Monday, September 14, 2009

Recipe: Pork Loin Marsala

As I was preparing this dish last night and transcribing the final version of the recipe, I came to a surprising realization: In my house, we go through a lot of alcohol just for cooking purposes.

For instance, this recipe calls for 3 cups of Marsala wine. That is quite a bit of wine (but worth it!), and we tend to keep two big bottles handy. We also keep big bottles of Port wine for a couple of pork recipes we cook frequently. Then of course there's Penne à la vodka which doesn't earn a name like that for nothing! In fact it's the ONLY reason we keep vodka in the house.

This list goes on and on. Bailey's Irish Cream for French toast, Chinese wine for Chinese sauces. Two kinds of sake for teriyaki and tonkatsu sauce. Cognac for steak diane, as well as regular and cherry brandies for a variety of flambés. Portuguese cachaca for Azorean chourico bombeiro and surely more that doesn't readily come to mind. That's just the specialty stuff. I couldn't even calculate how many bottles of white or red wine we go through a year for marinades, deglazing and sauce building!

I wonder what chefs did during prohibition?

This is a great recipe. For the best results you'll want to use fresh pork and pay careful attention to how you build your sauce. The objective is too create a nice silky sauce that clings to the pasta. If it seems watery, simmer on!

Pork Loin Marsala

4 Pork loin cutlets (cut 3/4 to 1" thick)
1/2 cup of flour plus 2 TBS
1/4 cup olive oil
3 TBS sweet butter
8 oz. Portobello mushrooms chopped coarse
3 cups Marsala wine
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
2 medium tomatoes diced (the redder, the riper, the better)
1 lb. dried pasta (your favorite)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Start the water for your choice of pasta. While you are preparing the pork cutlets and sauce, time your pasta to be ready just as your sauce is finishing.

Season the pork cutlets with salt and pepper, dredge/dust the cutlets heavily in flour and set aside.

In a large dutch oven set on medium-high to high heat add the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts sauté the mushrooms until they are half-cooked. Remove the mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon. Be sure to save the butter, oil and mushrooms behind in the pan. It's okay to add more olive oil if necessary.

Sear all the cutlets at once in the reserved oil and butter mix. Don't worry about browning them, you just want a good sear on both sides of all the cutlets to lock in the juices and keep the pork moist and tender.

Once the cutlets are seared, add two cups of the Marsala wine and tomato sauce to them (don't mix). Bring to a simmer and then lower the heat until the mix is barely bubbling. Cover the pan and braise the cutlets for 20 minutes. FOR OPTIMUM TENDERNESS, BE SURE THE MIX DOESN'T BREAK INTO A SIMMER! You'll have to readjust the heat a few minutes after you cover the pan. Do not lift the lid more than absolutely necessary.

After the 20 minutes is up carefully remove the cutlets and set them aside in a covered bowl to keep them warm.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the Marsala mix and raise the heat to cook down the tomatoes and thicken slightly. Stir frequently. Lower the heat if necessary.

Whisk the 2 TBS of flour into the remaining 1 cup of Marsala wine. Add that mix to the Marsala mix stirring constantly as the sauce thickens.

Once the sauce thickens, reintroduce the mushrooms to the mix. Stir well, letting the mushrooms reheat and cook a little (about 3 minutes).

Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning.

Reintroduce the pork cutlets. Gently stir in to coat with sauce and warm (about 1 minute).

Plate pasta, top with a pork cutlet and a generous amount of the Marsala mix over the cutlet and pasta.

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