Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pigging out on pork

6/10/09 Cook’s Corner
Pigging out on pork
Betty Kaiser

Father’s Day is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about dad’s favorite dinner. Pork loin barbecued on the grill is a favorite entree by the dad at our house. He likes the lean, tender, seasoned meat, and of course, the ease of preparation

For several months I have been a little leery of suggesting pork thanks to the Swine Flu scare. However, after much research, I am bravely going to stick my neck out, broach the subject and offer some recipes in today’s column.

The Swine Flu epidemic was frightening health wise as well as a public relations nightmare for the pork industry. As news of deaths from the virus kept escalating, the natural knee-jerk reaction around the world was to stop eating anything that smacked of pork. We never stopped eating it at our house but at times, I was a little uneasy.

It seemed the common sense thing to do. We didn’t know what the risks were. People began eating turkey bacon; Egypt slaughtered 300,000 pigs to destroy the virus. Countries like Russia and China banned U.S. and Canadian porcine imports; sales were reportedly slow everywhere and the prices of stock market hog futures were pushed down.

Finally, the Centers for Disease Control issued a statement: “Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160° F. kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.”

It was certainly a relief to have official word on such a controversial subject. However, it should be noted here that some professional cooks would disagree and only cook the meat to 145° F. To them, the meat is ‘shoe leather’ at 165° F. I’m not a professional so I err on the side of safety.

The problem I have with cooking pork is hitting that sweet spot between rare and dry. Years ago we were told to practically cook pork “until it was dead” or at least dead enough to kill the trichinosis parasite. Today that is seldom a problem as most of our meat is domestic and not wild. The easiest way to tell whether your meat is done enough is with a meat thermometer inserted long ways with the tip ending in the thickest part.

Sauces and dry rubs are traditional ways to spice up or sweeten any cut of pork. Here’s a hint if you like a sweet sauce: You know those small jars of gift jams and jellies that you get at the holidays? Use them as your base. Chutneys, pepper jellies, any of them will work.

Dry rubs are a process of hit and miss for me. It’s sometimes hard to judge how much chili powder, garlic, brown sugar and whatever else I’m throwing in to use. I often purchase pre-packaged rubs that come from gourmet cooking shops when I’m on vacation. They make unusual, tasty souvenirs and are easy to pack.

Our resident chef grills the meat in a covered grill on low to medium heat. Chuck rolls the meat with tongs a quarter turn every five minutes or so until done. Small pieces of tenderloin only take about 20 min. If you don’t have a thermometer use the touch test. When done, the meat will become firm to the touch. Remove from grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 min. It will continue cooking as it stands. Or, carve immediately if it seems overdone.

Here are two recipe ideas for your Father’s Day dinner. They are easy recipes to “make your own” by adding or exchanging ingredients. The instructions offer the choice of grilling outside or in the oven. Fresh asparagus, homemade applesauce and wild rice make great side dishes. Enjoy!

Lemon-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
(OR 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
(OR 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 pork tenderloins (1 pound each)

Combine the first 9 ingredients in small bowl; rub over tenderloins. Oven method: Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° F., 45-50 min. or until a meat thermometer reads 160°. Cover with foil; let stand 10 min. before slicing. Yield 8 servings.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apricot Glaze

2-3 pounds pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons garlic pepper (or equal parts garlic salt and pepper)
1/4 cup teriyaki or soy sauce
1/4 cup chili flavored olive oil
1/2 cup apricot jam

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Rub garlic pepper evenly onto both sides of the pork tenderloin. Mix together the teriyaki sauce and the chili-flavored oil and brush tenderloin with it. Place the tenderloin directly onto a hot grill and sear it by browning the meat quickly, sealing the tenderloin's juices inside.

After the meat has been seared, transfer it to a shallow baking dish. Brush again with the teriyaki-oil mixture. Liberally spread apricot jam over the pork and bake at 350 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes or until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Yield: 6-10 servings

Note: As a substitute for the chili oil, use an equal amount olive or canola oil adding a few red pepper flakes.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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