08 April 2009

The Other White/Delicious Meat

People used to forget about pork a lot of the time. Now, it's the universe's Favourite Trendy Item, perhaps most notably in its belly form. Pork belly is now omnipresent - it's at every restaurant within a five-kilometre radius of downtown.

Now, I have to voice dissension here because I don't like pork belly very much at all. Oh dear - I think the world may have stopped turning. I have trouble getting past all the fat. "Fat makes it exceptionally delicious!" you say... I fear that I have to respond that I can't handle the mouthfeel of fat, and cutting it off a decent piece of pork belly just really defeats the whole purpose of eating that particular bit of pig.

What I do love, however, is pork roast or pork tenderloin. I like it best when it is done in the following way:

Apple Cider Pork

1 pork roast
4-5 Northern Spy or other baking apples, peeled and cored and cut into hunks
1-2 onions, peeled and quartered
8 sprigs of thyme
1 1/2 to 2 cups of cider - I usually go for the non-alcoholic kind as it is cheaper, but I've made it with the alcoholic sort and it turned out well.
1/2 cup white wine, if you're not using alcoholic cider
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled and quickly smashed with the back of a knife
sea salt and fresh black pepper
Optional - teaspoon or so of grainy Dijon mustard - I use the all-grain kind.

Take the apples and onions and garlic cloves and throw them into a roasting pan. Make sure there's a mixture of them - not apples on one side and onions/garlic on the other.
In the middle of the pan, place four sprigs of thyme. Place pork fatty-side-up on top of the thyme/apples/onions.
Grab your cider and splash it into the roasting pan. Do same with white wine, if you're using it. If you've decided to use the mustard, slather the top of the roast with it. Grind the sea salt/black pepper over the whole thing.
Put it into the oven at 350 degrees until it's done. My roasts usually take about an hour or so, but it depends on who I'm cooking for - my significant other likes pork slightly pink, while my parents won't even come near it if it isn't white all the way through.

When it is done, lift the pork out and let it sit on a cutting board somewhere nearby. In the meantime, ladle out the apples and onions, and discard the twigs of the thyme. Usually the leaves will have already come off and they're cool to leave in. You can puree the apple/onion mixture - leaving the garlic in is optional, and I guess it depends on how much you like garlic. I usually take the cloves out and just puree the apples and onions.

There will be a fair amount of exceptionally tasty liquid left. If your roasting pan is stovetop-safe, turn the heat on under it and bring it to a boil. Throw some salt into it, and your preferred thickening agent (flour & water, cornstarch, Veloutine, whatever), and stir until it has reached your desired thickness. Taste it in case it needs more salt or a little bit of wine. I find that gravy is all about personal tastes, and you know more about that than anyone else.

You can serve all this deliciousness up with some little peas or whatever vegetable suits your fancy. The gravy is wonderful with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes.

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