Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Baby's Got Sauce

Braise - To cook by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container
Well that was clinical, and not at all indicative of the loving process used to take a tough cut of meat and turn it into a succulent, flavor-infused masterpiece. But it's succinct. The Devil, they say though, is in the details. With a little care, forethought and some time, you can take that inexpensive cut of meat and serve a dish to be proud of.
Take pork, for example. It is my favorite meat, but is often times so lean now, that it can be very difficult not to over-cook or dry out just about any way you prepare it. Braising is an ideal solution. I think that's why I serve a lot of pork on the weekends when I can take my time, prep early then sit back at let a low flame do all the work.
You've all seen my baked apple disaster now. Here is what preceded it.
Seasoned pork loin in Dutch ovenEarly Sunday morning (after my coffee, of course), I took a pork loin I had thawed over night, seasoned it with chili salt and fresh ground pepper and then seared on all sides in a hot Dutch oven with about 3 tablespoons of good olive oil.
Pork loin browned in olive oilIt took about 15 minutes to brown the entire cut of meat. After searing, I removed the pork and poured off all but 1 Tbsp of the oil.
Onions browing in Dutch ovenLowering the heat under the pot, I cooked 1 sliced onion until it just started to brown and then added 4 cloves of chopped garlic and cooked another 1 minute. I scorched 1½ Tbsp of tomato paste in the pot and then deglazed the fond with white wine.
Pork loin returned to tomato sauceI returned the pork to the Dutch oven and brought the liquid to a boil. Lowering the heat to low, I covered the pot and set a timer for 4 hours. Occasionally I would jostle the pork loin making sure it wasn't sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Mushrooms browning in butter & oilAt the 4-hour mark, I sautéed some button mushrooms in a little oil and butter until most of the moisture was cooked out of them. You don't want to disturb the mushrooms too much while they're browning, just give a periodic toss. The browned mushrooms and a 6oz can of sliced black olives went into the Dutch oven with the pork and the rich sauce.
Braised pork loin with mushrooms & black olivesAbout 40 minutes later, I steamed some brown rice in vegetable stock with 2 Tbsp of butter and a splash of soy sauce. While the rice was steaming, I cracked the Dutch oven lid ajar so that some of the liquid could evaporate from the sauce.
The pork separated effortlessly without the need of slicing. But it is was the sauce everyone remarked upon. The rich tomato paste was softened by the wine. The olives and mushrooms added earthy tones and texture. Finally the collagens and natural gelatin in the broken-down connective tissue enriched the body of the sauce, and everything was absorbed into the meat. My buddy Matt O'Food, a purveyor of fine sauces, would kill for what I was able to do with that braised pork loin. He'll be surprised to learn I still have a trick or two up my sleeve.
Vino? How about an old vine Zinfandel from the Central Coast, a Montepulciano, or even a super Tuscan for that matter? Something hearty, chewy, fruit forward and velvety in the mouth.
This meal basically prepared itself. I seasoned some meat, sliced an onion and some mushrooms, stirred a pot occasionally, and massacred a dessert. Plan ahead, and you'll wow 'em at the next Sunday supper too!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

No comments: