Thursday, March 4, 2010

Roasted Pork Loin

Roasted pork loin always looks and tastes very impressive, yet it's ridiculously easy. There are three basic steps: sear, glaze, and roast. If you have an oven-friendly skillet, it's a one-pan dish.

I used to be not much of a pork fan, and I still rarely order it out, but I've been warming up to cooking it. It's easy to make it taste good, it's a cheap meat, and it doesn't have to be unhealthy - it all depends on the preparation. It's also extremely versatile - great with spicy, salty, and sweet flavors.

For roasted pork loin in particular, the glaze is where you can unleash your creativity and make the dish your own. It can be mustard, jam, a simple mix of olive oil, rosemary, and thyme, or a wine reduction sauce with spices and herbs (which is not as hard as it sounds - just deglaze the pan with red wine after searing your pork, add desired aromatics and reduce by half the volume).

In the case of the pork loin in the picture, S and I made it on a fairly busy night, so the glaze was an apricot chili pepper jam that was hanging out in the fridge. I highly recommend any sort of fruit jam - it will caramelize nicely in the oven.

As for the side, I like serving pork loin with oven-roasted hearty vegetables (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, brussels sprouts, etc: just add whole garlic cloves, toss everything with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake in a 400 F oven for ~40 mins). Cheesy polenta or garlicky mashed potatoes would work too if you feel like something creamier.
For beverage pairings, go with an "old world" (i.e. more earthy than fruity) pinot noir. If you are beer fan, go with a farmhouse/saison ale.

So, here's the "recipe" (more of a framework):

pork loin
glaze (apricot chili jam in this case)
olive oil or butter

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Heat up an oven safe skillet (or any thick pan) on medium-high and add olive oil or butter (I use olive oil, because I like its taste, but butter's more traditional for pork). Sear pork loin on all sides until the skin is browned, peppering as you go.
2. Lay the pork loin fat side down in the skillet (or a baking dish if your skillet is not oven-safe). Apply the glaze liberally to the top and sides, using a basting brush or a silicone spatula.

3. Place in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of the cut). Take out of the oven and let rest for ~10 minutes.

4. Slice into medallions and serve.

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