Plunging prices of whole and half pork loins have meant lots of pork on my table. I have seen the uncut boneless loins selling for as little as $1.65 a pound this month. Who could resist tossing a couple in the cart? Well, lots of people. Specifically, those who are stumped about what to do with such a large hunk of meat.
I’m here to help. I have been buying whole boneless loins for several years, so I know a thing or two about big hunks of pork. Pork loins — basically, the meaty part of a pork chop — are very lean, so they should be cooked quickly or long and slowly. If you stop somewhere in the middle — say, 30 minutes for a chop — the meat will be chewy and dry.
So what do I do with all this meat? First I turn about half of the loin into boneless pork chops, slicing it 1- to 1 1/2-inches thick. I wrap the chops individually, then stash them in a gallon-size freezer bag in the freezer. I pull out three at a time to grill or pan-fry. Sometimes I bread them, but not usually. I season the chops with salt and pepper and brown them over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, then finish them in a 350-degree oven. Ten to 20 minutes, depending on thickness, will do it. Check the temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer horizontally into the chop. It should read 145 degrees for pink or 155 degrees for cooked through but still juicy.
Some of the remaining meat is cut into strips for stir fry or cubes for fricassee or Tony’s beloved Japanese curry. I portion the stir-fry strips into small zipper-lock freezer bags, add about a tablespoon of soy sauce and squish it around to coat the meat before freezing. It’s instant marinade.
The rest I use as roasts — one or two, usually. I might cook one in a slow cooker with criollo mojo marinade for Cuban roast pork or in a Dutch oven on the range with Asian seasonings.
Or, I’ll stuff it and roast it as I did last fall with a cornbread-apple stuffing. I haven’t plain roasted a pork loin for a long time, but I did on Sunday after I found a recipe for Rosemary Roast Loin of Pork.
The pork loin roast is stabbed on each end with the blade of a sharp knife, and a sprig of rosemary is inserted deep into each slit. As the meat heats and cooks, the rosemary flavors the entire roast. Part way through cooking, Pinot Grigio or another fruity white wine is added with water to the roasting pan.
When my roast was done, I cut it into thick, glistening slices and spooned the luscious pan juices over them. Tony and I ate just half of our 2 pound roast, so we have plenty of leftovers this week for his ramen and my protein snacks.
The roast recipe seems so plain on paper that normally I would have ignored it, but it is from one of my trusted authors, Patricia Wells. It is from her 1993 book, “Trattoria.”
Wells calls for a 5-pound roast, which is too gigantic for Tony and me. Use your own judgement. I also replaced Wells’ fresh rosemary with sprigs of dried from the bush that died in my mud room while I was in Florida. I soaked the prickly sprigs in hot water until pliable, and they scented the roast beautifully.
I don’t have a rack small enough to fit into a pan that’s a sensible size for a 2-pound roast, so I crisscrossed the bottom of the pan with chopsticks and wooden skewers. My makeshift rack kept the roast off the bottom of the pan, while allowing some of the pan juices to gently lap it.
The flavor of this roast was out of proportion to the scant amount of ingredients and work required. The recipe is a keeper.
ROSEMARY ROAST LOIN OF PORK
1 loin pork roast, 2 to 4 lbs., depending on number of diners (Wells specifies a 5-lb. bone-in roast, but boneless loins are the cut on sale)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Sea salt, fresh-ground black pepper to taste
About 1 1/2 cups dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio (I used 1/2 cup)
About 1 1/2 cups water (I used 1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat the roast dry with paper towels. With the point of a slender, sharp knife, pierce the centers of both ends of the roast and insert a sprig of rosemary in each slit. Season the roast generously with salt and pepper. Place fat side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Place in the center of the oven and roast until the skin is crackling and brown and the meat begins to exude fat and juices, about 30 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and base with any juices from the pan. Add about 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup water to the pan. Continue to add wine and water as needed, to maintain a thin layer of liquid in the pan at all times, and baste at 20-minute intervals. Roast the pork for about 25 minutes per pound for a bone-in roast or 15 minutes per pound for boneless, for slightly pink meat, or 20 minutes per pound for juicy but cooked- through. An instant-read thermometer should register about 145 degrees for pink and 155 degrees for cooked through. Let stand for 15 minutes — no longer — before cutting into thick slices.
Meanwhile skim the fat from the pan juices and simmer over moderate heat, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan. If necessary, add several tablespoons of cold water to deglaze the pan, and bring to a boil. Cook, scraping and stirring, until the liquid is almost caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not burn. Spoon off any fat. Pour into a sauce boat and pass at the table. A 2-pound boneless roast will serve 6 generously.
From “Patricia Wells’ Trattoria.”
I would go to the ends of the earth to taste a new cuisine. Luckily, I didn’t have to; It came to me. Those who have yearned to taste Uzbek food — as in Uzbekistan, Tashkent, the Silk Road — now can satisfy their curiosity at a store-front carryout in Cuyahoga Falls.
Two high-top tables hug the front wall of the public space, leaving just enough room for a person to reach the order counter. It was staffed by a precocious pre-teen boy when I visited. He relayed my order to the kitchen, which is shielded from the customers by a drape.
The eight-item menu is on the wall with pictures, Uzbek names (in the Roman alphabet, not Cyrillic) and English explanations. The prices are ridiculously low. You could order the entire menu for $38. There’s Uzbek’s national dish, “Plov” — chunks of beef with rice and carrots, $7 — and the Uzbek snack, “Cheburek” — a deep-fried meat or potato turnover, just $2. I ordered the “Manti” (steamed beef-stuffed dumplings with unusual spices), $6, and a “Somsa” ($2), which looks and kind of tastes like a Lebanese meat turnover, with a lighter pastry and different seasonings. I wish I had picked up some Uzbek flat bread rounds, too. Next time.
Uzbek Cuisine is at 2457 State Road., next to the Falls Wheel & Wrench Bike Shop, in Cuyahoga Falls. The phone is 234-706-6664. The sign outside says “Authentic Middle Eastern Food,” but who are they kidding? The exotic food is from deep in Central Asia, and this little carryout may be your one chance to taste it.
From Cheryl S.:
Regarding your post on wanting to grow bay laurel, Donzell’s in Akron stocks them in the greenhouse section where they sell the herbs, but they don’t stock many herbs until around Memorial Day.
I debated whether to share this juicy tip, but my better self won. I will be first in line. Thanks, Cheryl.
From Judy S., Scottsdale, Ariz.:
I saw a recipe for your Sichuan dumplings in chili oil, and the missing ingredient may be Chinkiang black vinegar. Good luck.
Possibly. I plan to buy some on my next Chinese-store run.
From Sue D., East Liverpool:
I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows on Public Television’s Create TV — one of the blessings of retirement. Given that the quality of ingredients logically ought to be a big factor in the results of your cooking efforts, how do you feel about using Louisiana gulf shrimp as opposed to shrimp imported from elsewhere? There was a lot of talk on one of the shows about the superior flavor and texture of Gulf shrimp. What’s your thinking on sourcing seafood?
Hands down, wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico is superior to all other shrimp I’ve tasted. I once compared Gulf and Asian shrimp in a taste test. No contest. Most of the shrimp sold in local stores is farmed, which I use sometimes because of the lower prices. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor, though, and the texture isn’t as firm as that of Gulf shrimp.
Yes, the source of seafood matters. So does how the seafood is handled after it is caught. The first thing to look for is wild-caught. Then, if you have access to the information, buy seafood that is frozen right on the boat. For scallops, “dry pack” is a useful descriptor. For fish, “line caught” is the ecologically sound way to go. The clerk behind the fish counter should be able to give you this information. Ideally, patronize a store that knows the provenance of its products, has a high turnover and handles the seafood carefully.