The pork tenderloin variety, not of the paid adult programming variety.
When it comes to cooking, I have a tendency to run before I can crawl, which is probably a response to years and years of being too scared to make anything more challenging than a grilled cheese. But, I’ve been pushing myself in the kitchen this year, and more often than not, the results are delicious, and my kitchen hasn’t been lit on fire. Even if I did leave the oven on all night that one time*.
So one day at work, I found a recipe for Crispy Roast Pork amidst some content work for one of our websites. And I remembered how delicious pork crackling was that time Joel’s dad made it.
Salt roasted pork is basically a heart attack. The fatty top slab of the pork is rubbed with coarse salt, and then blasted with high heat to crisp the fatty skin, and then roasted for about an hour to make the bottom juicy while the top gets crispier. The desired effect is a top fatty crust that sounds like it “crackles” and shatters as you bite into it. Hence, pork “crackle.” It’s typically served with a pork belly, but I can’t handle the squishy texture of the belly meat. But, the salty crackle combined with juicy pork meat is to die for. What I researched told me that a pork shoulder is better to use if you can’t use belly, but I’ve never cooked a pork shoulder without a slow-cooker. But I’ve made roast tenderloin before and it was amazing. So I went with what I knew.
I rushed to Google, who confirmed kinda weakly that tenderloin skin can crisp up with the best of them, if that’s all you’ve got. And all it took to make the dish was salt, a roasting pan, and an oven capable of reaching 240*C.
I HAD ALL THOSE THINGS.
So, riding this wave of kitchen successes, I Googled some more until I found a credible recipe that didn’t involve bean curd marinade, and I set off to the butcher. One of the great things about living here is that I’m never too far away from an independent butcher or an self-stocked local farmer fruit stand. In face, I pass by both when I’m going by either the grocery store near work, or the grocery store near home. The reason I don’t stop there is pure laziness. Neither place takes debit cards, and most days I’ll be damned if I have to make one more stop than I have to, so I’ll go where I can get everything all at once. It’s a shitty habit, I know, especially considering the food quality is so much better at the independent stands.
But, I digress.
The butcher, near my office is an older guy named Bill, dressed in a white chef’s shirt and who talks like butchers from the b&w era. He was incredibly friendly and informative, and told me to come back after work because he was waiting for a “pork delivery.” When I came back, he had cut and scored a piece of tenderloin specifically for my needs. He even gave me tips on how to cook it, and threw in some scrap pieces on the house. As I was paying for it, he insisted I come back on Monday to tell him how it went. I was a little overwhelmed by his friendliness, and for a moment he made me think I was living down south in the mountains again, where friendliness with strangers is a daily occurrence. But I walked away thinking, if that’s how nice grocery shopping can be, then I’ll definitely be coming back. Maybe he can make me some American-style cuts of bacon…
Oh my god. I’m going back tomorrow.
So I bring the pork home, and it’s beautiful. And there’s no weird pork smell that I’ve noticed with grocery store pork. I rubbed it dry, massaged it with a bit of olive oil and salt, sang to it, had a photo shoot with it, rubbed it some more, and then put it to bed in the fridge so the fat rind could soak up all the salt.
The next night, I took it out of the fridge and rubbed it again, coaxed it again, and salted it again. Joel cut up onions and apples, and we layered them in the bottom of the pan before putting the roasting rack with ol’Salty on top.
Then we shoved the roasting pan in the oven–literally, it almost didn’t fit and I would have cried–and proceeded to wait over an hour while it roasted.
Here’s where we didn’t plan. We were slugging about all day, and we had a big breakfast so we weren’t particularly hungry for lunch, and therefore, lunch was skipped. And we weren’t hungry until the roast had 30 mins to go. And without knowing, we got hangry. And there were no snacks, at all. Except for a bag of candy that Joel found, which we inhaled. And then we inhaled the rest of the peanut better cookie bits. And then there was only 12 minutes left on the roast, and I wasn’t nearly as hungry. And I was all daaaaamn.
By the time we sat down to eat, I wasn’t hungry. I had filled up on last minute sugar impulse. I wasted $35 of pork for Starburst Jellies and week old peanut butter cookies.
That kinda coloured the rest of the meal. The pork was tender and tasted like a tenderloin, but the crackle was too much on chewy and too short on crackle. But, I blame myself. It probably would have been mind blowing if I had had an appetite.
I felt really guilty and shitty about it, like I ruined the meal. Because I did. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve done it. One day. One day I’ll learn the valuable lesson of “no sweets before dinner.”
The next day, I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of the pork. Mom suggested simmering it in BBQ sauce and shredding it, and I was all “why didn’t I think of that!” I simmered it in a combo of BBQ suave and yellow mustard until the meat became tender. Because it was tenderloin, it didn’t shred very well, but I was able to cut it up pretty small, and I served it over mashed potatoes, and topped it all with roasted corn and tomato relish.
It was BBQ mash just slopped into a bowl, it looked like hot sick, and honestly, it was so much better than the meal I was excited for a whole week to make. And it made Patton Oswalt proud. Go figure.
My take aways from my weekend in pork?
- Always eat lunch or snack through out the day when you know dinner will take 1.5 hours to cook.
- Don’t turn Hoover on sugar and chemicals when you’ve spent heaps on dinner.
- Pork tastes better with a marinade. Or when roasted over a bed of onion, apple, and some chicken broth.
- Aluminium foil lining the roasting tray didn’t make clean up a snap.
- Butcher meat is the best meat.
Onward to the next meat adventure!
*jokes. One of us knocked the dial by accident and noticed a few minutes later. The oven wasn’t even warm.