Herb Rubbed Pork Loin with Onion, Raisin, Garlic Compote
February 11, 2011
Over the past four and a half years, my husband and I have mastered the art of the special dinner at home. Our kids, too young to tuck themselves in, hold us captive. We have a running joke where one of us asks, “What do you want to do tonight?” In response, the other spouts off lists of adventurous ideas all involving actually leaving the house together, even though our kids are sound asleep. We laugh as we pretend we have options aside from the rented movie, the game of dominoes, or going to sleep at a deliciously early hour- oh, now I really am sounding old. All jokes aside, a night at home can be quite special. We prefer to celebrate the opportunity staying in presents, rather than long for the greener grass.
In our home every detail of our meal can be catered to our whim. We choose festive, fancy, or casual. Our tastes can travel to Thailand, Italy, or Mexico. We can eat with china or our fingers. At home we make the food exactly how we want to eat it. We use only the freshest, seasonal ingredients, all at a fraction of the cost of a nice restaurant meal. There is no need for reservations or babysitters. Perhaps the best reason to celebrate the special dinner at home, is the pride and satisfaction of sitting down together to eat a meal which one of us (or both) have put our heart and hands into preparing with love.
Our most recent special meal was Herb Rubbed Pork Loin. I used an exceptional brine from the girl and the fig that I have used in the past with chops. Brining allows the meat to retain moisture through the cooking and infuses the meat with tremendous flavor. To ensure the brine and seasoning could permeate the entire roast, I sliced the meat horizontally, a technique I picked up from Cook’s Illustrated. After the brine, I marinated the meat in mustard and herbs from the garden. We were able to take advantage of unseasonably warm weather here in Sonoma County and grill the loin. This could easily be roasted in the oven as well with the added bonus of being able to collect the juices for a gravy.
The pork loin turned out incredibly moist and flavorful. The brine perfectly seasoned the interior of the meat, and the marinade gave a delightful herbal tang to the exterior. Do not overlook the Onion, Raisin, Garlic Compote, it is fabulous! We both agreed that we could eat an entire bowl of it as an official side dish. Onions, raisins, and garlic are cooked down with butter, port, and herbs. This is a perfect accompaniment to the pork loin. This meal turned another night at home with the family into a special night indeed.
Herb Rubbed Pork Loin
the Brine (adapted from the girl & the fig Cookbook)
3 bay leaves
1/2 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
3/4 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon fresh garlic
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 gallon water
3 pound center cut pork loin
Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to crush bay leaves, peppercorns, crushed red pepper, and thyme into a fine powder. Combine with water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl that fits in your refrigerator. (I use a large food grade plastic container with a lid). Stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
Take the pork loin and slice it horizontally along its length 3/4 of the way through its diameter. (See picture above) Place loin in brine, cover, and chill for 12 to 36 hours. The meat will absorb all the incredible flavors from the brine.
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Place all of the above ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. At least one hour before cooking pork loin, cut 4-5 pieces of butcher twine 8-10 inches long. Lay the twine on a cutting board parallel to each other and 1 1/2- 2 inches apart. Remove loin from the brine. Lay loin across the twine. Rub the interior fold of the meat with the marinade. Close the fold and tie the twine around the loin. (see picture above) Place loin in large dish or tray. Rub exterior of meat with the remainder of the marinade. Chill at least 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and let sit covered at room temperature for an additional 30 minutes before cooking.
Grilling the Pork Loin
Heat gas grill on medium heat. You need to cook the meat indirectly. If your grill has three burners, turn on the outer two and leave off the middle burner. If your grill has two burners, light one and leave the other off. You will need to rotate the loin halfway through to ensure even cooking.
Once grill is hot, cook loin directly over the heat, turning to sear on all sides. This should take about 20 minutes. Then move the loin to position away from heat elements. Cover grill and allow to cook 45-60 minutes. Brush meat with any left over marinade up until the last 10 minutes of cooking. Test meat with an instant read thermometer. Pull it off the grill when the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Loosely cover loin with foil and allow to rest 10 minutes before carving. Slice loin in 1/4 to 1/2 inches slices. Serve with Onion, Raisin, and Garlic Compote.
Roasting the Pork Loin
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat roasting pan on stove top over medium heat. Add 3 Tablespoons of oil. Sear meat on all sides.
Place the roasting pan with pork loin in heated oven. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Loosely cover loin with foil and allow to rest 10 minutes before carving. Slice loin in 1/4 to 1/2 inches slices. Serve with Onion, Raisin, and Garlic Compote.
Onion, Raisin and Garlic Compote
makes 2 cups
1 pound pearl onions (frozen)
1/4 cup butter
24 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups tawny Port
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and bay. Cook until the garlic begins to brown. Add the Port, vinegar, sugar, salt, onions, and raisins. Cook until mixture reduces and becomes syrupy. Stir frequently. Add thyme and cool. Serve warm.
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