With colder weather coming on, there’s no “stick to the ribs” food like pork!
Cool weather and pork just seem to go together, so what better month to have a tasty pork dish than October?
Today’s pork is a much leaner product than we had when I was growing up, which means that more care must be taken in cooking it so it doesn’t dry out. This is easier to do than it was in the past, because we no longer have to cook it until it’s tough.
Back in the day, trichinosis, a parasite-induced disease, was a very real possibility because of the sometimes unsanitary conditions in which some pork was raised. Some pork farmers would literally feed their stock garbage, which promoted the disease.
Today’s farming methods are much more sanitary due to federal regulations under which the animals are raised, so pork consumption is safer, with trichinosis much less of a threat.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) now recommends that solid cuts of pork, like roasts and chops, be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, so these cuts can even be slightly pink.
Ground pork, however, like all ground meals, should be cooked to at least 160 degrees.
To test doneness, just use an instant-read thermometer.
Of course, if you prefer, you can cook your cut above the recommended temperature, but be sure you don’t overcook it and run the risk of drying it out.
Here are a couple of my favorite recipes, including a couple from the National Pork Board:
My mom’s breaded pork chops
One quarter-loin pack of pork chops
2 cups herbed bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp. coarse ground pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T water
Olive oil for frying
Crack the eggs into a wide, shallow bowl, beat lightly with a fork and add the water, beating lightly to combine. Spread the crumbs in a layer on a plate, add the herbs, garlic salt and pepper and blend well. Dip the chops in the egg wash on both sides, then dip the chops in the crumbs to coat both sides well. Fry the chops in a large frying pan in about 1/2 inch of oil. Fry on medium heat until each side is golden brown, adding oil as needed. As they’re done, transfer the chops to an oven-proof plate and keep warm in a pre-heated 200 degree oven until ready to serve.
Roast boneless pork loin
1 3 lb. boneless pork loin
2 T soy sauce
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
Place the roast on a rack and score in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife. Mix the rub together well and rub it into the roast. Place the roast into a pre-heated 450 degree oven and roast for 30 minutes. Drop the oven temperature to 350 and roast an additional 30 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the roast registers at least 145 degrees.
‘Happy’ pork steak*
6 pork blade steaks, (1/2-3/4-inch thick), seasoned with salt and pepper
2 T corn oil, or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cups uncooked rice
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 medium jalapeno chiles, minced
1 cup beer, or water
2 cups chicken broth, or water
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Heat oil in large skillet; add pork. Sear pork on both sides on medium-high heat just until brown, about 1 minute on each side. Remove from skillet and cover loosely with foil.
Add garlic and onions to skillet. Cook and stir until tender, about 2 minutes, scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Add rice, stirring constantly until rice just begins to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, jalapeño chiles, beer and broth or water. Bring to boil; cover. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes.
Place pork on top of rice; cover. Simmer 8 or 9 minutes until internal temperature on a thermometer reads 145 degrees F. Let stand 3-5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if desired.
Chicken broth or water may be substituted for the beer in this recipe. If using water only, additional salt and pepper may be needed.
Serve with corn tortillas.
Roast pork shoulder Caribbean style*
4-5 pound bone-in pork shoulder
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 head garlic, peeled
2 T oregano
2 tsp.cumin seeds
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 T lard, or oil
Zest and juice of 1 orange, grated
Zest and juice of 1 lemon, grated
Juice of 1 bitter orange
Using a sharp knife make several shallow cuts (about 1/2-inch deep) in the pork, place in a glass or ceramic roasting pan. Spread the onion slices on the bottom of the pan.
Place the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process to make a paste. Rub the pork with the mixture on all sides, making sure it goes into the cuts. Place pork on top of the onions.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours, turning once, leaving the fat side up for cooking.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the pork in the middle rack of the oven. After 30 minutes, turn down the temperature to 325 degrees and cook an additional 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes or so with its own juices. Cook 30 minutes per pound total, or until the internal temperature as measured with a meat thermometer, is 160 degrees F.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest 15 minutes before carving, discard onions.
* Recipe courtesy The National Pork Board