  Combine the garlic, fennel, cumin, pepper flakes and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a food processor; process until coarsely ground.  Spread the mixture all over the pork, making sure to pack some into the slits.  Place the pork in a roasting pan.  Roast for 30 minutes.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the pork and reduce the temperature to 250 degrees.  Bake for 18 hours.  Squeeze the juice of the second lemon over the pork during the last hour of cooking.  When done, the skin will crackle and the flesh will be soft.  Carve into thick or thin slices. Serves 8 (or more)

Happy almost New Year!