7.12.2006

Lunchbox: Pork Loin Braised in Milk

I like shopping. I love grocery shopping. I love sales. And I am an impulse buyer.
Which goes quite a ways in explaining why, until recently, I had seven pounds of pork loin in my freezer.
You might think that the fact that a singleton can only eat so much in one sitting, and indeed can only face so much monotony over the course of a week's dinners or lunches before she craves something else, would come to mind. Or you might think that it would occur to me that my freezer really is not all that large, and that it's not really empty to begin with and my pantry's certainly stocked as well, or perhaps that a voice of reason would pop up reminding me that I didn't have any meal ideas that required pork loin for that week, or that I didn't even have any planned for the relatively immediate future.
But here you would be wrong.
And so some weeks on faced with a freezer of pork and nowhere to even place a tray of ice cubes, the pork is designated meals until I've got enough room to put the ice cream bowl back in. This recipe is so stupidly easy I'm not sure why it hasn't occurred to me to try before, aside from the fact that it does require a few hours' time. But the attention is minimal, preparation is practically zilch, and the pork that comes out of the pot at the end is tender and juicy. The meat unravels along the grain easily, peeling into thin skeins and cords. I tossed it together with some tomato sauce and whole wheat pasta, but thickish warm slices with pan juices would be excellent as well, either for a first night's dinner or the next day's sandwich.

PORK LOIN BRAISED IN MILK
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 lbs fairly well-trimmed pork loin
2 thick slices bacon
salt and black pepper
2 1/2 or so c whole milk

Choose a pot that will snugly hold the meat (I started out in a Dutch oven, but switched down to a largeish saucepan), put in the butter and the oil, and turn the heat to medium high. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and a judicious amount of cracked black pepper over the pork loin. When the butter foam subsides, put in the meat with the fattier side facing down at first. As it browns turn it every few moments until the meat is browned on all sides - if the butter starts becoming too dark, adjust the heat downward. Position the pork in the center of the pot. Cut the bacon slices in halves and arrange over the top of the pork loin.
Add 1 cup of milk slowly. Allow the milk to simmer for 20 to 30 seconds and then turn the heat down to a minimum. Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar.
Cook at a very lazy simmer for just about one hour, turning the meat from time to time and moving the bacon slices to the top to cover as you go, until the milk has thickend through evaporation into a nut brown colored sauce or clumps, if you've had it too high like mine did. When you've reached this stage add 1 more cup of milk, let it simmer for about 10 minutes, and then cover the pot tightly. Check and turn the pork from time to time.
After 30 minutes of this set the lid slightly ajar. Continue to cook at minimum heat and when you see no liquid milk (it will be clumps, though you will see liquid fat) in the pot add another 1/2 c of milk. Continue cooking until the meat feels tender when prodded with a fork and all the milk has coagulated into the light brown clumps. The whole process will take about 2 1/2 - 3 hours. If before the meat is fully cooked the liquid in the pot has evaporated, add another 1/2 c of milk and continue cooking as directed.
For pan sauce: spoon off most of the fat but leave behind the coagulated milk clusters. Add 2 to 3 Tbsp water and boil away the water at high heat while using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan. Serve over slices of pork.