Last night we invited over our group of friends that will traveling with us to Positano next year. It was a really fun evening of Italian wine and food and great company, all excited about our trip to one of my favorite places in the world! Yes, I know the trip is 8 months away, but if you want to stay in the best place, Villa Le Sirene, and hire the best driver, Vincenzo Fusco, you have to plan ahead!
Everyone in the group loves to cook so each brought a dish with Kerry and I providing some appetizers and the meat course. I decided on grilled pork loin, and a recipe that was fairly easy yet really flavorful, featuring my two favorite herbs for Italian cooking. Thanks to Kerry, sage and rosemary are in abundant supply in our garden!
The key to this dish is the brining and proper grilling. Brining improves the flavor, texture, and moisture content of lean cuts of meat by soaking the meat in a moderately salty solution for a few hours to a few days. Flavor brining also provides a temperature cushion during cooking, so if you happen to overcook the meat a little, it will still be moist.
At a minimum, a flavor brine consists of water and salt. Other ingredients may include sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, fruit juices, beer, liquor, bay leaves, pickling spices, cloves, garlic, onion, chilies, citrus fruits, peppercorns, and other herbs and spices. This one adds my two favorite herbs to the mix with garlic, salt and sugar. I have to admit it was pretty delicious and was a perfect pairing with the newly arrived 2011 Terre Nere Etna Rosso!
For the brined pork
3 ounces kosher salt (3/4 cup if using Diamond Crystal; 6 tablespoons if using Morton)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
3 large sprigs fresh sage
3-pounds all-natural boneless pork loin, trimmed of excess fat
For the herb paste
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. For the Brine: In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, garlic, and herb sprigs with 2 cups of water. Stir over high heat just until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 6 more cups of water and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large container, add the pork, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours.
2. Put the garlic, rosemary, sage, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large mortar and pound to a coarse paste with the pestle. Add the oil and use the pestle to work it into the garlic paste. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, combine all the ingredients in a mini food processor and pulse into a coarse paste.
3.Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry (discard the brine). Spread the herb paste liberally over the entire outer surface of the pork.
4. Heat the grill to 350 degrees F. Put the roast in the cool zone on the grill, turning the roast about every 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted near the center of the roast registers 145 degrees F, 35 to 45 minutes.
5. Remove the roast from the grill and transfer it to a cutting board. Let stand for 5 minutes and slice thinly. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. If you want, finish it off with a little sage fried crispy in olive oil!