As you may recall, I resolved to try at least one restaurant-quality recipe each month as my foodie resolution for the year. As you may notice, it’s now the last week of February and I have yet to report on any such efforts.
January kind of got away from me in this department, but I’m pleased to report that I started my resolution with a vengeance in February (for the record, I’m also committed to making up a recipe so that I still end up with twelve by year’s end).
I knew that I wanted to open strong – and local – so I spent some time looking around from recipes from some of DC’s best-known chefs. What did I learn? That most of those celebrity chefs are smart enough to put their recipes in book form. As such, there are very few recipes from the likes of Michel Richard and Jose Andres that are available for free online. As I progress through this resolution, I may just need to invest in a few more cookbooks (or reach out to some foodie friends for help).
I lucked out when I found out that Jose Andres cooked a few of his recipes for the Today Show last January – they were good enough to publish the recipes online. I looked through them, and I was thrilled! As it turns out, one of the recipes is for a “pork loin baked in sea salt,” and the technique is exactly like one demonstrated by Katsuya Fukushima at L’Academie de Cuisine last month.
I knew I had to try it – and I decided to do so along with seared piquillo peppers from the same Today Show segment.
Photos, descriptions and more after the jump.
The logic behind packing something (pork loin, fish, etc.) into a salt crust is simple: by fully enclosing the protein you lock in the juices, allowing you to cook at a higher temperature without fear of tough, dried out meat. Sounds cool, right?
I started with 3 pounds of salt (subbing kosher salt for the sea salt that the recipe called for), mixing it with 3 tablespoons of water to create a consistency like that of wet snow. After laying down about half the salt on a baking tray, I placed two sprigs of rosemary, two sprigs of parsley and three sprigs of thyme on top. I then covered the herbs with two pounds of pork tenderloin (leaner than the pork loin in the original). Adding the same combination of herbs atop the pork, it was time to seal in the goodness with the remaining salt.
The trick at this point is to treat the salt like the wet snow it resembles – packing it in and creating a big, salty snowball, leaving nothing of the pork exposed. When everything is ready, the salt-encrusted loin goes into a 400-degree oven for 25 minutes.
Taking it out, you may be tempted to break in right away, but the recipes calls for five minutes’ rest. After that, play a quick drum solo on the crust to crack it along the side and then lift the top of the crust off (ideally in one piece). Pull out the pork and let it rest for five more minutes before slicing it.
Andres’ dish is served with slices of pork loin interspersed with slices of serrano ham and then drizzled with high-quality Spanish olive oil. Our version used Italian prosciutto di Parma and Temecula Olive Oil Company…olive oil.
While the entree was still in the oven, I turned my attention to a second recipe – Jose Andres’ seared piquillo peppers stuffed with Roncal cheese.
Starting with a dozen piquillo peppers (which come from a jar and are usually packed in either oil or water), I inserted a matchstick-sized piece of Roncal cheese into each. Roncal, I learned, is a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese with a pecorino-like flavor. These stuffed peppers went into a hot pan that had been prepped with a tablespoon of olive oil. Each gets about 30 seconds’ worth of heat – just enough to begin to blister the pepper and start the cheese melting.
Pulling them out quickly so as not to create a gooey mess of melted cheese that would require significant scrubbing later, I placed the peppers on a serving dish and then dressed them with a vinaigrette whisked together from 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced shallots, one half of a green onion (white parts only), sea salt and cracked black pepper. The recipe called for the dressed peppers to be topped with thyme and parsley sprigs.
Serving the two dishes together made for a delicious, if somewhat rich, combination. Here’s hoping that my next resolution-inspired recipe goes just as well!