Italian Milk-Braised Pork Roast with Porcini Mushrooms & Creamy Lemon Polenta
Let me begin by saying this is one of my all-time favorite slow cooker recipes that I've ever made. That is a very tall order, because I already have over 500 recipes on my food blog. With that said, this is an Italian dish that is a regional favorite of Bologna. The ingredients begin with a pork loin roast and whole milk. As the pork cooks into the milk, the milk morphs into a aromatic and nutty sauce. That's because springs of fresh sage and rosemary infuses the milk, as does fresh garlic, dried porcini mushrooms and a few other basic pantry ingredients. It took only 2 hours of cooking in a slow cooker for this dinner to be ready. While the pork rests, the silky sauce is pureed with an immersion blender. All of my dinner guests were awed at how moist the pork was-- and the sauce...wow! I served this over Creamy Lemon Polenta, which also got rave reviews. The prep work for this is about 30 minutes, but after that-- let the slow cooker do it's magic. A bottle of wine and an appetite will make this a dinner you won't forget. Recipe slightly adapted from Cuisine at Home Feb 2014 and Cook's Illustrated March April 2014. Please click on the recipe source link to see how I made this on my food blog "A Feast for the Eyes".
- 2 ounces salt pork, chopped coarse
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pork loin roast (3 to 4-pound), seasoned with salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
- Olive oil (for searing)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (decrease by half if you are sensitive to spice)
- Zest of 1 lemon, minced
- 2 sprigs each fresh rosemary and sage, tied with kitchen string
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest, minced
- Heavy cream (just a splash, a scant 1/4 cup)
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
Preparation time 30mins
Cooking time 165mins
Adapted from afeastfortheeyes.net
Note: Why simmer salt pork to render the fat? Cook's Illustrated's explanation is "that’s because the pork’s slightly acidic juices lower the pH of the milk, causing the clusters of casein proteins in milk that normally repel one another to suddenly attract one another and form clumps. Heating the milk speeds up this reaction." "A couple of tablespoons of fat added to the whole milk keeps it from curdling—even when super acidic wine is introduced."
Bring the pork loin to room temperature (about 30 minutes) and pat very dry. Season with coarse salt and black pepper.
Turn the slow cooker on to low heat. If you don't own a slow cooker, you could prepare this dish in a Dutch Oven, covered, at 275°F for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until it registers at 145°F.
Bring salt pork and 1/2 cup water to simmer in Dutch oven over medium heat. Simmer until water evaporates and salt pork begins to sizzle, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until salt pork is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 2 to 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, discard salt pork, leaving fat in pot.
Add pork, fat side down, and sear until brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes more; transfer to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add garlic to skillet; cook 30 seconds.
Note: I did drizzle a little olive oil and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter once I really began searing the pork for extra color and caramelization.
Deglaze skillet with wine,scraping up any brown bits.
Add milk, cream, porcini, anchovy paste, pepper flakes, baking soda and zest; simmer 3 minutes.
Pour milk mixture around pork in slow cooker; submerge rosemary and sage.
Cover slow cooker and cook pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145°F on low setting, 2 hours.
Transfer pork to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Discard rosemary and sage.
Purée sauce in slow cooker with a handheld blender until smooth; season with salt and black pepper.
Note: If you don't own an immersion blender, you can puree this in a regular blender. Just don't overfill the blender, and cover the top with a hot towel, to prevent an explosion or burns!
Slice pork and serve with sauce.
The sauce is divine! Serve with Creamy Lemon Polenta, for a perfect pairing.
Boil broth and buttermilk in a saucepan over medium heat.
Whisk in cornmeal, reduce heat to low, and cook, whisking constantly,
5 minutes; remove from heat.
Stir in Parmesan, butter, a splash of heavy cream and zest; season with salt and pepper.
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