The taste (or lack thereof) of today’s pork is a subject that can get me to leap on my soapbox in the flick of a piggy’s tail. For your sake I’ll try hard to avoid that here, since all I (but mostly you) want for me to do at the moment is to share a few choice pork recipes with you. It’s just that there are so many things you just plain can’t pull off with pork nowadays that it’s downright frustrating. Preparations we once frequently enjoyed, like a simple pan-fried chop? Not possible. A luscious, well-marbled Sunday pork roast cooked long and slow surrounded by a few onions and lovely rounds of potatoes rolling around in a tasty bath of fat drippings until they crisp to perfection? Don’t hold your breath! The commercial pork industry has bred so much of the wonderful flavor (read fat) out of these poor animals that I recently found myself forced to pay $9 for one pork chop (no, not a 2-pound one — don’t I wish!) at a shop where they sell heritage pork. Why, you ask? Just so that before I head for that great, endless pig roast in the sky, I could once again enjoy the flavor and porky succulence that I so took for granted in my youth.
But, I digress.
In spite of the aforementioned shortcomings, every once in a while I either run across an old favorite pork recipe that somehow still manages to deliver, or stumble upon some new preparation that does the same. Following are two that made the cut.
The minute I first tasted this recipe for pork tenderloin a few weeks ago, I was won over, heart and soul. Pork tenderloin has not previously been one of my favorite cuts of meat, for a variety of reasons. First, I find it flavorless on its own; no fat, and no connective tissue. I dunno, but to me that immediately spells lack of “porky” flavor, and when I eat pork, “porky” is what I’m after! The reason you see pork tenderloin in the supermarket floating in some (mostly godawful) marinade is because it would otherwise come to the table in its unadorned state. Read: totally lacking in any of the characteristics for which pork is famous: fat and/or connective tissue. At this point, the prosecution rests moi case!
As I have said, some recipes manage, with brave creativity, to rescue said textureless and essentially flavorless pork tenderloins from, well, the region of hell they so richly deserve to inhabit. This is one of them.
In this recipe, the soy sauce/bourbon/brown sugar marinade actually does its job, infusing the pork with an abundance of rich flavor. But it’s the sauce that puts it over the top. It comes across as a tartar sauce with attitude, and seems from beginning to end like the worst possible match for the marinade, but boy, do they deliver!
Personal note(very): Double the sauce. Killer combo!
MARINATED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH MUSTARD SAUCE
The Junior League Centennial Cookbook
3 pork tenderloins, 3/4 pound each
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Bourbon whiskey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 T dry mustard
1 T chopped scallions or onions
1-1/2 T white wine vinegar
To prepare the meat: In a shallow dish, blend the soy sauce, Bourbon, and brown sugar. Add the meat, turning to coat with the liquid, and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours. (I prefer to just use a large zip-lock bag – less mess).
While the meat is marinating, prepare the sauce: In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, scallions, and vinegar. Let stand at room temperature at least 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Bake the meat in the marinade for 45 minutes, basting frequently. Slice and serve with the mustard sauce.
This one belongs mainly in my Simple Family Fare category, because it is simple, yet quite yummy, and family friendly, and because I have been making it for a very long time. Your family will love it, even with less-than-perfect pork.
Note: The sauce in the recipe is just enough to “dress” the chops, not much more. I like to double the sauce components so I have enough to do justice to a mound of mashed potatoes on the side. I know mashed taters are not commonly served with a tomato gravy, but believe me, it’s one helluva good combination. If you’d like to serve it with some pasta, do the same doubling.
PORK CHOPS IN TOMATO-GARLIC SAUCE
From my ancient files
4 T olive oil
6 center cut pork chops, 1” to 1 ½”
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
¼ tsp. dried thyme, crumbled
1 small bay leaf
½ tsp. salt
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup canned tomatoes, puréed through the Foley mill, or in the food processor (for my smaller recipe, I used Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, which fill the bill quite nicely.)
1 T tomato paste
½ pound green peppers, seeded and cut into 2” x 1/4” strips (about 1 ½ cups)
One 10-ounce package sliced mushrooms
In a heavy, large skillet, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil until a light haze forms over it. Brown the chops in this for 2-3 minutes each side, and transfer them to a plate. Pour off almost all fat. Add garlic, oregano, thyme and bay leaf and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the wine and cook briskly to reduce to ¼ cup, scraping the pan as you go. Add tomatoes and paste and return the chops to the pan. Baste with sauce, cover and simmer, basting 1 or 2 times, for about 40 minutes.
In another skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and fry the pepper strips for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and toss them with the peppers, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add to the pan holding the chops. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables and pork chops are tender and sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon heavily. If sauce is still too thin, remove the vegetables and meat and boil the sauce down over high heat until the right consistency.