Oh, if only I could explain to you how much I love pork. I’m not sure if it is my Slovenian-American heritage, where pork features prominently both roasted with gravy and in the form of the most delicious sausages. My polka-star father, following in his grandparents footsteps, has a pig roast for three or four hundred of his nearest and dearest friends every August at his farm outside of Cleveland. Last roast we did two pigs, a lamb, 100 pounds of sausages and 200 pieces of chicken, all of it delicious. Seriously, if you have never had a pig, roasted whole, on a spit over an open hardwood fire, you haven’t lived.
It could be my new adopted home of North Carolina, where barbeque is part of the local religion. North Carolina barbeque is always pork, roasted split open over a fire, and doused with a vingary-peppery-mustardy barbeque sauce. Events in North Carolina where whole pigs are roasted are called “pig-pickins,” because after the pig is roasted, you stand around the table and hand pull the pig apart, placing all the succulent meat together in trays and dousing it with more of the tart sauce. My first year of graduate school, I volunteered to get the pig from the butcher for our department’s annual pig-pickin. I put a 175 pound pig in the trunk of my old Ford Thunderbird. The whole time I was driving the pig around, I had fantasies of being pulled over by a police officer. I would act as suspiciously as possible, I decided, so that he would search the trunk.
Honestly, the idea still tickles me to this day.
I am not the only pork-lover out their on the internet. The Chubby Hubby shares my love of all things porcine. Since he is based out of Singapore, where the food culture is significantly different, I only recognize about half of the dishes he pays tribute to, but I’m going to track down recipes for some of them, particularly the katsu curry.
Despite my intense love for all things elaborately porky, one of the things I love about pork is that it can be so damn easy to cook. Pork marries well with almost any seasoning pallet you want to bring to it, and as long as you don’t overcook it, yields positively succulent results. While the USDA used to recommend a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit for pork, it is now generally acceptable to cook pork to medium/ medium rare, or about 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When I’m roasting my pork I cook it to about 155 degrees, then pull it. It will come up to temperature while it rests.
Of course, I also love to braise pork, cooking it slowly for hours until it falls apart. I’m sure I will tell you about carnitas some time in the near future. Oh, and pan-seared pork chops with an easy pan sauce. Oh, and don’t forget ribs. (Do I sound like that character from Forrest Gump yet? “You can boil shrimp, steam shrimp, shrimp gumbo…”)
Here is an extremely easy roast pork recipe and menu for weeknight when you don’t need dinner immediately, but don’t want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen. In about 10-15 minutes of prep, and less than an hour of cooking time, you have a complete meal. I’m going to walk you through the steps of prepping it all at once, because that is the most efficient way to cook this meal.
Five-Spice Molasses Glazed Pork and Acorn Squash with Garlic-Roasted Broccoli
serves 2-4 depending on appetite and desire for leftovers
1 1 to 2 lb piece of boneless pork loin (you can also use a tenderloin, which is a much narrower cut of meat, but reduce the cooking time for the pork to about 15-20 minutes)
1 or 2 acorn squash
1 large head of broccoli
3 cloves of garlic
1/8 cup of molasses
2 tbs plus 1 tbs of olive oil
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small bowl, combine molasses, olive oil, five-spice powder, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
Cut the acorn squash into approximately one inch thick rings and remove the seeds. (Don’t cut them into wedges like I did in the picture, that was really stupid. The skin is then hard to remove, and they don’t cook evenly.) Arrange the rings on a rimmed cookie sheet and, using a pastry brush, brush about 1/2 the molasses mixture onto the top side of the squash. Add a little water to the cookie sheet, about 1/4 inch. Put the squash in the oven.
Peel and chop three cloves of garlic, put one clove on a rimmed baking sheet (for the broccoli). Mix the other two cloves into the remaining molasses mixture. Wash and pat dry the pork loin, then rub with the molassas. Place in a baking dish, fatty side up. (You are welcome to trim the fat, but I believe pork fat is sacred.) Add to oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.
**If you trimmed the pork on your cutting board, get out a clean knife and cutting board. Wash 1 bunch of broccoli, and cut it into florettes. Add to reserved garlic on cookie sheet and toss with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 tbs of olive oil. Set aside.
When the timer goes off, check the pork. It is probably not done. (Depending on the size/shape of your pork loin, it will take between 30 and 45 minutes.) Check the squash and remove when tender ( it will be done about the same time as the pork). When the pork has reached at least 155 degrees, remove it from the oven to let it rest and put in the broccoli. Bake the broccoli for 8-10 minutes while the pork rests.
Slice up the pork and enjoy!