Roast pork loin, zucchini/corn tart, and Romaine salad with bleu cheese: For family, for flavor, for joy.

A meal like this makes dinner epic. And recipes like this make it easy.

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Pork loin at your big box store is less than $2 per pound. Thank goodness stores don't charge in proportion to flavor, because roasting that pork loin delivers so much deliciousness, it would take a royal ransom to pay for it. 

And that is great news for so many families. You don't have to spend large to live large. 

All it takes is some smart choices. So, herewith, on our Recipe of the Week from EuroCAST, we present a few smart choices that bring out the best in a pork loin, and accompany it with eye-poppingly beautiful and mouthwateringly delicious sides.

Let's put some joy at your table.

How to make an exceptional roast pork loin

Our partner company, blak•label, specializes in oils, vinegars, mustards, rubs ... all kinds of things that taste great and make your life easier. I especially appreciate that they source many of their ingredients from the world's best providers and from countries with reputations for crazy attention to quality and authenticity. (Check out blak•label here.)

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Part of my alchemical obsession with their products is figuring out how to use them in combinations that taste good ... and save me tons of time. This week's pork loin is a perfect example. 

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 loins trimmed
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons mustard. I use blak•label Honey Truffle Mustard because it's crazy good, with just enough earthiness to round out the pork loin.
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon of a spicy chili sauce of your choosing
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic

The flavor profile of the chili sauce and minced garlic is beautifully captured in blak•label Chili Garlic Crunch. In fact (I confess), that's what I used. (Here's a direct link if you're inspired to get it. And you should.)

PROCEDURE

Get your meat thermometer ready. We don't want to guess when the loin's ready ... and we absolutely do not want to overcook it. 

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  1. Mix the wet ingredients together, then give those loins a good bath in them, covering all surface areas.
  2. Cover them tightly with plastic wrap and let them hang out in the refrigerator, ideally overnight but -- if time is critical -- at least marinate the loins for the time it takes to set the table, put the salad together, and prepare the tart.
  3. In your EuroCAST grill pan, or the top of your EuroCAST double roaster, place the loins side by side.
  4. Season with a sprinkling of 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
  5. Roast in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F, until you've reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Take the loins out immediately when they reach that temperature. Let it rest at least three minutes -- or (as I recommend in this recipe) until it gets to room temperature. Frankly -- and this is just me -- I always cook to somewhat less than the target interior temperature and let it rest a long time. I remove the loins from the oven when the top is well-browned and it's firm to the touch, about 10 minutes before reaching the target temperature because (and this is science), the temperature will continue to rise even after the meat has been removed from the heat. This is a decidedly black belt maneuver and requires some finesse. If you follow the 145 degrees F guidance and let it rest at least three minutes, you'll do well.
  6. As for resting: Remove the loins from the pan, put on a plate, and tent with foil. The point of resting is that the juices will retract into the meat. The loin becomes even more sumptuous.

Once the pork loin has come to room temperature, slice it wafer thin. Then  drizzle with your best quality olive oil, top with a dash of salt and -- because it is my way -- sprinkle with crushed red pepper flake and edible flowers.

Why crushed red pepper flakes and edible flowers?

As Bonnie Raitt would say, let's give them something to talk about.

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Grilled romaine salad with St. Agur bleu cheese dressing

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This is one of those “Wow, that never occurred to me” salads: Grilled romaine with an extra crispy veggie chop and a whip-easy-to-put-together dressing.

But the real star is the grilled lettuce. 

Romaine

  1. Start with 2 heads romaine lettuce split in half. If they’re huge, split them into quarters. Either way, drizzle the split heads with a bit of olive oil.
  2. Place the lettuce, cut side down, onto your hot EuroCAST grill pan, and grill until you have grill marks. TIP: Place them and trust them. Don't move them around. Gently peer underneath occasionally to check for grill marks. I use the top of another pot to press the lettuce into the pan. It makes for sharper lines. 
  3. Turn 1/4 in the pan and repeat.
  4. I like my salads chilled. Like, colder than Superman's Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole in winter, at night, which it always is at the North Pole in winter.  So, after you grill these girls up, put them back into the fridge.

You could, if you were calculating, grill these off in the morning and put them in the fridge before you head off into the day. 

Veggie chop

Use what you love. The extra sweet crunch of raw vegetables is such a welcome note on the plate against the smoky goodness of the grilled romaine. Here’s my list:

  • Radish
  • Red onion
  • Green onion
  • Peas or peapods
  • Red cabbage
  • Red pepper

Chop them loosely, aiming for beauty and variety. Always a good aim.

St. Agur bleu cheese dressing

That's a dressing so easy to make, you'll giggle. If you're a bit scared of bleu cheese, I encourage you to be brave. Just a little bit at a time, and pay attention to all the wonderful flavors and aromas. If you love bleu cheese, you're in good company, and for all the right reasons: Flavors should not just be primary colors. Bleu cheese for me is like a Van Gogh, or, when it's a gentler bleu cheese,  Monet's haystack paintings . (Get in close on those paintings on your computer while you're eating bleu cheese. You'll thank me. I think. Well, let me know.)

That's a dressing so easy to make, you'll giggle. If you're a bit scared of bleu cheese, I encourage you to be brave. Just a little bit at a time, and pay attention to all the wonderful flavors and aromas. If you love bleu cheese, you're in good company, and for all the right reasons: Flavors should not just be primary colors. Bleu cheese for me is like a Van Gogh, or, when it's a gentler bleu cheese, Monet's haystack paintings. (Get in close on those paintings on your computer while you're eating bleu cheese. You'll thank me. I think. Well, let me know.)

St. Agur bleu cheese is one of my all time favorite cheeses. To make the ultimate bleu cheese dressing,  I just chuck some St. Agur into a bottle of good-quality commercial bleu cheese dressing. Organic, if you please. 

Wait, what? This isn't a recipe if you're using a prepared off-the-shelf dressing, right? Ah, but it is indeed a recipe. The St. Agur -- creamy and fascinating -- not only makes it "yours", it makes the story. People will love your salad with this version of this dressing. 

After all, making dinner epic doesn't mean you have to make everything totally from scratch. You just have to make things with integrity, a point of view, and flavor people will remember. 

Zucchini corn tart

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For the tart, use my basic pate brisée recipe here ("A Slow Ride to Comfort Town")

  • 1 pie dough, rolled onto parchment paper and then fit onto the EuroCAST griddle. TIP: The paper is for ease of lifting and cutting. It’s by habit that I use it, but unnecessary because of our lovely, nonstick EuroCAST. Keep the griddle -- and pastry -- cool until you're ready to top by removing the handle and putting the griddle with the pastry back into your fridge, covered in wax paper or cling wrap to keep it from drying out.
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons minced chives 

In your EuroCAST skillet, pour 2 Tablespoons olive oil and sauté gently in batches (to avoid over-crowding and thus steaming):

  • 3 large (or 6 very small) zucchini sliced wafer-thin, ideally on a mandoline

They will begin to char and caramelize. You won't need more olive oil to keep it from sticking (thank you, EuroCAST), but you may want to add a bit more as you go along for the flavor. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining slices.

Wipe out pan and sauté:

  • 1/4 red onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2/3 cup fresh-cut corn
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper

Sauté until onion is slightly translucent and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

Assembly prior to baking

Top the pate brisée with the feta cheese crumbles, cheddar cheese, black pepper and chives. 

Decorate the top with the corn and zucchini as you wish. The layers are shallow to provide a consistent cooking area.

Bake at 325F for 25 minutes, or until the crust is firm and the toppings are golden-brown.

Paul WardComment