Braised Pork with Coconut Milk


We split a whole pig or two with friends every year. This is one of the perks of living in the semi-rural midwest. There are a large number of small farms all over Minnesota, many/most of which raise animals in a “humane” manner without the use of hormones and antibiotics and so on. You make contact with a farmer—or you can approach a meat locker/butcher that processes animals for small farmers and see if they know of any coming in—and when the time comes you get to specify your own cuts and sizes. It works out well for everyone involved. You get to support small farmers who raise their animals well and respect the land; and you get a lot of good meat at very good prices for the quality. This, at least, has been our experience. Of course it helps that we have a very massive freezer in the basement. Our cuts from the last pig we split included a couple of fresh ham roasts (basically hams that have not been cured or smoked). These can be cooked up just as you would a loin or shoulder roast and that is what I did here in an improvized recipe that is very loosely inspired by some combinations in Malayali cooking. It makes for an elegant dish with complex flavour that can be enjoyed equally with steamed rice or mopped up with some nice bread.

Ingredients

  • Pork loin or ham roast, 3 lbs approx.
  • The following lightly toasted, cooled and ground to a coarse powder.
    • 1 tblspn black peppercorn
    • 2 tspns coriander seeds
    • 2 tspns cumin seeds
    • 1 tspn Sichuan peppercorn
    • 3-5 dried red chillies, hot or mild as preferred
  • 1//2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • 3 tblspns Chinkiang black vinegar
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
  • Salt
  • 2-3 tblspns avocado or grapeseed oil or similar
  • 1-2 tblspns chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Preparation

  1. Add the haldi to the ground spices, add the vinegar and mix to a coarse, granular texture. Rub this mix all over the pork and place, covered, in the fridge overnight. Remove the roast from the fridge an hour before beginning to cook it.
  2. Heat the oven to 350ºf.
  3. As the oven is coming to temperature heat the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven large enough to comfortably hold the roast.
  4. Add the curry leaves (if using) to the hot oil and when glossy add the sliced onions. Otherwise add the onions directly to the hot oil.
  5. Saute till the onions just begin to brown.
  6. Place the spice-crusted roast on the onions, add the water, cover and place in the oven till done to your preferred internal temperature.
  7. Remove the roast from the Dutch oven to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil and set aside.
  8. Set the Dutch oven over medium heat, stir and bring to a high simmer.
  9. Add the coconut milk, mix in, return to a high simmer and reduce the gravy to your preferred consistency..
  10. Taste and adjust for salt
  11. Slice the pork thinly and place 2-3 slices on each plate. Ladle the gravy over, garnish with a bit of cilantro (if using) and serve with steamed rice or bread.

Notes

  1. A few vague things in this recipe; let’s take them one by one. First up, the amount of coconut milk. If you want the gravy to be driven by the meat and the acid use one cup. If you want it richer use two cups. It’ll be good either way. Maybe add one cup first and taste and decide.
  2. The curry leaves and cilantro are both marked as optional but I’d suggest using one or the other. I tend not to garnish with cilantro if there are curry leaves in a dish but that’s just me.
  3. How long to cook the pork? The usual rule of thumb at 350ºf is 25 minutes per pound of meat. If you have a 3 lb roast I can’t imagine you’d be done before an hour but it’s best to use a meat thermometer and check around that mark and keep it in the oven till it’s at your preferred temperature.
  4. I prefer to let the heat in this dish come from the black pepper and so I use milder chillies. Do as you like.
  5. Don’t have Chinkiang black vinegar [affiliate link]? Use balsamic or sherry vinegar instead.


 

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