Pork loin with charred lemon (NYC, December 10, 2013)

I’m back again on this wet and cold December evening with a recipe I want to share it is still relatively fresh in my mind.

First, I have to say that I am so glad to be posting here again. It is really a pleasure. After so many months to just come back and pick up again and not feel like I have to justify it – I do this because I like to, not because I have to. To have a place where I can talk to whoever wants to listen about what I made for dinner or what I am thinking about making is truly a great thing. And, on top of that, several of my friends and family even told me that they missed it! That means a lot – really. So thanks to those of you read and comment and “like.”

I am trying to post more spontaneously and so today I am here with a half-baked recipe, one that isn’t quite worked out yet but that I am going to post anyway because if I don’t now, then when?

This was one of those accidentally amazing dishes that I now want to recreate as much as possible. In my apartment we have been eating a lot of basic stuff: rotisserie chicken from the grocery store with steamed kale or broccoli or broccoli rabe or broccolini or cabbage; bolognese (the world’s best) over the same steamed vegetables; sincronizadas with ham and havarti; tuna salad a variety of different ways.

To break the monotony, I tried my hand at meatballs with tetrazzini à la Canal House (this is delicious but I still haven’t mastered it and have been avoiding buying sherry, which I think is vital to the recipe, so I may post about that when that happens). A couple of days ago we roasted a pork loin- something we rarely do- having marinated it in olive oil and lots of lemon juice and garlic and salt and pepper. The problem was that the marinade sort of burnt a little in the oven. But wow was it good.

Maybe it burnt because I roasted the loin in an aluminum cazuela instead of in a proper baking pan. There is a story behind this: I have been in need of a new cast iron Dutch oven for some time. Now that it is winter and I can turn on the oven in my tiny apartment and not sweat to death, I decided it was time to go out and find one. So I thought that instead of going to a fancy cookware store or a chain, I’d go to one of the kitchen supply places in Chinatown. I mean it’s right down the street! It seemed like a great idea.

Perhaps cast iron Dutch ovens are not the most useful thing for Chinese cooking, however, because out of the ten or so places I stopped into, only one store had them. It was way overpriced. So after an entire afternoon of looking, I ended up at K-Mart (sort of the opposite experience that I set out to have but I guess that just goes to show you) and bought an Imusa brand aluminum cazuela for under $20.

So far it’s been pretty great. I can make big rice dishes on the stove (the original reason I was looking for a Dutch oven), and I can also bake in it.

Anyway, because the surface is not non-stick or seasoned cast iron, the pork juices and accompanying lemony marinade sort of caramelized in a really lovely way. The flavor is slightly bitter (the lemon and the char) but it is also packed with umami goodness. It was fine for a winter’s weeknight.

The half-baked recipe follows. To signal that this is still in its experimental stages, I’m going to call it a “draft-stage recipe”. This is something I am going to instate on Sabasalads. I think it will prevent me from waiting to post something that really should just be posted, quick. If I make it again (and I will) and come up with any new tips, I will make a note of it here.

Pork loin with charred lemon marinade (DRAFT STAGE)

Ingredients

1.5 lbs boneless pork loin

Good olive oil

1 lemon

1 head of garlic

5-8 stems of fresh Thyme

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut 10-12 slits in the pork loin on both bottom and top. Peel 10-12 cloves of garlic and stick one in each of the incisions.

Put the pork in a dutch oven or cazuela and slather with good olive oil and lots of lemon juice. Try not to let lemon seeds fall in but don’t worry too much about it. Remove thyme leaves from the stem and scatter about. If you have any garlic cloves left over, scatter them around the pan as well. Now rub the marinade over the pork, making sure that it is covered. Massage some of it into the slits with garlic as well.

Wash hands and pre-heat the oven to 450. While the oven is getting hot, let the pork sit for about 30 minutes.

Give the pork in the cazuela or dutch oven a final glug of olive oil for good measure and roast for 45 minutes. When the pork is done, remove the pot from the oven and take the pork loin out to cool.

In the pan, you should have a thin film of blackened lemon juice, oil and pork fat. While the meat is cooling, add a bit of balsamic vinegar or maybe a bit of white wine to the pot and heat it over a gentle flame, deglazing the pan to make a sauce. The sauce will have little bits of charred garlic and thyme and that is fine. You will love it.

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