Pork loin, two ways
March 28, 2017
I love a pork loin.
It’s easy to mess up — if you’re not careful, you’ll overcook it, and it’ll wind up dry and pretty tasteless, no matter how well you sauce it. But once you get past that hurdle, it’s one of the most versatile cuts of meat there is.
You can cut it up into nice, thick boneless chops, which then you can then marinate, or not, and grill or broil or even pan-fry until they’re JUST done, but still nice and juicy. You can butterfly it if you want, and stick some fresh herbs or some seasoned breadcrumbs inside it, then tie it up and roast it, or you can just sprinkle it with some seasoning, roast it (again, JUST until done, and if you don’t have a meat thermometer, get you one, and make use of it), and then make a luscious glaze/sauce.
If you’re cooking for three, you can get four meals out of a grocery-store sized loin. That’s a good bargain in anybody’s book, when you catch one on sale.
Witness this one, which I picked up on sale at Aldi for something like $1.79 a pound, probably 4 pounds or so worth of it. I cut it in half, and coated one half down with a good all-purpose barbecue rub, bagged it, and put it in the SV to cook, along with my corned beef, a week or so ago. The other half, I brined with an eye toward making Canadian bacon, which I had never done, and figured it was time I remedied that.
Well, I say I’d never done it. I’d started it before. I brined the piece of pork loin, and put it on a rack in the extra fridge to dry out overnight before I smoked it…and I forgot it. For about two weeks. It was a hockey puck when I got it out. I gave up and chunked it, and tried to put it out of my mind.
Anyway. More on that in a minute. We got to the sous vide piece of it first; it had cooked about 16 hours at 145F in the bath, and then I’d just tossed it into the fridge, where it reposed for three or four days. I got it out, sliced it in half-inch-thick slabs, and glazed those lightly with a tomato-based barbecue sauce. Put those in the CSO at 500 degrees to broil for about 10 minutes, as far from the broiling element as I could get them, which I knew would give the interior of the meat plenty of time to warm up, while the steam kept it moist.
We had that with simple, but good, standby sides: potato salad, slaw and baked beans. It was pretty hard to beat for a Sunday dinner that was mostly cooked in advance.
Had I been of a notion to do so, I could’ve refrozen it once it was cooked, and then let it thaw in the fridge for a dinner at some later date. Not a bad thing to have in your hip pocket, but for having to do a little advance planning as far as thawing’s concerned.
So, while that one was cooking, the other half went into a brine of its own. This one is from Michael Ruhlman, as well, the source of my corned beef brine recipe/method, and it’s here. Man knows his cured meats, I’m here to testify.
I pulled it after 72 hours in the brine, let it dry overnight in the fridge (on a rack set over a plate), and plunked it on the grill with some other stuff. It smoked on low heat while I cooked, while we ate, and as we finished up a glass of wine, until it hit an internal temp of 145 degrees, and I pulled it off and let it cool. I stuck it back in a bag and stuck it in the fridge.
Come a few days later, and I was in the notion for breakfast. I had farm eggs. I made myself some homemade biscuits, creamed together some sorghum molasses with some butter, and cut off three 1/4 inch slices from the pork loin and fried them just long enough to sear a little color onto them and warm them up.
This stuff is good. It tastes vaguely like cured ham that you’ve fried to go with breakfast, but not as hammy, if that makes any sense. It tastes kinda like bacon, but not much. Mostly, it tastes like good, slightly salty, pork. I think it’d be primo to dice it up and fry it with potatoes for a kind of hash, or use it in any kind of beans. Since it’s fully cooked, it could be diced and tossed in a salad of most any description, or used atop a pizza.
I’m going to slice it up and package it in portions, and freeze it. This’ll get made again. And I’ll be on the lookout for the next on-sale pork loin I can find.
You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get you a pork loin, and let me know how you cook it.