Two weeks ago, in an effort to free ourselves (a.k.a. The Boyfriend and I) from the oppressive shackles of constant breast-based dinners, I bought four pounds of $1.99/lb center cut pork loin and chopped it into four 1-lb mini-roasts. “What the heck,” I figured, “This can’t be TOO hard.”
Pork, it turns out, is incredibly easy to drain of any and all moisture. In fact, the FDA asks us to cook the meat to a bacteria-slaying internal temperature of 160°F, which has the unfortunate side effect of mummification. At that point, you may as well snack on a sock, since it’s just as flavorful.
Happily, after a little research and a few trial-and-error sessions in the kitchen, I think I hit on a formula that nearly ensures a moist roast. (P.S. Try saying “moist roast” ten times fast. It’s hard.) Instead of roasting the meat longer at 325°F or 350°F, you brown it on a stovetop first, then shove it in a 450°F oven briefly, until its inner temperature hits 145°F-150°F. Then, you let it sit on an aluminum foil-tented pan for 15 minutes. During this time, the pork's temperature should rise 10 degrees and the juices get a chance to redistribute. The whole shebang locks in the moisture, gives the meat a nice color, and comes in handy when there’s no time to brine.
I used this method last night, and paired it with a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Warm Roasted Red Pepper Relish. Which? Yum. It’s a little pricier than most CHG dishes, but it’s a tad classier, too. Like Katharine Hepburn, but edible.
Ooo - but, before we get to the dish, a quick reiteration/warning about pork's internal temperature: opinion varies widely on the boundaries of a safe one. I've read that 145°F - 150°F is acceptable, since the roast's temperature will rise as it sits, but I CAN NOT guarantee this. If you're unsure or concerned about Trichinella, please cook the pork longer. Food-borne diseases are bad.
Pork Loin with Warm Roasted Red Pepper Relish
Adapted from and Cook's Illustrated Best 30-Minute Recipes.
1 1-lb pork loin center, trimmed of all visible fat and patted dry
½ Tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper
½ shallot, minced
salt and pepper
½ garlic clove, minced
6-oz (1/2 jar) roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped fine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 2 pieces and chilled
½ tablespoon freshly minced basil
1) Preheat oven to 450°F.
2) In a medium pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork generously with salt and pepper. Place pork in pan and brown on every side. (This should take about 6 minutes or so.) When finished, transfer pork to a roasting pan and roast about 20 minutes, or until pork temperature is between 145°F and 150°F. When finished, remove from oven, tent pork with aluminum foil and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
3) While pork is in oven, add shallot and 1/8 teaspoon salt to the oil left in pan. Cook over medium-high heat until shallot is soft, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring a few times.
4) Add peppers and vinegar to pan and cook until warm, about 2 minutes, scraping up browned bits as you go along.
5) Drop heat to low. Stir in butter chunks one at a time. Remove from heat. Add basil and any pork juices. Stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over sliced pork.
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
330 calories, 17.2 g fat, $1.81
(Note: I think my fat calc is a bit high here, since a lot of the fat is trimmed.)
1 1-lb pork loin center (about 10-12 oz after trim): 440 calories, 16.5 g fat, $1.99
½ Tablespoon vegetable oil: 66 calories, 7.5 g fat, $0.03
salt and pepper: negligible fat and calories, $0.05
½ shallot, minced: 14 calories, 0 g fat, $0.26
½ garlic clove, minced: 2 calories, 0 g fat, $0.02
6-oz (1/2 jar) roasted red peppers: 36 calories, 0 g fat, $0.99
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar: negligible calories and fat, $0.08
1 tablespoon butter: 102 calories, 11.5 g fat, $0.10
½ tablespoon freshly minced basil: negligible fat and calories, $0.11
TOTAL: 660 calories, 35.5 g fat, $3.63
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 330 calories, 17.2 g fat, $1.81