Monday, October 12, 2015

Boneless Pork Frankenloin
How to make so many substitutions to a recipe it no longer resembles the recipe you started with

So I had this portion of a pork loin sitting in my freezer; this hunk of meat that I had to commit ahead of time to make because one doesn't defrost a loin of pork and then put off roasting it because one got home late and only had the energy to make a martini OR make dinner and, the way things have been going lately, the martini always wins so long as the Tanqueray holds out.

This particular pork loin was a cute little end piece I surreptitiously snipped off the end of a larger roast I'd made earlier this summer for the family at large. It was the perfect size for two people to have dinner and a few pork sandwiches.1

A boneless pork loin is basically a big hunk of solid meat, a sort of blank canvas for flavor and, paired with a morning spent watching Food Network, it was destined for a more creative treatment than my usual rub-n-roast.

At first I thought I'd cut it into individual boneless chops, butterfly the chops and stuff them. But, in seeking inspiration from the internet, I happened upon a video of stuffing a pork loin roast.

Now here's the thing about recipes off the internet: they're written by people who actually make meal plans; people who go grocery shopping on a regular basis -- people who have money to go grocery shopping on a regular basis. Here in Linguiniland, grocery shopping is done as a last resort -- when even the ramen is gone and you can see straight through the top shelf to the bottom of the crisper drawer.

The guy on the video had thought out his meal so far ahead that he had figs on hand for the stuffing and time to hunt down something with the unfortunate name of "fat caul.2" He was so organized, he had butcher's twine and so wealthy, he had a Le Creuset roaster.

So, basically, this is the same recipe, in so much as there is a pork loin that it's stuffed, but all similarities end there. My stuffing is significantly more humble: the only bread on hand was stale hot dog buns in the freezer and from that I just threw together the standard stuffing I use at Thanksgiving in a much smaller quantity.

I substituted the "fat caul" with bacon because I figure you can substitute just about anything with bacon. (Couldn't they come up with a better name than "fat caul?")

My butcher's twine is the end of a skein of cotton yarn I used to knit dishcloths. Just call me the MacGyver of the kitchen.

I did have to learn to butterfly a pork loin, not easy when it's a teeny tiny pork loin end. But, just as you can use bacon as a substitute for everything, you can also use bacon to camouflage ugly knife skills. And it doesn't have a depressing name like "smoked pig stomach lining."

I roasted the whole thing on a bed of onions and made a sort of jus/gravy (I like jus, Dirtman likes to drown things in gravy -- so I compromise).

The recipe was a success, but will work infinitely better with a full roast. Next time, I'll plan ahead and put apples and pecans in the stuffing.

The bacon could barely contain the stuffing in my tiny butterflied roast and I doubt that...Thing That Shall Not Be Named... would do much better. I'm sticking with the bacon anyway; the flavor was out of this world! I doubt anything called "caul" could do much better.

...And then I don't have to explain to anyone that I wrapped their dinner in a caul.

1. The perfect size for a couple that never hears from their sons for whom they sacrificed and slaved, obtaining gray hair and probably an ulcer, yet are never bitter or expectant of any gratitude for the 70 hours of labor she put into bringing said sons to life or the ENDLESS MONTHS OF HOMESCHOOLING SHE SPENT EXPLAINING THE DIFFERENCE AMONG "TO, TOO AND TWO" AND "THERE, THEIR AND THEY'RE;" but a couple that does not want to confine their pork loin consumption to times when said ingrates deign to drop by expecting to be fed.

2. The only other reference I can think of to a "caul" is in the book David Copperfield -- apparently David is born with a "caul," which is eventually sold because people were evidently less squeamish and more superstitious. Since a "caul" is, basically, the afterbirth over the head of a baby that hadn't been pierced in the birth process, it hardly conjures culinary visions in my brain but, instead, sort makes me throw up a little in my mouth.