Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Carnivore's Delight

Pork is the second-most consumed white meat in our home, after chicken. In the Chinese kitchen, pork is usually stir-fried (in strips), braised or stewed (in cubes), grilled (as in grilled bbq pork, "charsiew" or grilled pork chops) or steamed (minced). I hardly ever attempt roasting a pork loin as the meat may at times end up toughened and chewy.
Carnivore's Delight
Having read that brining may be the solution to dry and tough roast pork, I recently carted a slab of pork loin home and prepared a 'brine', which is basically a salt solution in which the lean meat is soaked over an extended period of time (whether for a couple of hours or overnight).

Miraculously, due to some chemistry between the brine and the meat (something to do with osmosis and the absorption of liquid into the meat, and the breaking up of the protein bonds within the meat fibres - that much I absorbed from my limited reading up on this very dry subject), a brined pork loin when roasted retains more moisture and is juicier when cooked. For a proper scientific explanation, I would recommend this article on Why Brining Keeps Meat So Moist written by the famous food scientist and author of Cookwise, Shirley O. Corriher. Bruce Aidells, chef and self-confessed pork-lover, has also put up a piece on 'flavor-brining' to enhance flavors and moisture in lean meat. Trust me, you can handle reading these two short less-than-1-page articles and would not need toothpicks to keep your eyelids open.

The roast Bacon-wrapped Maple Pork Loin recipe was culled from the March 2006 edition of Gourmet, and has so kindly reproduced the same on their website at this page [sure saved me the trouble of having to type out the entire recipe here]. The only variations I made to the recipe was to skip the fresh sage leaves for the brine (couldn't find them at my nearest supermarket), and in the marinade for rubbing all over the pork loin before roasting. Substituted instead with dried rosemary and some Italian herbs (which was quite nice too).
My first Brining

After soaking in its salt and maple syrup bath in the fridge overnight for at least 20 hours, the pork loin was as ready as it could ever be to spend some time in the oven. You may not be able to see it from the picture but the slices of pork were surprisingly not tough even after more than an hour of roasting. The flavors of the maple syrup, crushed garlic and dried herbs melded very well together, and somehow the pork tasted just a tad ham-like, in that one could distinctly savor a tinge of sweetness from the meat (probably the result of the absorption of flavors from the brine comprising salt, maple syrup, crushed black peppercorns, garlic and bay leaves). The reduced sauce from the pan juices, with that tangy touch of cider vinegar is quite delicious as well.

Suffice to say, I'm a convert of 'brining'. With more practice, maybe, I will be fool-hardy enough to attempt my first brined roast turkey this coming Christmas!


Blogger shaz said...

sounds excellent! Im quite taken to pork these days. got quite sick of the old chicken. Pork has this tender sweetness if done well, is just heavenly. Im going to try out this recipe for sure!

5/11/2006 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Audrey Cooks said...

can see it's beautifully lean and moist. Good for the heart! chuckle!

5/11/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous slurp! said...

wow!~ beautiful roast, delectable piggy :)
arrrggghhh ... but i'm still on diettttttt *sniff sniff* :P

5/11/2006 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

do try the recipe, shaz, and share it with us too!

hi audrey - the pork was lean and tender, the bacon layer was another story altogether :)

slurp, what kind of diet are you one where even roast lean pork loin is banned?

5/12/2006 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Yasmin said...

mmmm...beautiful loin...I've brined chickens, but never a pork loin. I think the "flavor-brining" technique is going to be my next project! Did you give the loin a sear in a pan before putting it into the over? Or start it out at a higher temperature?

5/13/2006 01:08:00 AM  
Anonymous slurp! said...

nah ... just trying to go vegetarian occassionally. it's just too difficult here, perhaps i should just head to cameron highlands when i feels like doing vegetarian :P

5/13/2006 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi yasmin, I didn't sear the loin, didn't think it was necessary since it was going to be wrapped in the bacon strips but the last time I roasted a pork loin (without brining) I did sear it in the pan before roasting.

LOLZ, slurp! it's all in the mind, my friend, even in cameron highlands, there's lots of meat, once you get past the rows of vegetables!

5/13/2006 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger fooDcrazEE said...

aiks ! my comment boh liao...dunno what happen

5/15/2006 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi foodcrazee - blogger's been acting up late last week.. maybe your comment got swallowed up into the wide wide universe of databytes :)

5/16/2006 01:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Tanna said...

This looks like a seriously excellent pork loin. I'm really appreciating the lean and flavor characteristics of pork loin these days. I've also relatively recently come to brining through Cook's lillustrated but will read you two listed articles.
Thanks for your kind comment upon my blog. Do note turning the angle food cake upside down when you take it out of the oven, it really needs that to keep it's height. Have fun with it.

5/25/2006 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger Amanda & Debbie said...

Love your photography! Did the pork taste noticeably salty from the brining?

6/04/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

thanks amanda & debbie - no, actually the pork didn't taste particularly salty, and as I used flavor-brining (i.e. the brine also had maple syrup, crushed peppercorns, and dried herbs), the pork had retained some of these flavors during the roasting and tasted really nice - do try!

6/06/2006 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger thekh said...

Brining works for poultry very well too. I've never tried it for pork and will definitely go do so this weekend after reading this post. Say, you haven't updated your blog for quite some time. Any chance you will return to blogging soon?

Nice posts, and nice photos too!

5/31/2007 07:43:00 PM  

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