Sunday, January 20, 2008

Roasted Pork Loin with Fragrant Szechuan Pepper and Sage

This pork roast is amazingly juicy, tender and flavourful. Once again, I used the brown paper bag method to trap the moisture in the meat while roasting. For the flavour, I used a very aromatic spice, called Szechuan peppercorn, mainly found in Chinese and Tibetan cooking. I started using Szechuan peppercorn only recently after reading about it in Chinese cooking books.

Szechuan peppercorn is described as an asian spice related to the black and chili peppers. Unlike the latter, it's not used to add heat to your dish as it is very mild with slight lemony overtones. Not only is it used for it's heavenly aroma and unique flavour, it also gives a dish a little bit of "lift". An interesting aspect about this spice is that it creates in the mouth a tingly numbness (this effect goes away when the peppercorn is cooked). What most Chinese and Tibetan recipes suggest is to lightly toast the peppercorns first and then crush the tiny seedpods before adding them to food.

The wonderful thing about this spice is that it can easily be combined with coarse sea salt to make a fantastic flavoured salt, to marinate your meats or season your steaks. Try it on grilled fish, poached eggs and even fried rice. Simply crush the roasted peppercorn with the same amount of coarse sea salt and keep a fresh batch in your pantry for ready-use. You'll find Szechuan (or pink) peppercorn in most local asian grocery stores.
For this installment, I prepared a small batch of Szechuan peppercorn flavoured salt to marinate the pork loin. Preparation takes 5 minutes, including the toasting.

When toasted, the peppercorns release a heavenly, woodsy and lemony fragrance throughough your house, like pot-pourri. Some like their flavoured salts very fine, whereas I prefer mine coarse in texture. Coarse salt means, season less so that your food doesn't taste too salty.
Recipe "au pif":
2 lbs boneless pork loin roast
1 1/2 tbsp Szechuan peppercorn flavoured salt
1 cup fresh sage
1 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small brown paper bag for roasting

With a sharp knife, slice into the center of the pork loin and open it up so the pork loin looks like one thick layer of meat. Place on a cutting board (inside up). Drizzle some olive oil (about 1/4 cup) on the entire inner surface of the pork.

Rub in vigorously half the amount of the Szechuan peppercorn flavoured salt (about 3/4 tbsp).

Lay a bed of the sage leaves on the pork and gently spread the garlic slices over the surface of the pork.

Roll the pork tightly closed.

Season the outer surface of the pork with the flavoured salt (about 3/4 tbsp, or to taste, go with your instinct. Less salt if coarse sea salt is used in the flavoured salt mixture) and the lemon grass, and drizzle the rest of the olive oil on the entire surface.

Tightly wrap the pork loin in plastic film. Let it chill in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.

(Follow the same roasting method used for the Thanksgiving Roasted Hen with Sage recipe)

For even roasting, let pork sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking. Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 360F. Apply olive oil to brown paper bag with a pastry brush (IMPORTANT: bag must be thoroughly greased throughout so that it doesn't burn and it will seal in the steam). Roast for about 40 - 50 minutes.

Remove from oven, open bag; be careful of steam inside of bag. Return pork into the oven and broil for about 10 minutes for a darker brown colour.
(OPTIONAL): While pork rests, pour the drippings from the bag and the baking dish in a pan. Add a bit of chicken stock, or simply water, if needed. Blend in flour and stir until mixture is golden and becomes thick, over medium-high heat.
Serves 8 or 4 very hungry meat-eaters. Goes wonderfully with steamed white rice.

Leftovers can be used to make sandwiches or fried rice. A great meal that can last the entire week!


Jerry said...

This sounds delicious!

Jerzee Tomato said...

Looks wonderful, and as the SENIOR ADVISER of SeriousEats website, I should know.

My friend "therealchiffonade" agrees with me:

Thanks for sharing,


QlinArt said...

Thank you for the wonderful comments.
It is very juicy and so tasty with the szechuan peppercorn and the sage stuffed in the pork. A must try when you have guests over. ;)

Anonymous said...

It sounds wonderful,
so where does the garlic go?

QlinArt said...

Thanks for catching that Anonymous. The garlic goes into inside the roll. Will correct that.