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Barbecue Without the Grill

A simple, tasty, in-the-oven barbecue recipe left more precious time to hang with Dad

Pernil, a savory Puerto Rican pork roast served on tortillas.

Puerto Rican pork roast. — Photo by Tara Donne

En español |As a guy who loves to cook, I have an Achilles heel — I really don't like to barbecue. The first time I ever lit a gas grill, in college, I singed my eyebrows. I've kept my head from catching fire since then, yet too often I find grilling to be a pulse-raising experience.

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Still, there are times when only a barbecue will do. Three summers ago my father was going into the final rounds of a long bout with prostate cancer. We were eager to spend an afternoon with him, so we decided on a family barbecue.

Since this could very well be our last barbecue together, I wanted to make something special. But I was also desperate to enjoy his company, and I didn't want to spend the day standing sentinel over hot coals, stressed out about the meal.

After much deliberation, I decided on pernil, a savory Puerto Rican pork roast that is a joy to eat and practically cooks itself — in the oven. While the fat on the pork was caramelizing in the kitchen, I was sitting in the shade beside my father, talking and reminiscing.

As he watched my two little girls playing, he shared his philosophy about raising a family, which he summed up this way: " You just get another bunk bed." I understood then that being the man of the house was about finding simple solutions to complicated problems. Like my no-grill barbecue.

John Donohue is the author of Man With a Pan.

Next: Recipe for Puerto Rican pork roast. >>

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