I love to cook–but I love sharing food even more. Whether I was inviting friends to test ideas from my dorm kitchen in college, or hosting family for meals, it always brings out my best when I work under the pressure of cooking food that other people will actually want to eat.
When Dani and I moved into our apartment about a year ago, one of the first things we did was host two big meals–one for family, and a “Friendsgiving”. Well, that must’ve sparked something, because we continued our new tradition into a second year, and this party was particularly good. We had to accommodate a number of different dietary restrictions, so I decided to cook pork, and chicken identically so that no one missed out. The rest of the meal was a pot-luck–everyone brought something different, and we just ate, drank, laughed, and ate some more–even when it started to rain in the middle of the party.
I usually like to crust chicken or pork with pecans, but when I thought about cooking for twelve people with only one oven, I knew it wouldn’t cut it. On the day of the event, the weather was good enough to eat outside, so I adapted the recipe for the grill. I had to solve two main challenges: cooking a large piece of meat on a grill without drying it out, and rethinking the pecan crust, since it would likely fall through the grill and catch fire.
I decided to brine the meat to solve the first problem. Brining is great for the grill because it allows the meat to cook fully without drying out on the high heat. It sounds really fancy, but it’s so easy that it’s almost boring–you essentially soak your meat in a highly concentrated salt solution with any combination of spices and sweeteners for a few hours, dry it off, and cook. I usually prefer dry brined meats, but I figured a wet brine would maximize tenderness on the grill. This technique yielded a tasty, medium-well pork loin (I don’t like to undercook pork) that fed a large group–and still retained its tenderness when leftovers were re-heated the next day. Of course, I’m already thinking about how to make the next iteration even better, but at least I know that no one left hungry!
1 Pork Loin Roast
3 Cups Pecans, chopped
6 Cloves of Garlic, minced
3 Sprigs of Thyme
3 Sage Leaves, sliced thinly
2 Tbs Mustard Seeds
1 Cup Honey
4 Tbs Butter
1/2 Cup Fig Preserves
2 Tbs Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Kosher Salt
1 Tbs Black Pepper
1 Tbs Coriander
1 Tbs Chili Flakes
1 Tbs Dried Rosemary
1/2 Tbs Cinnamon
1 Bay Leaf
1 Tbs Dijon Mustard
- Six cups of water in a medium pot. Add honey, salt, pepper, mustard seeds, dried rosemary, chili flakes, and cider vinegar, and bay leaf. Stir to dissolve. Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.
- Remove pork loin from packaging, and trim any loose, excess fat. Transfer to large storage container, and submerge in the cools brine from step 1. Cover, and store in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours before cooking.
- Heat two tablespoons of butter, in a sauce pan on medium until brown, then add fig preserve, dijon mustard, cider vinegar, fresh thyme, black pepper, and salt. Stir until the fig caramelizes, and a thin sauce forms. Add an additional teaspoon of cold butter, then remove from the heat, and cool. Transfer to a jar, and reserve for glazing.
- Add chopped pecans to a dry pan on medium heat, and stir until fragrant. Add two tablespoons of butter, salt, sage, pepper, and coriander powder, and stir until the butter is absorbed. Remove from heat, cool, and store until ready to serve the meat.
- Remove the meat from the brine, and discard the brine. Pat the meat dry before cooking. Grill on high and sear until the meat comes away from the grill without tearing, then continue to sear on all sides. Move the meat to a cooler part of the grill, and cook for roughly twenty-five to thirty minutes. Brush on half of the fig glaze, wait for it to caramelize, then brush o remaining glaze, and finish cooking to desire temperature.
- Remove from the grill, and cover for at least ten minutes, then slice, and spread spiced pecans on top. Plate and serve.