Monday, February 6, 2012

Pork and Potatoes Meet at the Apple

For the main course of my recent dinner party (for the appetizer click here) I made a dish that would confuse a nice Jewish boy. I took two of my favorite dishes, pork loin and potato latkes and brought them together on one glorious plate. The irony of the dish is that both pork and potato pancakes are perfect for each other. The standard accompaniment for both pork and latkes is apple sauce, so what I did was bring the potatoes and pork together with a layer of homemade apple sauce. To top the pork, I made some caramelized onions and for some flavor and color, I made some sauteed green beans. The meal was spectacular. The pork was extremely moist, and the flavors in the apple sauce blended perfectly between the pork and potatoes. The green beans provided a bright visual and gustatory break in the meal against the rich, warm flavors of the pork and potatoes. This would be a perfect meal for a romantic, home cooked Valentine's day dinner.

For the apple sauce, I peeled 4 apples, and cut them into small cubes. I then heated some butter in a bit pot and sauteed the onions until they started to brown. I added a little cider vinegar to the onions to scrape the brown bits off of the bottom, added some lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, and a dash of cayenne pepper, and let it simmer covered for 30-40 minutes. I then mashed it up so it was still a little chunky and set aside to cool.

For the pork, I started with a brine. I mixed water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seed, and bay leaf and let the pork loin sit in it for 6 hours in the fridge (but you can brine it for up to 24 hours). I then let the loin sit out to get to room temperature before cooking. Once I was ready to cook it, I rubbed a little salt and pepper on the pork and seared the outside of the meat until it started to brown. I then laid it over onions, garlic, and rosemary with some chicken broth in a pan and baked it for 25 minutes until done.

I let the meat rest for 10 minutes after cooking and then sliced it. The meat was incredibly tender and moist. The brine really infuses the meat with moisture, and cooking over the broth ensures that it doesn't dry out in the oven. The pork comes out slightly pink and is full of flavor.

For the potato pancakes, I peeled and finely shredded the potatoes and squeezed out as much of the water as possible. I then shredded an onion, mixed in an egg, and scraped the potato starch off of the bottom of the bowl where I squeezed the potatoes. Using the potato starch is a really cool way to bind the pancakes. When you squeeze the potatoes, what comes out is water and starch, when the liquid settles the water stays at the top, and the starch settles at the bottom of the bowl. You can then pour off the water and what's left is the hard potato starch. I mixed the potatoes and made small patties, frying them in batches in sunflower oil until brown on both sides.

(Serves 4)

For the pork:
1.5 lbs pork loin
3 cups water 
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seed
2 bay leaves
2 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 sprigs rosemary
1/4 cup chicken broth
Olive oil
1 lb green beans
Salt and pepper

For the apple sauce:
4 apples, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

For the potato pancakes:
3 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and finely grated
1 medium onion
1 egg
1/2 cup sunflower oil
Salt and pepper

To Cook:
The Pork:
  1. Mix the water through bay leaf and brine the pork for 6-24 hours in the fridge
  2. Remove the pork from the brine and let sit until it reaches room temperature
  3. Preheat the oven to 375
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive, canola, or sunflower oil in a large cast iron pan on medium high, rub the pork with salt and pepper and sear the pork on the outside until lightly browned
  5. While pork is searing, lay onion, garlic, and rosemary in a roasting pan and pour the chicken broth over it
  6. Put pork in roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes
  7. Remove pork from oven and let rest for 10 minutes
  8. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and cook onions until brown
  9. Remove onions and cook green beans in 1 tablespoon olive oil with salt and pepper until lightly browned
The Apple Sauce
  1. Heat butter in a large pot on medium and add apples, cook until starting to brown
  2. Add cider vinegar and scrape up brown bits
  3. Add remaining ingredients and lower heat to low, simmer until very soft
  4. Mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher to desired consistency
  5. Add water if you want a smoother texture
The Potato Latkes
  1. Peel the potatoes and let them sit submerged in water until ready to shred so they don't brown
  2. Shred the potatoes finely and squeeze as much of the water out of them as possible over a bowl
  3. Shred the onion and add to the potatoes with 1 egg and salt and pepper
  4. After potato water has rested for 5 minutes, pour water off reserving the starch at the bottom of the bowl and add to the potato mixture
  5. Mix the potatoes thoroughly, they should be a little wet but dry enough to hold their form when made into patties
  6. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet on medium and shape the potato mixture into patties, cooking in batches (don't overcrowd) for about 5 minutes a side until brown and cooked through
  7. Remove from pan and lay on a paper towel to absorb oil

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