Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rescue browning

Cooking is a crap shoot. You think something will work and it just doesn't.

"I'll throw it in the oven," you say, "it'll get a nice crisp crust."

But no. Sadly that crust requires a bit more planning. We've all been there. It's done, or almost done, but it's just not BROWN.

What to do? Jack up the broiler?

Always an option, but there's the risk of overcooking.

I discovered a few months ago that you have the option of browning on the stove AFTER you've cooked in the oven. In fact, it almost works better. Anything hot and covered in grease is made to brown.

I was making salmon when I made the discovery. This wonderful recipe from Jerry Traunfeld where you slow cook it for half an hour at 250. It comes out amazing. The texture of sushi, but cooked.

Unless you're my father-in-law. He couldn't deal with the texture. No problem, I thought. I'll brown it on the stove.

And unlike many of my cooking experiments, it worked perfectly. It browned like a champ, maybe better than if I'd tried to brown it first. Cold salmon sticks to the pan, this searing hot salmon almost bounced off. Developed a perfect crust in minutes.

The other night I was cooking for myself and I ran into the same problem. This time with pork loin.

I had plopped it in a pan at 400 degrees thinking it would just brown on its own at that temp, but after 30 minutes it was far from brown. It was about 130 degrees at that point (just shy of the beautiful 140 degrees that renders pork edible) so I pulled it from the oven and plopped it in a hot skillet, scraping off as much of the garlic and ginger as I could so they wouldn't burn.

A few minutes on each side and I had a nice golden crust. Then I pulled it out of the pan, splashed in some red wine, put back in the garlic and ginger and cooked that down a bit till I had a nice sauce. Poured it over the pork loin.

Amazing. Can't even describe. As luck would have it, this would happen on a night Cobe was away so I had no one to congratulate me.

But I thought I should tell you about it. Because in cooking as in life, you're going to make mistakes. You just have to know how to fix them.

Pork loin with soy sauce and ginger

1 pork loin (~1.5 lbs)
peanut oil (~2/3 cup)
soy sauce (~2tbs)
rice vinegar (~1 tsp)
sesame oil (a few drops)
honey (~1tsp)
ginger (~1 T)
garlic (~1 T)
black pepper
green onions (2-3) sliced
red wine (a splash)

Okay a warning, I did not measure (thus, the parentheses, which you should read as guesses).
So why should you measure? Mix it all together. Taste it. See what it needs. More vinegar? More soy?

Into medium size bowl pour some peanut oil until it more than covers the bottom (~1/4 cup). Then pour in some soy sauce until it seems about 2/3 as much as the oil. Next rice vinegar, a smaller amount (~1tsp). Then a blob of honey also ~1 tsp. A few drops of dark sesame oil. Around 1 Tbs each of minced ginger and garlic. A few grinds of black pepper. Taste the marinade and see if it needs something for balance. Experiment. You'll get the hang of it.

Put the pork loin in the marinade and let sit ~30-60 minutes. Prehead oven to 400 degrees. Put pork loin in 9x9 pan lined with foil and cook ~20-30 minutes or until thermometer reads 130 degrees.

Heat up cast iron skillet over medium heat. Put in small amount of peanut oil and drop in pork loin (after scraping off as much marinade as possible). Brown a few minutes on a side until golden. Ensure pork loin has now come up to 140 degrees.

Place on platter. Pour drippings from 9x9 pan into skillet and add a splash of red wine (1/4-1/2 cup). Cook down until slightly thick and good tasting. Pour over pork. Sprinkle with sliced green onions. Serve.

No comments: