I love cooking proteins gently in a perfectly temperature-controlled water container (sous vide). It’s a method that’s very difficult to replicate for certain preparations. It is convenient. It hits that nerdy tech-loving precision oriented part of my brain. However, it requires in most cases the use of plastic bags. It bothers me a bit every time I use one of those bags and then toss it in the recycle (not being 100% sure it will actually be recycled!). Sure, I am not running a restaurant so my waste is pretty small, maybe 2-3 bags a month but still it bugs me. At some point maybe when good precision/combi ovens (like this one) are more affordable and convenient I might shift to that. In the meantime, I always ask myself before packaging something for Sous Vide, do I really need to do that or maybe should I explore another method this time around?
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Reverse searing is not a new method and it will not exactly produce sous vide results for every protein. For larger tender pieces of meat it works very well. The idea is to start cooking the meat using low temperature, in some cases very close to the target temperature (so, maybe 140F for a beef loin as an example), until the meat hits the target temperature at its center. Then the heat is cranked up very high to brown and crisp the exterior. This last step can be done by searing the meat in a hot pan, placing in a blazing 500F oven or in a hot outdoor grill. This works for any large roast or even as very thick steak. In this case, it’s a free-range pork loin with a nice thick fat cap.
I seasoned the roast with salt and let is sit in the fridge, uncovered for about 24 hours. For something like this, whole muscle, boneless, I usually go with about 1.5% salt of the protein’s weight. To cook, I give it a very light rub of oil, put it in a pan and into a 250 F oven until it reaches about 135F in the center. For this roast weighing about 1500 gr this took around 2.5 hours, quicker than I expected. I took the meat out and heated the oven to 425 F. Then the meat went back in for 15-20 minutes to brown and crisp. For this recipe the only thing I would add is maybe a pass under the broiler for a couple of minutes to get more of a brown color on the fat cap.
Treme, a show on HBO from a few years ago set in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, is more than a show. It meanders and paints vivid portraits of characters in that city, their food, their music, the good and the bad. I loved that show and its lack of plot and too much plot somehow at the same time. So, I bought the cookbook based on it since so much of Treme is about the food and one of the main protagonists is a chef. This dish is an adaptation of her “recipe”. She uses pork tenderloin, wraps it in bacon and pan sears it. It is accompanied with collard greens, butternut squash and a cane syrup jus (Cane’s is best for this but a light molasses would work too). The combination of the rich pork with the sweet savory sauce, earthy greens and tender butternut squash is excellent.
Pork Loin with Pumpkin, Greens and Cane Syrup
- 1.5 – 2 Kg Pork Loin, boneless
- 20 gr Salt (or about 1.5% of the meat’s weight)
- 700 gr (1.5 lb) Butternut squash
- 1 tsp Coriander seeds, crushed
- 1/4 tsp allspice, ground
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp Cane syrup (Or maple or honey)
- 1 Tbsp Butter, melted
- 450 gr (1 lb) Hearty greens (collard, kale, turnip, mustard)
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1 Shallot, chopped
- 60 gr (1/4 Cup) Chicken or pork stock
- 180 gr (3/4 Cup) Chicken or pork stock
- 4 Tbsp Cane syrup or honey
- 2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
- Season the pork all over with the salt. Ideally let it rest and dry in the fridge for 8 – 12 hours. Alternatively leave it at room temperature for an hour or so and pat it dry before cooking.
- Heat the oven to 250F, put the pork in an oven safe pan and rub it with the oil. Let it cook on the middle rack until it reaches an internal temperature of 135F, this should take about 2.5 to 3 hours. Start checking the temperature about 1.5 hours into the cooking time since ovens and meat and pans all vary.
- Take the meat out of the oven when it reaches the right temperature and let it sit aside in a warm spot while you heat the oven to 350F.
- For the greens, wash them well (no need to dry thoroughly), remove any large thick stems (but leave the smaller ones) and chop coarsely. In a pan heat the butter till it gets foamy but not brown and add the garlic and shallot. Sautee for a minute or so until translucent. Add the chopped greens with any water that is clinging to them. Toss them in the pan for a couple of minutes, season with salt and pepper. Add the stock and lower the heat to medium. Cover and cook until tender but crisp. This will vary a bit depending on what type of greens you used. Start tasting after about 10 minutes and let cook longer if needed and add a few tablespoons of water if they look dry at any time.
- For the pumpkin, peel it and cut in half lengthwise. Slice each half into half circles about 1/2 inch thick. In a bowl, toss the pumpkin well with the spices, salt, oil, syrup, butter and arrange them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven until soft, about 25 minutes. Take them out and set them aside in a warm spot.
- Heat the oven to 450F to finish the meat. Place the meat back in and let brown and crisp which should take about 15 – 20 minutes. Take it out, remove it from the pan to a warm platter and let it rest for 5 minutes and it is ready to serve. Reserve the pan to make the sauce.
- For the sauce, if the pan that you cooked the pork in has too much fat, drain that out but leave any tasty brown stuck bits. Add the stock and syrup and use a spoon or wooden spatula to scrap any of those stuck bits from the bottom. Let the sauce reduce for about 5 minutes to end up with about 1/2 a cup. Season with salt and pepper and the vinegar. Add more vinegar if you like.
- Slice the pork and serve it with the greens, pumpkin slices and drizzle with the sauce.