2-4 lb. boneless pork loin
curry powder, garam masala, or cumin*
chipotle or cayenne
*All ingredients are to taste and will vary depending on size of pork loin.
Preheat oven to 475º. Mix rub ingredients and rub pork loin all over, massaging mixture in. Coat on all sides with brown mustard and place in a deep glass dish, fat side down. Mix crust ingredients well, adding liquids until it forms coarse crumbs. Cover top of loin with a thin coat of herb crust.
Place in oven at 475º for 30 min. Then reduce temperature to 425º and continue to cook 1 hr. Rest 5 min. before slicing and serving.
Difficulty level: Jedi Knight
Required tools: Deep glass dish, small bowls
I have a signature dish. Developing it was like building my first lightsaber, and it’s what I cook when I want to impress people. It’s a mash-up of ideas from Sandra Lee and Paula Deen, with my own spin on it. It came of necessity, when I found the meat at $2.49/lb. at Aldi and wanted a way to cook it. I still pick one up when it’s that cheap, although now I ask the butcher to cut one in half. Even then, it’s two dinners for Lilbit and me, with enough leftovers for a week’s worth of lunches for me.
The trick to this recipe is spicing it however you want. I keep the spicy ingredients in the rub, closest to the meat. Even without puncturing the meat (something I would do with other meats), your rub flavors will seep deep into it. Be sure to massage them well into the meat, and to cover the ends.
The brown mustard works to hold the spices in and to keep the meat juicy. Pork is particularly prone to drying out, so this is vital. I work in the pan I’ll use to cook it, so it doesn’t matter what it touches during this step. End with the loin fat-side down. This way, there will be no need to grease the pan.
The herb crust (try dill instead of cilantro sometime) needs to form coarse crumbs. Be careful not to make too much, as a large amount of crust won’t cook properly. I form it into a thin crust over the pork loin, pressing it in and grabbing most of what falls off. Because we’re going to have the oven ridiculously hot, anything that’s in the pan will seriously burn.
Starting temperature for this dish is 475º. The best advice I can give for cooking meat at this temperature is to use glassware and make it deep. The first few times I made this, I used a baking sheet that sizzled and smoked to the point that it set off fire alarms and necessitated opening windows. This doesn’t happen with the glass dish. Also, others might recommend using a rack to provide airflow. I don’t, and there’s really no down side to it that I can see. After half an hour, turn the oven down to 425º and leave it for another hour. You might have to adjust your time higher for larger loins.
Get in the habit of tenting your meat for a few minutes after cooking it. Just take aluminum foil, fold it into a tent shape, and leave it loose over the meat. This allows it to finish cooking, and you have a chance to finish your sides. I was at the computer writing this post instead of making sides while this cooked, so it was tented a little longer than necessary. Still, the outside crust is nice and crisp, but the meat is flavorful and moist. It’s a perfect combination for a meat that you’ll probably get for pretty cheap.
Recommended Kool-Aid pairing: Orange. The cool tang of the orange is perfect for cleansing the palate after working through the complex spices in the crust, and it counters the richness of the meat.