This is a pork-only weekend. We haven’t posted any food in a week, life and work getting in the way. So I wanted to do as much as I could over the weekend, and if we’re doing a double header, why not concentrate on pork?
I have wanted to do a pork loin dish for a while, and there are a lot of marinades using Coke and fruit juices, but Christey found an espresso maker at a garage sale for $2, so why not inaugurate that? After sterilizing and de-calcifying, I figured it was a good chance to break it in.
I made an espresso-pineapple marinated pork-loin, with grilled pineapple and an espresso-pineapple-cream sauce. Bitter, sweet, pork, and cream. Oh yeah, there’s bacon, too.
I used to have some biz stuff going on in Costa Rica, so I’ve been there a couple times. Most pineapples in the States actually come from Costa Rica, not Hawaii (unless you’re paying through the nose). However, the pineapples we get here are (no surprise) a pale comparison to what they eat down there. Nothing beats local fruit, especially in an active rainforest. The juiciness, the sweetness… ahhhh….
Anyway, making do with what is at hand, I picked up a pineapple a week or so ago, and let it ripen a bit. Some say it should be stored upside-down to let the sugars distribute, but I’ve had no problem just letting it sit on the counter for a few days. At the store, a pineapple should be firm, and have a pronounced pineapple smell. After a few days on the counter, it’ll turn more golden, and the smell will get much more pronounced. The stalk-end may fuzz up a bit, but as long as it isn’t soft and fermented, the fruit should be pretty good. And pork and pineapple is classic.
So, I started with the pork loin. I got a “whole pork loin” from the store, but, after opening the shrink wrap, it was, of course, two loins smashed together. That was okay as one loin is enough for two. One would go into storage, the other would get wrapped in a freezer bag and thrown in the freezer for 30-45 minutes until stiffened up a bit.
I want to slice it thin, so freezing for 30-45 minutes will freeze the outside, without freezing the center. It makes it easier to cut. It’s sorta like a picture frame with the outside border solidified, but the center still soft. The outside stiffness makes thinner slices easier without the loin sliding all over.
While the loin is in the freezer, I made some espresso:
I also cut the pineapple into rough slices. Chop off either end, carve off the skin, cut out the core, and there you go. There were Ticos (Costa Rican natives) I knew who could do this tossing the pineapple in the air with a chefs knife. I prefer a cutting board.
I took a couple slices and chopped them fine, and processed them into a purée:
A couple red jalapeños, seeded and chopped, two tablespoons of honey, 1/2 cup of espresso, the pineapple purée, and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and I had the base I would use for the marinade and the sauce.
The pork was frosty enough at this point, so I cut slices on the bias, across the grain, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. I tossed in a bowl with olive oil, salt, cracked black pepper, and half the marinade, and put in the fridge to absorb the flavor.
Meanwhile, the sauce. I fried a couple slices of bacon cut into chunks. As it sizzled, I sliced some shallots. When the bacon was done, I poured off all but a tablespoon of pork fat, then fried up the shallots. When translucent, I added 1/2 cup of chicken stock, some chives, a few peppercorns, 1/3 cup of heavy cream, some dijon, and a tablespoon of veal demi-glace I keep in the freezer for such occasions requiring richness.
Meanwhile, on the grill, I dunked the pineapple slices in the espresso/pineapple marinade, then grilled until warmed and a little sizzling. There’s very few things in life as tasty as grilled pineapple.
While the sauce was reducing by half, and the pineapples were grilling, I fired up the pork loin. A heated pan, some olive oil added, then the slices were sautéed quickly.
It doesn’t take much time, as long as the centers are white-pink, not red-pink.
Meanwhile, I strained the sauce, and added some chopped chives and the bacon bits.
Plating was pork loin slices, drizzled with sauce, with the thick, grilled pineapple slices as garnish.
Deconstruction: 1/2 cup of espresso was too much. I should have used 1/4 or even 1/8 cup. I planned the marinade, the pineapple slice glaze, and the sauce to use the espresso-pineapple mixture to bring the components of the meal together. However, it was a little too much coffee taste, almost overwhelming the pineapple and balsamic. Also, I think I should have patted the pork dry after the marinade, as there was too much liquid while sautéing. It was a good first attempt on an idea of replacing sweet Coke with espresso, but it just barely overcompensated. The idea worked well though — bitter/sweet instead of sweet/sour, just like my favorite Miami indulgence, cafe cubano. Just a bit less espresso next time, and I think I’ll have nailed it.