Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spicy and Sweet: Apricot Pistachio Crusted Pork Loin

Whenever a holiday comes up, obviously there is much planning to be done.  There are decisions to be made on exactly what will be served, how it will be prepared and what will go with it.  It probably goes without saying that I insert myself into the middle, and often completely take it over an a pretty regular basis.  However, much to my mother's chagrin, I rarely decide on what exactly I want to make for the holiday until just before the day, which makes it difficult for those advance planners in the family.  Unfortunately, for this just past Easter, I caused the same issues.  We decided on pork loin some weeks ago- but in terms of how I wanted to prepare it- well- I was dragging my feet. 

One of the things that I noticed a couple of weeks ago at Taste of the Nation was that our local chefs appear to be using Pistachio's more this year.  These nutty little gems have taken the back seat for years compared to their counterparts in the almond, walnut and peanut, so I was thrilled to see that this year they seem to be standing on their own.  I decided to try my own hand at them and use them as part of a crust for the Easter Pork Loin.  I began to picture orange flavor with the pistachios and maybe something spicy.  I began by marinating the loin in orange juice, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper for about 24 hours.  Then I was off to the grocery store!

I had been imagining orange marmalade for the base of the crust I was going to prepare for the pork, but somehow my local store was out- so I opted for Apricot Jam instead, and then also picked up an orange, and Thai Chili Peppers.  Thai Chili Peppers are, by site alone, adorable.  They are tiny green peppers, much smaller than your average Serrano or Jalapeno, and a whole lot hotter.  

Back at home I finely chopped 7-8 cloves of garlic, a handful of parsley and two of the Thai Chilies and stirred this into 1/2 cup of the Apricot Jam, the zest of one orange, salt, and 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped roasted and unsalted pistachios.  The result was a very chunky crust/glaze- thick and gooey- which had nice distribution for sweet to not sweet.  I will say that this was pretty spicy-so if you're looking for something less powerful, only use one Tai Chili, or a milder pepper.

When we were ready to put the pork in the oven to begin its long cooking process, I quartered three onions and placed them in the bottom of a roasting pan, placed the pork on top of these, fat side up, and then liberally spread the crust on top, careful to make sure that every centimeter of the meat was covered.  We popped the meat into the oven (350 for an hour or so).  

As the meat cooked amazing smells began to waft from the kitchen- the onions gently roasting, the pork saturated in orange juice, and the flavors of the crust all mingled together and filled the rooms with hunger inducing smells.  The crust did brown as it cooked, a product of the sugar in the jam.

When the thermometer finally read 170 degrees, we pulled the loin from the oven and surveyed its beauty.  I let it rest and then finally cut into it.  The crust did fall off a bit as I sliced, but it was easy enough to just scoop those bits back on to the slices and enjoy.  

Now, I'm a pretty tough critic- especially of my own food- but this was pretty fantastic.  The pork had a light orange flavor to it- not overpowering at all, but just a hint of citrus to offset the dense flavor of the pork itself.  The crust though was awesome.  Each bite began with a slow sweetness, blended into the wonderful garlic and orange and ended with real heat.  The pistachios, often an overpowering flavor, was light compared to the other ingredients, and accentuated the dish with its unique crunch for texture variation.  I was really pleased with the levels of flavor present, each one held its own, and then receded as the next took it's place.  

Obviously I love spice and heat, but I do tire often of regulating heat to typical dishes.  This crust played with heat while offering plenty of other flavors.  The result was easy to enjoy without your mouth ever feeling on fire, and still able to enjoy each ingredient to its fullest.    


Jen said...

Ok, my mouth is watering. This sounds delicious! Good job!

Anonymous said...

Yummy!! I don't make pork loin as often as I would like.

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Sweet! Love those pistachios, sounds like a great combo of flavors!! Nice work...hi-five!

Alicia said...

Yum, that crust looks phenomenal. I love the combination of pistachios and apricots. Looks like a delicious meal!

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...