My wife and I have very different methodologies when it comes to cooking. I go out of my way to keep my ingredients simple, to let the flavor of the food shine as much as possible, with only minor ingredients that highlight the flavors of the key components of a dish. My wife goes recipe searching until she finds something that challenges her baker’s sensibilities, usually with a fairly extensive ingredient list and some fairly complicated steps thrown in the mix for fun. She says she does this because I do such a good job of making simple dishes. I think it’s just because her primary cooking influences are Puerto Rican, a culinary style that’s ingredient and method heavy.
I’m not complaining, my wife is an exceptional cook. I almost always have a problem tearing myself away from her dishes, and this one is no exception. As a matter of fact, I believe this is the best thing she’s ever graced my palate with and is a recipe I’ll be begging her to make often in the future.
This pork loin is oven roasted in a spicy-sweet glaze of herbs, cloves and brown sugar that to me embodies the flavors and aromas of late fall and winter. The house filled with a wonderful and heady perfume long before the dish was done, but I’ll go to my grave insisting that it was well worth the torturous wait to get to the finished product. It really doesn’t come any better than this.
Note: My wife adapted this from a recipe on the Food Network Website that was courtesy Le Central French Restaurant. The original recipe was for Pork Loin with Mushroom Fricassee, and called for a few additional steps, though I doubt these would have made an earth-shattering difference in the dish. The fricassee called for several varieties of mushrooms we didn’t have, and was skipped for this meal.
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp Goya adobo seasoning
- 2 tbsp minced shallot
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp minced fresh oregano leaves
- 1 tsp minced fresh parley leaves
- 1 package pork loins (They come in twos where we get ours, but if buying a single, go for a 5 lb loin)
In a small bowl, combine shallots, garlic, thyme, oregano, adobo and parsley. Rub the mixture all over pork, pressing firmly, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place pork loins in a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pork from the oven and let stand until cool enough to touch.
Spread the paste all over the loin. Return to oven and cook until it has developed a good crust on the outside and is cooked to your desired doneness. About 25 to 30 minutes. (Place a cookie sheet under your roasting pan if it’s shallow, the brown sugar will foam after about 20 minutes in the oven, and could spill over in a shallow roasting pan.)
Remove pork from pan and let rest for 15 minutes. cut into slices, drizzle with pan juices and garnish with a sprig of thyme.
The original recipe called for the loins to be buried in a mushroom fricassee. While that is a very French plating, I'd be ashamed to cover something this lovely with a thick sauce like that. I prefer to simply place a bit of the sauce on the plate, arrange a suitable portion in the sauce, drizzle with the pan juices, and garnish with fresh thyme or oregano (or both, if you'd like.)
Serve with something citrusy for an amazing taste combination.
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
I made a spinach and mushroom side for this dish. It was an utter disaster in flavor pairings. While good on its own (and with most other pork dishes, for that matter), the combination of spices in the sauce for the pork made the spinach taste metallic and about as unappetizing as eating iron filings.
In retrospect, I think next time I’ll go with a citrus rice, perhaps with lemon zest, thyme and a bit of fresh oregano to tie it in with the pork. I’ll report on that later, when we’ve given it a shot, but I can’t see any reason that the combination wouldn’t work well together.