04 November 2013

Eats: bacon-wrapped pork loin

One of my goals for this summer was to eat outside as frequently as possible, preferably at places with café lights strung overhead. I didn’t get to every restaurant on my list before the weather turned cold, but I managed to check off a few!

My favorite patio, I think, is just a few blocks from our apartment at Bar Italia. I’ve only been a handful of times, and Mr. P has only been once, but every time I’ve been, the food’s been tops. On our most recent visit, I ordered a dinner special that I’m still dreaming about. And instead of just dreaming, I did what I do any time I have a great meal: I try to recreate it at home.

Admittedly, one of the reasons I enjoyed this meal so much was because the weather was just starting to turn cooler, and the foods just tasted like harvest time. In other words... PERFECT for Thanksgiving. So I decided to tell you about different part of this meal throughout the month of November, both so you can plan for your Thanksgiving dinner and so you can enjoy the fall-tasting foods all month long.

So let’s start with the entrée, which is decidedly not turkey. It’s pork! Two kinds of pork, actually.

Boneless pork loin (on sale for under two bucks a pound, woot!) AND thick-cut bacon, to wrap around the pork loin. I mean... I’d take that over turkey any day.

For our dinner, I cut the loin in half and froze the rest. I then salted and peppered the remainder (about 2.25 pounds total) and started wrapping it with bacon, securing the ends with toothpicks.

Using thick-cut bacon really helps to keep the whole mess together. I actually “sewed” the toothpicks into the pork to make sure the bacon was secure, and yes, “sewing” into meat is possibly one of the grossest things I’ve ever described on the blog. It wasn’t pleasant in real life either. But it worked!

All right, now: I wanted to cook this pork-on-pork situation in the crockpot. But, I was really worried that there would be too much grease, which would cause the bacon to be soggy and the pork to be too tender. So, before tossing it in the crockpot, I seared the bacon on the outside of the loin over medium-high heat on the stove.

(Please ignore the pile of whatever those crumbs are on my stove. I will never win a clean-stove award, especially since cleaning a gas stovetop is THE WORST.)

I just cooked it enough to get the bacon gently browned:

Then threw it in my crockpot for a couple of hours, no extra liquid needed! I believe I set it on “low” for two hours, but really, my crockpot’s “low” is another crockpot’s “HOT HOT HEAT”, so use your best judgment. You could even pop it in the oven in a dutch oven, if you are crockpot-less. However you cook it, ultimately you want it to look like this:

There was additional bacon fat rendered while it cooked, but fortunately, it wasn’t much, and the finished product wasn’t soggy at all. In fact, it sliced up quite nicely!

I pulled the toothpicks out as I sliced it, but the bacon mostly stayed put around each slice of pork loin. I was happy to see that it didn’t all fall apart – usually when I cook pork in the crockpot (like this), it quickly becomes pulled pork. But with the toothpicks holding its shape, the reduced liquid, and the searing beforehand, it stayed a company-table-worthy entrée!

And of course, it was delicious with the rest of my copycat meal. How could it not be? I mean, BACON.

So if you’re expecting company this month – perhaps for a non-traditional, turkey-free Thanksgiving dinner? – this is a super-easy yet impressive dish that will leave you plenty of time to make all the side dishes. Enjoy!

Finally, this week’s meal plan, with half the things bumped from last week:

Sunday: Chicken & wild rice stew

Monday: Buffalo chicken salad with avocado and goat cheese

Tuesday: Taco night with chips and salsa

Wednesday: Chili and baked potatoes

Thursday: leftovers. I’ll have to finish my talk for the following day!

Friday: Stroganoff meatballs with noodles and green peas

Saturday: Tomatillo carnitas – a new recipe that I’ll share if it works!

Have a great week, dear readers! Happy eating!


Janice said...

Love this idea. Would never have thought to go pork on pork, but ya just might have something here!