Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pork with Vinegar and Bay Leaves and Tuscan Soup

Another simple Hazan recipe. People speak highly of it. Now that I have discovered pork loin, I am keen to try a few of her pork recipes.

I bought pork this time that didn't have an obnoxious amount of crackling fat on it, although it did have some fat (which I partially chopped off). It is not a cut of meat that butchers usually sell, as such. I think here anyway they make pork chops out of it or pork steaks. I'm not sure what they are called but they are cut up from the loin and sold separately.

Anyway, I asked for it and managed to get it.

There isn't much to do with this one. I browned the meat as requested, feeling faintly guilty at planning a meal of pork cooked in butter when I am trying to decrease in size rather than increase.

A teaspoon of peppercorns were bashed, not with a hammer as suggested, but with a rolling pin. I don't find I roll anything with that pin, just bash.

In they went with the dried bay leaves. I had bought fresh but they disappeared somewhere between the vege shop and home. I really need to buy myself another bay tree.

The vinegar was next. If Marcella Hazan has done one thing, it is to make me appreciate vinegar. Just last night I had a salad dressed with it. My favourite Hazan dish is now braised lamb with vinegar and beans.

The recipe calls for the vinegar to not be boiled away while the sides and bottom of the pan are scraped. I dutifully complied, but my urgent scraping resulted in hot fat and vinegar jumping from the pan and onto my arm. I was more worried about the lost vinegar than the burn, as so I poured a little more in the pan, and put the lid on tightly.

Prior to putting the pork on I had started off a batch of Giuliano Hazan's Tuscan Soup from his Every Night Italian. This soup is a miracle really, as there is no stock or broth to speak of, and it is still delicious. Having said that, if I have broth to burn it is even tastier if you use it instead of water. Unfortunately I did not, but I did sneak in a parmesan cheese rind which Marcella suggests is a good idea. I think it is.

It is a good feeling having pots simmering on the stove, filling the house with comforting cooking smells, and knowing that all the work has been done hours before any guests arrive.

On the question of timing, Marcella is a little vague, suggesting that I cook until the pork is tender. The efforts of others documented on the internet had timeframes from 40 minutes to an hour and a half. I could have asked her but I really didn't want to agitate on something so trivial.

On a whim I took a look at her Classic Italian Cookbook, published before I was born in 1973. This is of course the book that started it all and which was combined with More Classic Italian Cooking in the early 90s to form Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Here Marcella helpfully suggests that the pork be cooked for at least 2 hours. Pleasingly she also says that a minestrone would be a good first course.

The planets aligned for this meal. The Tuscan Soup was absolutely sublime (thanks Giuliano) and the pork was a fabulous followup. The pork tasted of itself but was in a beautiful vinegar and pepper sauce. It was subtle, divine, delectable and delicious.

We really enjoyed it.

This recipe is a keeper.

Thanks Marcella.

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