Thursday, December 17, 2009

Test Kitchen: Maple Sugar-Ginger Roast Pork

This month’s test kitchen offered a few ideas for the holiday dinner table. Of the three suggestions, everyone zeroed in on the Maple Sugar-Ginger Roast Pork, which got 55% of the votes. (Only 24% of you wanted to try the lamb pizettes as a holiday appetizer, and just 20% had the sweet tooth for the classic butterscotch sauce.)

The pork definitely looked perfect for the holiday table with its garnish of red currant and mint. But did it meet the test for a satisfying meal? The recipe, from the December edition of Food and Wine magazine, comes courtesy of the popular bakery in Brooklyn called Baked.

I don’t think they serve pork at the bakery, so this recipe came from the owners’ book editor, Luisa Weiss. As usual, you can go to the magazine’s Web site for the complete recipe.

Here’s how it went when I tried it out recently.

First off, I went shopping for the pork loin, and this is one of the first recipe that I didn't reduce the portions for The Single Guy. A smaller version of the pork loin would pretty much look like a stump. So after I purchased a 3-lb. roast, I came home and tied it up. I wondered what was the importance of tying up the roast, and then I realized it helps keep the pork loin’s cylindrical shape. (Otherwise, it’ll just flatten out and look oval.)

You have to prepare the pork the night before because it has to marinate in the refrigerator overnight. I put together the simple glaze of maple sugar, grated fresh ginger, olive oil and crushed red pepper. I actually couldn’t find maple sugar, which is just a crystallized version of maple syrup, so I went with the recommendation of the recipe and used dark brown sugar. I also made slits in the poor and slipped in slivers of garlic like the recipe said.

After inserting the garlic and rubbing on the dark brown sugar glaze, I wrapped up my pork in plastic wrap and placed it in the refrigerator.

The next night when I was ready to cook my pork, I brought it out of the refrigerator to let it get to room temperature for an hour then placed it in a 450° oven and roasted it for about 10 minutes, and then lowered the heat to 400°. Then I let it cook for another 35 minutes.

Pork loin is one of those roasts that you definitely need an instant-read thermometer. My roast actually turned out to be 140°, but the recipe said it only needed to be 135°. So the pork was more than ready.

I let it rest for 15 minutes and then thinly sliced it to eat. You’re probably wondering what I did with such a large piece of pork as The Single Guy. I used one-third for a dish I made the next night with lotus root, and I placed another third in the freezer. The pork I had that night was served with braised red Swiss chard and roasted potatoes.

The recipe actually tells you to buy blood oranges, red currants and mint for garnish. I think that’s actually asking a lot in a recipe to buy all that just for garnish. But to be true to the recipe, I did just that. Except I’m not sure where you find red currants so I replaced them with fresh cranberries. Here’s how my roast turned out. Do you think it looks just like the Food and Wine version pictured above?

My tips and warnings about this recipe:

  1. The portions for the ingredients to make the glaze actually seemed small. I think you can even double the ingredient portions and you’ll have a nice amount of glaze to rub over your pork loin.
  2. The picture might actually make the pork loin look dry, but that’s actually just the bright lights. The roast actually turns out pretty tender (I guess that’s why they call it pork tenderloin) but it does seem to scream out for some kind of sauce. I’d recommend something like a pear chutney or soy-ginger sauce to go with it.
  3. The recipe tells you to wrap your pork loin in plastic wrap after you rubbed it with the glaze. I suggest you put the plastic wrap on your roasting tray and then place the pork on the wrap before you put on the rub. Then after you rub the glaze, you can easily fold the plastic wrap around your pork to cover it. If you don’t do this step, it might get pretty messy trying to wrap your pork after you rub it with the glaze.

Ease of cooking: As you can tell, the steps are pretty easy for this pork recipe. So it’s definitely simple even though it’s a bit tricky finding the maple sugar. (And I even looked at gourmet stores like Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods.)

Taste: Even though the pork was really tender, it basically had no taste at all. The overwhelming taste was pork and garlic. I didn’t get any maple sugar (or much sweetness from the dark brown sugar), ginger or heat from the crushed red pepper. That’s why I think it might have needed more glaze. Even though it was super easy to make, the taste wasn’t anything special.

Overall Grade: C because it wasn’t anything special.

Don’t forget to vote for which recipe I should test from Food and Wine’s January edition in the poll on the upper right column. This will be my first test in the new year so let’s make it a good one.

Previous test kitchens:
Five-spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes and Walnut Toffee
Smoky Shrimp and Chorizo Soup
Rabbit Ragout with Soppressata and Pappardelle
Puff-pastry Tomato Tarts


Haddock said...

The pictures make it look yummy

Hungry Dog said...

SIngle Guy, thanks for testing this so I don't have to! It does look good but it doesn't sound like a winner. And I'm with you--why buy so many special things just for garnishing? Um, no.

julie k said...

What is the current thinking of eating pinkish pork? Not really a pork fan but yours looks like it turned out beautifully...

Single Guy Ben said...

Julie, people aren't as strict these days about cooked pork because the methods of raising pigs have improved. But that's why it's important to use the thermometer to make sure it's at 135 degrees. Mines was 140 degrees and when rested it had a pinkish color but it wasn't raw or juicy like red meat. It just looked pink but there wasn't any wetness to it.

julie k said...

Thanks Ben, for clearing that up!

foodhoe said...

Well, it certainly looks delicious. I find that pork loin roasts generally are bland and dry and that is why they always are served with fruity flavorful sauces. I prefer the fatty butts/shoulder roasts myself. Looks like you have lots of pork sandwiches in your future.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

The plating shots are so professional looking!

Too bad about the tasteless pork. Chalk it up to industrial farming. I would have brined the loin in a maple syrup brine instead of just marinating.