This is Marie, contributing a recipe that Grant pointed out from a book he recently read and enjoyed tremendously, even though it made him hungry. The book is Pure Pork Awesomeness by Chef Kevin Gillespie, and we received a complimentary copy of it for review at The Hipster Dad’s Bookshelf.
Grant was unaware that we are actually in possession of a cast iron skillet, because I never use it. He actually prefaced handing over the recipe to me with the statement that it might be a while before we could make it. That was reason enough to try for it. Well, also because the very next time I went to the store, pork loin was on sale. It helps tip the scale sometimes!
The recipe is actually quite easy to prepare, as long as you have all the ingredients together and there isn’t a toddler clinging to your ankle while you cook. I happened to have purchased a rather too-large container of cayenne the last time I went spice shopping because the store was out of the smaller ones and was pleased to find a use for it.
Prepare the dry rub first. In fact, if you have a spare container, make a double batch and put it aside. You’ll probably be wanting it for other purposes and it’s good to have some prepared and on hand. Also, since the meat needs to have at least 4 hours in the rub, it’s good to have that step out of the way so you can just go ahead and get started. Make sure to stir thoroughly before you measure, though, because the pepper separates out.
Taking into account that you need the rub prepared and a minimum of 4 hours advance time to let the meat soak in all the spicy goodness, it’s a very easy recipe that doesn’t take much time to prepare.
2 tablespoons dry brine (reserve 2 teaspoons): [2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dry black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, makes 2 1/2 tablespoons]
20 oz. center-cut boneless pork loin, cut into 8 chops, each about 1/2 inch thick (I did just 6)
2 russett potatoes (don’t sub a lower-starch potato)
1 Vidalia onion
Olive or canola oil
1/4 cup lard
Prepping the pork: After making the rub, set aside and reserve two teaspoons. Sprinkle each side of every steak with the rub, then tightly wrap in plastic or put it in a resealable bag with the air squeezed out. Refrigerate a minimum of four hours (we did five and it turned out great, but the recipe recommends eight for optimal results).
Prepping the potatoes: about 20 minutes before you wish to eat, peel and grate the potatoes on a box grater into a large bowl. Cut off the ends of the onion and the outer peel and grate the onion onto the potato. Work fast because there will a color change as the onion oxidizes. Mix and place on a small sieve or colander over a bowl, or in a bag of cheesecloth suspended over a bowl. Squeeze gently and allow the liquid to drip out for a short while. The starch will settle to the bottom and you can gently pour out the colored liquid. Dump the onion and potato into the reserved starch and mix thoroughly with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the reserved rub. The drain and starch step keeps the potato pancake together; don’t skip that step.
Prepping the pan:
Before you put the pan on the stove, open at least one window and turn on a vent fan. Pop your fire alarm battery if yours is sensitive; this is going to get smoky. While the potatoes are dripping, put the skillet on high heat with 1/4 cup lard in to melt. Take out the pork steaks and pat dry if needed, then drizzle lightly with oil, spreading it with a spoon to keep the coating light. get out a metal spatula and a set of tongs.
When the pan starts to smoke, turn the heat to medium, pat in the potato/onion mix and mush it gently into a round with the spatula. The edges will be starting to brown quickly, but watch for the potatoes to start becoming translucent and for the lard to bubble up, about 8 minutes. Carefully flip with the spatula (use two if needed) and cook the other side, about 4 minutes.
Put it on a plate with foil or a pot lid on top to keep in the heat. Turn up the heat to high again. When the pan smokes again, place the steaks in. You will need to do them in batches as they should be easy to separate. Cook until the edges of the pork are brown; flip. Since you may not have exactly 1/2 inch thickness on every steak, use the thumb-pad doneness test: put your pinkie and thumb tip together, and press on the base of the thumb. When the meat feels about that firm, it should be done. Slice the thickest steak to be sure if you need to test. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the rub before serving. Put your fire alarm battery back in!
Gillespie’s recipe called for pumpkin butter as a side, but I wasn’t in the mood for that. Instead, I popped open a jar of pears poached in red wine, and they went along beautifully.
It looks like a lot of work, but there is very little actual active time. Do make sure you are not distracted though, as once you start cooking you will want to focus to make sure nothing burns. The meat prep takes only 10 minutes or so, the potatoes a similar amount of time, and the pancakes and steaks take so little time to cook you really need to choose something fast like applesauce that you can just open and serve as your side.
The original recipe is from Pulled Pork Awesomeness by Kevin Gillespie and David Joachim (Andrews McMeel, 2015), a copy of which was provided by the publicist for the purpose of review.
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