These days when it comes to cooking pork, I automatically lean towards a brine. I know I’m a little slow to jump on the brining bandwagon, but I can’t believe what a difference it makes.
I adapted this recipe for brined pork loin with red cabbage from the Campanile cookbook. The pork is brined in a solution of water, kosher salt, sugar, thyme, peppercorns, cloves and allspice. The pork needs to sit in the brine for about 2 days, so plan ahead.
When I initially read through the recipe, I wasn’t sure about the cabbage part. The ingredients start off fine with cabbage, garlic, balsamic vinegar, caramelized onions. Then comes capers and sage. Capers, sage and red cabbage? That’s a combination that didn’t sound quite right to me. I decided to trust the recipe and go for it, and in the end I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
A word about capers: do you buy brined or salt packed capers? I started buying salt packed capers after reading about them, and they're definitely superior to the brined version. They're slightly more expensive, but have a much better flavor and texture. The only catch is that they need to be rinsed before use.
As expected, the brining process made the pork very flavorful, and the cabbage was a great complement.
Roasted loin of pork with red cabbage
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from the Campanile cookbook
For the pork:
1/3 cup kosher salt
3 T granulated sugar
2 T black peppercorns, cracked
1 T dried thyme
6 allspice berries, cracked
2 bay leaves
1 boneless pork loin, about 2 1/2 pounds
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick round slices
1 T canola oil
For the cabbage:
1 medium head red cabbage, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
1 T olive oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
salt and pepper
Combine two quarts of water with the salt, sugar, peppercorns, thyme, cloves, allspice and bay leaves in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the stockpot from the heat and transfer the brine to a bowl that's large enough to hold the pork. Cool the brine to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Add the pork to the brine, making sure that it's completely immersed. Refrigerate for 2 days. When ready to roast, remove the meat from the brine and dry with paper towels.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat heat the oil, then brown the pork on all sides. Place the onion slices on the bottom of the skillet and put the browned pork loin on top. Transfer to the oven and roast until a meat thermometer reads 138 degrees in the thickest part of the pork loin, about 25 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and place on a plate; wrap with foil. Let the pork rest while you prepare the cabbage.
Remove the onions from the skillet and coarsely chop. Heat up the olive oil in a large saute pan on high heat. Add the garlic, cook for one minute and turn heat down to medium. Add the cabbage and saute until the cabbage is wilted, about 6-8 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, chopped onions, capers and sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, cut the pork loin into 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Place the cabbage on a large platter, arrange the pork on top of the cabbage.