03 February 2012

Balsamic Pork Loin

Some months ago, when Pinterest was a new phenomenon in my life, my friend Anna spotted a recipe for what was called Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin.

Well, I have a history with pork loins.  It's not pretty.  It involves me pursuing them with the reckless abandon of a fourteen year old girl who has more than a few daddy issues.  And they never love me back.  They almost always end up dry.  But the problem is that they are healthy, relatively inexpensive, but company appropriate, and not the same ol' same ol' thing. 

So, I saw this recipe, I had my doubts, but I did it, just like the girl who sends the 4th unanswered text message.  More like 44th in this situation. 

And he came through.  Apparently, his phone had been dead the whole time. 

I will say, though, that this ends up falling apart.  A fact that I always think is good, but it often ruins a presentation.  This is much more dinner with white table clothes than styrofoam plates and bad baked beans, but it looks an awful lot like its fattier, tastier, less classy sister of Pulled Pork Shoulder.  You may feel the need to serve it with apology (the explanatory kind, not the sorry kind) - "This is Balsamic Pork Loin.  White meat.  Grown up food.  Button up and khackis, not bathingsuits and fireworks.  I promise."  Or, perhaps, you're more secure than I am sometimes, and you are willing to say, "This tastes good.  I don't care if you do think it beneath the occasion.  Kiss my behind."  If so, kudos to you! 

So, here we go:

1 3 lb pork loin.  (This reminds me.  I grew up in the kitchen.  Cooked all the time.  But I was always cooking with my mother's ingredients, right?  I didn't learn the art of reading a recipe and shopping for it until I stumbled through it as a newlywed.  I can remember reading my mother's brisket recipe which called for a 3.5 lb brisket.  I searched and searched.  All I could find was like a 2.79 lb one and a 3.86 lb one.  No 3.5 lbs to be found.  I gave up, went home, and we ordered out.  I was 22 and a mother and could not figure out that IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW BIG YOUR PIECE OF DEDGUM BRISKET IS, but I'm pitiful like that.) 

Granulated Garlic (this is better than garlic powder - tastes less fake for some reason). 

Sprinkle all over the meat.  Put 1/2 a cup of water and the meat in a slowcooker, thin layer of fat side up, for 5-7 hours on low. 

45 minutes before you want to eat, prepare this in a tinyish saucepan on the stove:

1 cup brown sugar
2 T corn starch
1/2 cup balsamic
1 cup water
4 T soy sauce
2 tsp Tabasco

Boil until it thickens, simmer for a second or two. 

30 minutes before you want to eat it, take the top off.  Pull it apart with two forks.  It should come apart so easily. 
Toss with 2/3 of the balsamic mixture.  You can also toss with all of it.  But if you want something for people to spoon over something, save 1/3 of it, put it in a pretty bowl with a spoon and call it sauce.  Because it is.

This is yummy alone, yummy on sandwiches; yummy on quesadillas and yummy in lasagna

It freezes beautifully as well. 

There ya go!  Eat well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Pork Loin Lasagna

So... I like food.  And I love making yummier foods out of simpler, especially leftover, foods.  And for the last month, we've been eating out of the freezer and pantry, which has increased creativity in some ways and limited it in others. 
To make greatest use of leftovers or pieces of frozen meat or bags of frozen veggies, often you also need to run to the store to buy a few supplementary ingredients.  And I've not been able to do that.  I blew my fifty dollar budget at the beginning of the month, so from January 10-31, I spent 7 dollars.
So, this week, I got to buy some food.  And I thought being able to grocery shop would make all the difference.
And then yesterday afternoon I ended up crafting supper from things I already had - didn't buy a one since January 10th - and we all really enjoyed it.

And I need to write it down, because the three Forsters who express such opinions have already asked that it be added to the rotation.
So, here we go.

Pork Loin /Caramelized Onion Lasagna Roll Ups

For the meat stuffs:

2-3 cups leftover balsamic pork loin, pulled into shredded goodness. (See here)
2 good sized yellow onions, sliced
3 T butter
3 T olive oil
1 cup good quality barbecue sauce (either homemade or a good brand name - I had half a jar of  Cherry Republic stuff, but I think it'd be good as long as it wasn't cloying Kraft stuff) 

For the sauce:
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 cups chicken broth (from bullion cubes for me)
2 cups milk (I used 2 percent)
1 cup ricotta (I had this in the fridge) 
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (or more or less to taste)
2 tsps dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp italian seasoning blend

3-4 cups mozzarella
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

Caramelize the onions in the butter and oil for about 20-25 minutes, add the shredded meat and bbq sauce, heat through. 

While the onion is cooking, make your sauce.  Make a roux with the butter and flour.  Blend in the broth, stir until it thickens.  Blend in the milk, stirring well.  (Using a whisk (coated if your pot is non stick) will make your life easier).  Add all spices and the ricotta.  Turn to low and let it simmer for a bit until all is melted, well blended, married, melded, all that jazz.

Now, grab a large pan (11 x 14 if you have one) or a 9 x 13 and a small loaf pan to supplement.

Put 12 raw noodles in the pan.  Pour boiling water over it to cover.  Let sit for 10 minutes or so until the noodles are pliable.  

Take 1/3 of the sauce and spread it on the bottom of your pan.  

Now, onto each noodle, place 1/12th of the meat mixture and 2 Tablespoons or so of Mozzarella cheese.  Spread it along each noodle.  Now, roll up the noodle.  Place seam side down in the sauce lined pan.
Continue with all 12 noodles.
Pour remaining sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover pan tightly with foil.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
Remove cover.  Bake 15 more minutes.

You could also add spinach to the pork/onion mixture to get some green veggies going in there.
You could also probably use shredded chicken rather than the pork - just make sure it's thinly shredded and flavorful.
I used whole wheat noodles because I had a package in the pantry.  We normally use white noodles, but these were so well received, I think I'll convert.  
You could also make a traditional lasagna, just layering meat/onions, then cheese, then sauce, then noodles.  You know how to make lasagna, people.

For lasagna, this is actually a very healthy option.  Pork Loin is better for you than ground beef; 2 percent milk and only 1 cup of ricotta makes the sauce not to heavy, and even with the full 4 cups of mozzarella, at 12 servings, that's only 1/3 of a cup per person, which isn't going to win any health awards, but, again, for lasagna, it's pretty darn good.

Anyway, it is yummy and was oohed and aahed by Eason, who is my hardest to happy.

Yay for creativity; yay for austerity; yay for cooking!  I feel like a new woman this morning!