Monday, October 26, 2009

Brined Pork Tenderloin (p. 30) with Caramelized Onions (p. 23)

What the hell? I have a blog? Aw crap, I should probably write something here. Yeah, I know it's been over a week since I posted anything. It's not that I haven't been cooking, I just haven't been writing about it. Selzer & Smuckles has continued in the real world, I just need to play catchup with my writeups. So let's not waste anymore time. This is my second foray into brining, a technique I probably wouldn't have tried if not for this project. And, well, spoiler alert - it went really, really well. Brined Pork Tenderloin is brought to us by Teodor, and so my expectations were high going in. I had this one earmarked early on as something that might be a cut above the rest of the cookbook, partly because Teodor is a renowned foodie and partly because it sounded pretty delicious.

The procedure began pretty much the same as the Ruuude Chicken. Fill a pot with water, salt, sugar and spices and throw some meat in. Thankfully, a pork loin is significantly smaller than a whole chicken, and the recipe didn't call for quite as much brine. I had a container easily large enough to hold the solution: my slow cooker crock. The recipe called for the pork to sit in the brine for anywhere from overnight to 3 days. I opted for the longer time. More time for flavor to get in. That's science, right? Anyway, the pork loin is not an attractive cut of meat. It's a sad, cheap cut that sits in a roll amongst the other, more popular cuts of a pig. When you see it sitting in a bucket of saltwater, your first thought isn't really, "I bet that thing tastes great." It's usually something more like, "Who cut off this horse penis and why are they giving it a bath?" See for yourself:

That's basically the entire preparation for the meal. After the brining is complete, you throw it in the oven until it reads a safe temperature (160 degrees). The temperature is important with pork, unless of course you want to die. After that, it's up to the chef to make it look like something someone would willingly eat. Baking a moist meat log doesn't really give you any kind of crust, so even out of the oven you have a grayish, round hunk of pork. The Achewood Cookbook doesn't really go into presentation or serving most of its recipes, and this one basically ended with taking it out of the oven. I went with what I believe to be the standard option and cut it into medallions, about an inch thick. I stacked them in an attractive, fan-like pattern like I've seen on the TV (incidentally, I made this on "pork night" on Top Chef...yes, I'm that far behind...and I think this recipe would have fared pretty well compared to some of the losers). I must say, I'm rather proud of this one. I'm usually awful at presentation, and this at least looked decent:
But we aren't done yet! That's right, you wait this long, you get a two-fer! The recipe said it should be served with Caramelized Onions, also by Teodor. I think most of the time I've always considered sauteed or grilled onions to be caramelized, but I knew in my heart I was wrong. Caramelization, according to Wikipedia, refers to the "oxidation of sugar" as "a type of non-enzymatic browning." The Scribe and Mouse, now with research! Anyway, the caramelization essentially boiled down to (pun intended) making a balsamic vinegar reduction with a sliced onion. The result was that great, kind of slimy texture I've come to love from a caramelized onion. The flavor was maybe a little too vinegary for my tastes, but it wasn't overpowering by any stretch and it worked with the dish. I've seen other caramelized onion recipes that call for varies wines, and I may have to try them in the future. Anyway, I topped the pork with the onions, and was ready to serve:
You can see the side I made in the background - pan-fried red potatoes with garlic and thyme. I also put some applesauce on the plate, for tradition's sake. This was easily the best meal Achewood has provided thus far. The meat was succulent and flavorful and the onions provided a nice, contrasting sweetness and tang to the salty pork. I've always considered pork to be a salty meat, and was worried that the brine would be like overkill on the old sodium chloride. These fears were misguided. The dish was elegant and balanced, and honestly tasted like something I'd order in a restaurant. Melissa doesn't usually eat pork (not a religious thing, she just doesn't like it much) and she gobbled this up. She absolutely loved it (I may have turned a corner with her and pork; we'll see). I couldn't blame her. The ate every bite on my plate and still wanted more. This is the kind of thing I expect from Teodor - classy food that's a step above the "open can and heat" mentality of some of the rest of the Achewood Cookbook. It was a fantastic meal, the kind we don't always get at home. Our nightly dinners have a tendency to blend together as we consume foods that we consider "favorites" or "easy to prepare" or "not bad for cheap." And that's fine. If we didn't have mundane dinners, quality like this wouldn't stand out so much. It made a Wednesday night in front of the TV feel like a special occasion.

Ok, that's it for today. I'll be back soon (I promise) with more tales of the kitchen.


1 comment:

  1. Looks entirely too yummy, and yay to Melissa for eating pork