It’s the moment of truth. My first time ever cooking up a rack of pork. Was it a success? My answer is a resounding YES. Followed promptly by a “why the heck haven’t I tried brining pork before?” I honestly believe that this was the best piece of swine I have ever put my mouth too. It was tender enough to cut with a butter knife and the flavor. Well, let me just say that all three kids were practically begging for seconds and even thirds. Drew, my youngest, kept saying “more chicken!” despite my efforts to educate him on the cut of meat before him. He even cleared his plate of broccoli after I told him it was the only way to get a third helping. Alex gave it not one, not two, but one hundred thumbs up (who knew kids had so many thumbs?). And all three kids let out a whoop and a holler when I told them we would be having a repeat of the same dinner the next night (5 pounds of pork is enough to feed an army let alone a family of five.)
I will say that this isn’t a quick weeknight put together type of meal. You need to set aside time for all the steps involved. But that being said, it’s not difficult to achieve pork perfection and with a little patience, I think you’ll find the steps are simple and straightforward and your guests (and family!) will thank you over and over for your efforts.
Before I jump to the recipe, I want to remind you to stop back over at last Sunday’s post and cast a vote for your favorite pork recipe! The highest vote getter will be awarded the coveted Costco gift card to help them create a bit of their own pork magic.
Time to “ham” it up with a delicious recipe.
Ok, that was just plain bad.
Reach for your trusty stock pot and fill it up with two quarts of water, a big ol’ pour of salt, some sugar, and a few select herbs and spices.
Bring it to a gentle boil; just hot enough to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat, add in another 2 quarts of chilled water, and place in the fridge to cool down completely.
Note: This brine was measured out for a 5 pound rack of pork. If your rack is significantly bigger or smaller, you may want to make adjustments to how much brine you make (i.e. half the brine recipe for a 2.5pd rack of pork.).
Once your water is good and cool, slide the pork into the pot being sure to submerge it completely.
Stick it back into your fridge and let the brine work it’s magic for the next 2 to 3 hours.
When time expires, you may either
A. Remove the rack from the water, drop it into a baking dish and pop it back into the fridge for another half hour or so to dry out
B. for us “short on timers”, grab up a couple handfuls of paper towel and pat it nice and dry (and I do mean nice and dry. Pat until your paper towels are no longer seeing significant liquid.)
Grab up a large frying pan, swirl a couple tablespoons of oil around the perimeter and let it get good and hot. Drop your pork into the pan and sear it up for a good 3 to 4 minutes per side to seal in all those lovely juices.
After he (or she) has been sufficiently “juice retained”, pop ‘er back into the baking dish and slide into your oven to cook up the rest of the way.
It used to be that you needed to wait until your pork reached on internal temperature of 160 degrees for it to be considered done, but the USDA recently revised their recommendation to 145 degrees with a three minute rest. Personally, this pork loving person couldn’t be more thrilled. The lower temperature really helps retain all those delectable juices that elevate a chop from simply fine to seriously fantastic.
Of course, what’s pork with out a pan gravy to go with it?
Grab hold of the pan you cooked the pork in (with the remaining oil and tasty bits still attached) and heat up some mushrooms, onion, and garlic; my version of the culinary holy trinity.
Stir in a few tablespoons of flour and then deglaze the pan with a glug or two of white wine and some chicken broth.
Slide the heat down a notch and finish it off with a little tarragon, sherry, dijon mustard and half & half.
Serve up a ladle of pan gravy along with the finished pork and prepare to indulge is a sweet swine feast.
As my rack of pork adventure comes to a lip smacking finish, I want to encourage everyone to get out there and try that one recipe that truly challenges your inner Iron Chef because chances are, you’ll surprise yourself with what you can accomplish in the kitchen.
"Brinified" Rack of Pork with Onion Mushroom Pan Gravy
Yield: 8 Servings
Total Time: 4 hours
For the Pork:
1 5 Pound Rack of Pork
4 Quarts Water
3/4 Cup Table Salt
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Bunch Fresh Tarragon (about 5-6 sprigs)
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 tsp Dried Basil (or 1 bunch fresh)
2 tsp Pepper
2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
For the Mushroom Pan Gravy:
1 Onion, Diced
6 Oz. Sliced Mushrooms
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Tbsp Flour
1/2 Cup White Wine
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 Tbsp Sherry
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Tarragon (or 1-2 sprigs fresh)
1/4 Cup Half & Half
Salt to Taste
For the Rack of Pork:
Grab up a large stock pot and add 2 quarts of the water along with the salt, brown sugar, tarragon, garlic, basil, and pepper.
Bring it to a light boil and allow the sugar and salt to dissolve into the water.
Once dissolved, remove it from the heat, add in the remaining 2 quarts of cold water (to help cool it back down quicker), and let cool completely in the fridge for about a half hour to an hour.
Add in the pork and submerge completely. Let it sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
If you have time, remove the pork from the brining water and let it sit in the fridge for a half hour uncovered to dry out. If time is of the essence, you can speed it up by patting the pork nice and dry with paper towel.
Heat up the oil in a large sauce pan on high heat.
Add the pork into the pan and let it sear for about 3-4 minutes on each side.
Place it into a baking dish and slide into the oven at 300 degrees until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees.
Bring it out and tent with a slice of aluminum foil for about 3-5 minutes.
For the Mushroom Pan Gravy:
Using the same pan you seared the pork in, cook up the onion, mushrooms and garlic on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Drop in the flour and stir into the mixture.
Deglaze the pan with the wine and then add in the chicken broth. Let cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Turn the heat down a notch and add in the sherry, dijon, tarragon and half & half.
Salt to taste. Serve gravy over pork.
Note: The brine ingredients were measured out for a 5 pound rack of pork. If your rack is significantly bigger or smaller, you may want to make adjustments to how much brine you make (i.e. halve the brine recipe for a 2.5pd rack of pork.).