If you’ve ever roasted a pork loin (not the tenderloin) and ended up with a tough piece of meat on your plate, this post is for you. Except for an outside layer, the pork loin has no fat and is easy to overcook. But this recipe, adapted from “America’s Test Kitchen,” gives you a circular interior roll of marbling that adds lots of juicy flavor.
I started out with what I thought was one five pound roast, but when I untied the butcher’s string, I discovered a couple of two and a half pound roasts instead. I needed only one of these roasts for my book club’s dinner earlier this week, and cooked the second one the following night.
Take a long, sharp knife and cut through the roast, slicing to open the piece of meat so it lies flat, trying to get an even thickness. After cutting, pound it with a meat press (keeping a piece of plastic over the meat) to help make it flatter and more even. Then season liberally on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel pollen (or fennel seed pulverized with a grinder or mortar and pestle). Set aside.
Place some chopped garlic, minced rosemary, red pepper flakes and lemon zest in a cold pan with olive oil and cook gently for a few minutes, until the garlic starts to sizzle. Drain through a strainer, reserving the oil, and placing the solids in a food processor.
Chop some pancetta and add to the mixture in the food processor.
Blend until a paste. If your pancetta is too lean (as mine was), add a little olive oil.
Spread the paste over the flattened meat.
Roll up and tie with butcher’s twine.Season the meat again on the outside with salt, pepper and fennel pollen (or crushed fennel seed).
Place on a rack and roast at 275 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours, or until a thermometer reads 125 to 130 degrees. You can still end up with a tough, dry roast if it reaches too high a temperature, so keep a close watch on it.
Remove from the oven (it will not have much of a browned appearance – yet) and let rest, covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes.
While the roast is resting, sear lemons in a hot skillet and make the lemon-olive oil sauce (recipe below).
After the roast has rested for 20 minutes or so, heat a bit of olive oil in a cast iron pan, or a heavy skillet, and sear it until the fatty side takes on a nice browned color.
Slice and serve with a lemon-olive oil sauce (recipe below).
- Adapted from America's Test Kitchen:
- For Two Pork Loins (2½ pounds each)
- 16 cloves garlic (yes, that's right)
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- zest of one lemon, grated
- 2 tablespoons minced rosemary
- 5-6 ounces pancetta (not too lean)
- salt, pepper
- 2 teaspoons fennel pollen (or ground fennel seed)
- Put the garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest in a cold pan with the olive oil.
- Heat on low to medium for about 3 minutes or until the garlic starts to sizzle.
- Add the minced rosemary and stir for about 30 seconds.
- Pour everything (over a bowl) through a fine mesh strainer, pressing to get as much liquid through as possible. Set the olive oil aside.
- Cut the pancetta into small pieces and put into a food processor, along with the lemon garlic mixture (not the olive oil).
- Pulse about 30 seconds or until you have a paste, adding some olive oil if needed.
- Take a long, sharp knife and cut into the pork loin, about 1 inch from the edge, and staying even, cut it open in a "book" fashion, until the roast is one long flat piece.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap over the meat and pound even.
- Season liberally with salt, pepper and the fennel pollen.
- Spread the paste evenly over the inside of the roast and roll back up.
- Tie it with butcher's twine and place on a rack.
- Put it in the refrigerator at least one hour, or even overnight to allow flavors to meld into the meat.
- Roast in a 275 degree oven for 1½ to 2 hours, or until an internal temperature of 125 degrees to 130 degrees. The temperature will continue to rise while it's resting.
- Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for twenty minutes to a half hour.
- Meanwhile, make the lemon olive oil sauce by cutting two lemons in half and searing the cut ends in a very hot cast iron skillet.
- Remove the lemons from the heat, and squeeze out the juice.
- Add the juice to the reserved olive oil mixture and whisk.
- Using a heavy skillet, heat it over high flame and pour about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil into it.
- Sear the fatty side of the roast in the olive oil.
- Slice and serve with the lemon-olive oil sauce.