Last week we had some cold evenings and I had a hankering to cook something rustic and comforting. I didn't have a lot of time, so I decided to braise a smallish pork loin. I was thinking rosemary braised with white wine. (Rosemary has been working its' way more and more into my diet because I read an article regarding new studies that have found it to be good for your brain. But, until this is proven out I wouldn't go too crazy. Abnormal quantities have caused adverse reactions in some people.)
It was only my wife and I eating, so of course we weren't going to take down the whole 2.5 pounds of pork loin in one meal. Again, the question of something different to do with the leftovers. I'm not a big fan of repeating meals. I'm fine with using leftovers to make something different, but not too keen on repeating the experience. I've become a creature of variety.
I was reading Amelia Saltsman's great new book, The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook, and came upon a recipe for roasted pork sandwiches. The recipe used leftovers from another recipe in the book, Roast Pork Loin with Red Currants and Provencal Herbs. It sounded great, but I had already made my braised pork. The recipes used similar ingredients, so it seemed natural that it would work well with the sandwiches.
What sets these simple pork sandwiches apart from others is the delicious sweet-tart grape-onion relish. Amelia calls for late-season Autumn Royale grapes. She describes them in the following way, "large, almost black, and oblong, with a firm, meaty texture and deep grape taste -- from Chandler Farms and Nicholas Orchard...These are not juicy summer fruits, but spicy and dense." She also mentions that Red Flame and Thompson grapes don't work well in this recipe. The Autumn Royales grapes are seedless and ripen late season. Usually mid-September - mid-October, but may well be found in markets through December. You could also look for a couple other seedless black varieties to use, Fantasy and an Australian variety, Black Marroo. I bought mine at Whole Foods. I'm not sure which variety they were, but they were very dark, seedless, and football shaped. They had a deep grape taste, so they seemed to fit the bill.
I truly love sandwiches. I'd choose a sandwich as my last meal. Probably not this one, but regardless, this is still a great sandwich. Simple, elegant and delicious. My tendency towards variety in food went out the window with this sandwich. I made it for lunch the following two days in a row.
BRAISED PORK WITH ROSEMARY
adapted from The Silver Spoon cookbook
2.5 pound pork loin or tri-tip pork loin
Needles from 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove crushed / smashed and minced
1/2 yellow onion chopped
2 shallots diced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white vermouth
2 - 3 dashes Peychaud's or Angostura bitters
1 tablespoon white wine vingegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Smoked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Push half of the rosemary leaves into pork and tie roast neatly with kitchen twine. Heat butter and 4 Tablespoons oil in a 6 Quart Dutch over med heat. Add pork and brown nicely on all sides. Add onion, garlic, shallot, thyme, and rosemary. Cook for a quick minute then add wine, vermouth and bitters. Cook about a minute or two till the alcohol evaporates. Then cover and simmer for about 1 and a half hours. Remove the pork and let rest for 10 minutes. Untie and carve into thick slices. Stir vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, mustard, and pepper into the cooking juices. Reduce till slightly thickened.
ROAST PORK LOIN SANDWICHES WITH SEASONAL FRUIT-ONION RELISH
from The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook
Makes 2 Cups, enough for about 12 sandwiches
FOR THE RELISH
3 large onions (about 1 1/2 pounds total), halved
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Leaves from 5 large sprigs thyme
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups Autumn Royale grapes (about 1/2 pound on the stem)
(note: In early summer, substitute 2 pounds of apricots, halved and pitted; in late summer, use 3/4 pound figs, halved lengthwise)
FOR THE SANDWICHES
Large baguette or country bread slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic cut in half
Roast pork loin slices, 3 to 4 ounces per sandwich
Stemmed watercress or arugula, preferably wild, handful per sandwich
To make the relish, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each onion half into 8 wedges. Finely chop 2 of the wedges, rinse in cold water, and set aside. On a baking sheet, toss together the remaining onion wedges, oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vinegar, thyme, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. Add the grapes and the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar, toss, and return to the oven until the onions are soft with crisped edges and the grapes are browned and melting, about 30 minutes more. Let cool briefly, then hand chop or pulse in a food processor to a coarse texture. Spoon into a bowl and stir in the chopped onion. Allow to stand for 1 hour, then taste and add salt, pepper, and/orl more vinegar to yield a bright sweet-tart flavor. You should have about 2 cups. The relish will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Heat a grill to medium, or preheat a broiler. If using a baguette, cut into sandwich-sized portions and split horizontally. Brush the cut side of each bread piece generously with oil. Toast both pieces on the grill or under the broiler. Rub the oiled surface with the cut side of the garlic and lay pork slices on the oiled side of half of the bread pieces. Top each with a handful of watercress or agrugula, spread the relish on the remaining bread, close the sandwiches, and cut in half.