Next up in project clean out my parents’ freezer: pork loin
Back when I was buying cheap meat, a pork loin was one of the best bargains out there – almost all lean meat, no bones, and could be found on sale as cheaply as $1.88/lb
Being just one person, I’d cut a whole loin into three roasts and freeze them. Even then, it’s quite a lot of meat. And it has a tendency toward being dry and flavorless.
The cooking method I learned from my mother was to pick the roast with the thickest outer layer of fat as possible, embed some garlic cloves in the meat and threat some rosemary sprigs between the fat and the meat, coat the outside in garlic salt, and roast it in a slow oven. This produced a lovely, and usually juicy, meal. But the leftovers still tended to be dry.
So ever since I discovered carnitas, I’ve taken to braising this cut. And that means I can even trim off the fat layer.
Braised Pork w/ tomatoes and orange peel
Put the following things into a pot:
- Pork roast, trimmed of exterior fat and freezer burn (cause I live a classy life)
- 1 quart of (homemade, home-canned nyah nyah nyah) stock
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (okay, so this was storebought, but it was a great sale)
- thinly sliced orange peel – now this one requires some explanation because I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but last year I started keeping my citrus peels in water. That simple: eat fruit, put clean peel into a container, fill container with water all the way up to the top so there’s minimal oxidization, refrigerate. I should probably worry about bacteria, but the citrus is fairly resiliant on its own and the peels never developed an off smell. If you change the water every couple of weeks, then the peels are less bitter with each successive change of water, and the pith softens so it can be easily scraped away. Seriously – this is amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Right, so I had these from last winter and they still smelled fine, and I knew I’d be cooking the stuff for hours, so I sliced it into little orangey ribbons and delicious flavor.
And then cook it for a few hours. I went to OutFest with it on low, and then turned the heat up for a few hours once I came home and could supervise it.
I considered it done once the meat was falling apart and almost all of the liquid had been cooked out (as much as I felt confident cooking out without burning it to the bottom of the pan)
So now I had a tasty meat base, so what was I going to do with it so I didn’t get tired of it?
Well, I made half a cup of white rice, and I froze some lunch portions with the rice and about half of the braised pork.
And I had a we smidgeon of rice left, so I took another wee smidgeon (1/4 cup) of pork and made quesadillas
Braised Pork Quesadillas (pork is braised, not the quesadilla)
They key to a good quesadilla (and a good filled crepe) is to not put too much in. If it’s still flat, then
you’reI’m going to enjoy it more.
So throw a tortilla in a heated skillet. Once the tortilla is warm, flip it over and start working very quickly (that is – have a mis en place).
Add the thinnest layer of cheese you can.
Pick a half of the tortilla. Cover it with a little leftover (but warm) rice that has been tossed with lime cilantro dressing, a little of the braised pork (drain the liquid away and have a mostly dry filling), and some shredded kale (some sharp onions would have also been good here).
Fold the bare (i.e. with just cheese) half of the tortilla over the filling and make a nice even sandwich. Press flat. And flip it over to brown the outside of the tortilla and wilt the kale. Peek under to see when you have a few burnt spots on the underside of the quesadilla. Decide whether you want the (now) top crisped up anymore (if so, flip and cook a little more). Then serve. Have sour cream on the side.
And I still had about half of the braised pork left. So I made a stew-type dish.
Pork and Chickpea Stew
Add a little oil to the bottom of a pot and sweat an onion, diced. Once the onion is translucent, add a drained can of chickpeas (or soak them overnight and cook them a bit longer than is called for in this recipe… since this here cooking is mostly just getting everything warm enough for the flavors to intermingle).
Now my braised pork was pretty intensely flavored, but if it hadn’t been, I would start adding seasonings here – some cumin seeds, maybe a stick of cinnamon, marjoram, and maybe some raisins would have been an interesting choice. But I didn’t do that.
I did, however, have a baked sweet potato in my fridge, and that seemed like a good addition, so I pulled it out, peeled it, sliced it a couple times against the grain, and mixed it in with the chickpeas.
And then I added the braised pork.
Cooked it for a couple minutes until the smells mixed, and then I dished it up into containers to freeze for lunches.