Monday, July 12, 2010

Apricot-glazed pork loin with cilantro and garlic with rice pilaf and green salads

I first tried this recipe about a month ago when we had a couple of friends round for dinner. There were five of us, and my little pork loins came in packs of two. One package wouldn't be enough, but two seemed like overkill at almost a whole loin per person. But I figured, whatever, we'll just have plenty of leftovers. Yeah... we didn't.

It takes a little work and advance preparation, but it's a really simple recipe and absolutely perfect for having people over since it scales up so easily. There are three distinct phases: the brine, the rub and cooking, and the glaze. Do not skip steps. They are magical and wondrous and special and produce some seriously tasty pig. Here I've only done one large loin since it was just Allan and I, so I halved the recipe below and just had a lot of brine and a lot of rub, which is definitely not a problem.

Pork loins are very lean and therefore pretty devoid of flavor on their own, hence the liberal application of external happiness. I could definitely see replicating this recipe with bone-in chicken pieces or regular ol' pork chops.

4 little (~1 or 2 lb/ea) or 2 big pork loins, silver skin removed

1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups apricot nectar (I found this at Whole Foods)
2 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
10 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp chili powder (I used Ancho)
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/4 tsp cumin
zest of 1 lemon, microplaned (hang onto the lemon - you need it for the glaze)

1/2 cup apricot preserves (I like the ones that are just fruit, no added nor fake sugar)
juice of the zested lemon
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, finely minced or microplaned

Rice pilaf (just scale up for more people - I used pine nuts today, because I felt like it)

big pile of lettuce, rinsed and spun dry
beautiful garden-grown cucumbers
your favorite vinaigrette

Now for the easy part.

Combine all the brine ingredients in a non-reactive bowl or Zip-loc bag and dunk in your pork loins. Cover and park them in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready for them, get your grill started and combine all the ingredients for the rub in a little bowl. Pull the loins out of the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle them with a little vegetable oil and massage that lovely rub all over them.

Grill the pork loins, turning every 10 minutes or so, until they reach an internal temperature of ~145 C. You really don't need to cook the crap out of pork. It will keep cooking for a bit after it's off the grill, so it'll end up overdone if you don't pull it off early enough. I'd start checking the temperature after 20 minutes on a medium-high grill.

While your Grillmaster General is handling the pork, whip up your rice pilaf and salads. Stir together the ingredients for the glaze. Now, using long strips of foil, make a nice little bed for your loins to rest in with enough foil overhanging that you can crimp it closed.

Once your pork has reached 145, place them in your foil packet and smother in the glaze. Roll around to make sure they're thoroughly coated, then crimp the foil tightly closed and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Slice, plate, and be happy.

Serves [5 very hungry people a few weeks ago, but I'd say 8 as part of a buffet - one small loin per two people].

And look, we're getting unsolicited mail!! One step closer!

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