Milk Braised Pork Loin and Tartiflette

Milk Braised Pork Loin

Braising is a fantastic way to cook up complex flavors with a minimum of trouble. This dish comes out great for pork loin, and is very simple to prepare. Couple it with the Tarteflette below and you have some real winter comfort food. The dish hails originally from Italy.

Ingredients

2 1/2 to 3 pound boness pork loin roast
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 lemon for juicing

Season the Pork (Can be done up to 12 hours ahead of time): Cut 3 garlic cloves into slivers and smash the fourth, setting it aside. Put the garlic slivers in a bowl and add the sage, fennel, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Toss.

With a small knife, poke 1-inch deep slots in the pork loin all over, maybe 1 1/2 inches apart. Stuff each slot with seasoned garlic sliver. When all the slots are full rub the remaining spice mix over the outside of the loin.

Brown the Pork: Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Add the oil and butter to your dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the pork and brown it, using tongs to brown all sides and the ends. This will take 12 to 14 minutes in total. If the butter starts to burn (i.e. black specs appear), just turn down the heat a notch.

Braising: Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of fat left from the browning process. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the smashed garlic clove. Stir and heat until the garlic begins to brown, which will take less than a minute. Gradually add the milk, making sure it doesn't foam up and boil over. Bring to a boil, then lower it to a simmer, stirring it once or twice with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Return the pork to the pot, along with any juices it may have left behind. Cover the pot with the lid and slide into the oven. Check it after ten or fifteen minutes to be sure the braising liquid isn't boiling too furiously and lower temperature as necessary.

After 45 minutes, turn the pork with tongs. The milk will have seperated and will be taken on an ivory color. Set the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape so the braising sauce will begin to reduce. Keep things going at a gentle simmer for another 35 to 45 minutes or until your cooking thermometer shows 150 degrees in the pork center. Transfer the pork to a carving board and cover with foil to keep warm.

Finishing the Sauce: Tilt the pot and spoon out the better part of the clear fat. Don't take it all--it makes for good flavor. Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce to reduce it and concentrate the flavors. Scrape with a wooden spoon to keep the browned bits circulating. You may boil for up to 10 or 12 minutes to reduce. If it gets too dry, stir in some cold water (not too much!). Season with salt and pepper--it should taste a bit salty at this stage. Finish with fresh squeezed lemon to taste. Spoon the sauce over the pork loin and serve.

Tartiflette

Tartiflette is a French version of Potatoes au gratin from the Haute Savoie region of Burgundy. It's hard to beat this dish as a side for comfort food. Even our kids pronounced it Tres Magnifique!

Ingredients

6 ounces of bacon cut into 1/4 by 1/2 inch pieces
9 ounces of large white button mushrooms cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 1/2 cups smelly cheese (I used Muenster and Romano to good effect, the stronger the cheese, the better)
2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees

In a skillet, saute the bacon until it is crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.

Discard all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and saute the mushrooms in the remainder until the brown, another 5 minutes.

Generously butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Layer half the potatoes in the pan. Cover with all the bacon, all the mushrooms, and half the cheese. Salt and pepper. Add the other half of the potatoes. Sprinkle half the remaining cheese, and add the cream until it just covers the potatoes.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from oven and cover with the remaining cheese. Put it back in until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Let sit, covered in foil, for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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All material 2001-2003, Robert W. Warfield.