I’ve been cooking a lot of meat lately for someone who was, only until recently, vegetarian. Last weekend I roasted a whole chicken for the first time in my adult life, it was surprisingly fun and the chicken turned out amazing. The other night I had lamb kabob, and a few nights back I made sirloin steaks with pepper sauce.
All of this meat eating has me thinking. A few years ago, I was staunchly vegan and couldn’t image returning to a meat centered diet. But, little by little, one slippery slope led to another and now I’m roasting chickens on the weekend and ordering up lamb kabob. In some ways, I feel like I’ve come full circle. I was once a person who ate meat without thinking much about where it came from or what happened to the animal it came from, and now I’m a person who eats meat fully conscious and aware of its origin. I never would have arrived at this point without my in-between vegan phase.
I love being in the kitchen, and I adore learning about cooking techniques, cuisine, and culture. As a vegetarian, I really felt like I was missing out. I hated having to turn down food offered to me in the spirit of hospitality, and I hated feeling like other people thought I was judging their food choices (when actually, I was).
So tonight, I made a pork loin rubbed with rosemary salt and garlic, served with fingerling potatoes and leeks and drizzled with a porcini mushroom merlot sauce. Doesn’t that sound good? Here’s how you do it:
The first step: prepare the rub. Take a few teaspoons of kosher salt, a sprig or two of fresh rosemary and a clove of garlic. Strip the rosemary leaves off the stalk. Mince the rosemary and garlic into the salt until fine.
Now, rub the rosemary garlic salt into the pork loin. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Pre-heat your oven to 375 and set the pork loin aside.
Slice two small leeks lengthwise down the middle, make sure to rinse thoroughly and remove any grit. Now, chop into 1/2″ slices. Sautee leeks in butter (I always eyeball it), until just tender.
Scrub your fingerling potatoes well and put in a 9×9 glass baking dish. Add leeks stir. Add carrots and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Put pork loin and potatoes in the oven. They should cook at the same time. The pork loin will take 25-30mins per pound. I have a tiny oven that doesn’t heat very well, so my cooking time was more like 35-40mins per pound. To check for doneness, you can use a meat thermometer (180 for pork), or slice into it, the meat will go from pink to white when it’s done and the juices run clear. Make sure to let the loin rest for about 15mins after cooking.
For the Merlot Sauce, rehydrate 1/4cup dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 10-15mins. Discard most of the water, save about 1-2Tbsp. In a sauce pan, heat 2 Tblsp butter on medium high, add in one shallot, minced. Before butter browns, add 1/2 cup merlot. Let the wine reduce, about 5mins. Add 1/4 cup cream or half and half. Stir constantly so the cream won’t burn. Cook to desired thickness, I take it off the heat after 5-10mins and it will continue to thicken as it cools.
This was my first dish using porcini mushrooms. There really is no other mushroom that tastes like a porcini. They had a slightly smoky, almost bacon-like flavor that paired perfectly with the pork loin.
And oh, that pork loin. The herb rub turned into the perfect crust, and the delicate, moist meat practically melted on our tongues. I had to stop Chris from trying to eat the entire loin in one sitting!
I know that for my health and for the welfare of animals, I can’t eat these kinds of meals every day, but what a wonderful weekend treat. This would make a fantastic dinner for entertaining or a romantic dinner for two. I’m already looking forward to the leftovers.