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  • What's Sr Gregor Eating Now - Herb-crusted garlic pork loin

    Once again, I was inspired by one of Chef John's articles over at FoodWishes.com, but, after taking the general concept, went my own way with a few things. Partly due to the resources I had on-hand, and partly due to my own tastes and those of my brother-in-law, who is staying with us while he gets settled into grad school. He's a bit of a super-taster, in that even small amount of spice (such as cayenne) can leave his lips burning, so mores the pity, I need to cut back a bit on all things zingy.

    For this, I bought a double-pack of pork loins at WinCo and perforated them with my knife, using the better part of a bulb of garlic to place slices of it in each slot. Garlic is one of those things that can burn when raw, but when cooked turns into the kind of sweet, somewhat creamy texture, so I felt I was pretty safe. Now is a good time to start pre-heating your oven to 325F.

    After prepping both loins, I placed them in a bowl and coated them in olive oil, then seasoned them with salt and cracked black pepper. Next, I took liberal amounts of a number of dried herbs... no measurements, mates, I was kinda flying off the cuff here. The herbs in use were oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, marjoram, and a touch of paprika. Coat each loin with the seasonings until the outside is dry to the touch and nothing else will stick to them. I wasn't too worried about overdoing it because A - you can always knock some of it off after cooking it, and B - the final product will be mostly inner meat, not the crust.

    Place your pork loins on a metal cookie sheet apart from one another, and slide on in to the oven. We'll be letting them cook here for about two and a half hours... a nice, slow roasting, basically. It might seem like a good time to start your yam puree, but I'd say wait until you only have fifteen or so minutes left to cook the meat. After the time is up, leave in the oven but turn the heat off while you finish up your yams.

    Either way, the yam puree was pretty simple. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos here, so you'll need to follow along a bit. I cubed up an entire yam, then brought a cup and a half of chicken stock to a boil (seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper). Drop the yam chunks in, and bring back up to a low boil until the yams are tender all the way through. Drop into a food processor or blender and puree to a nice even texture. Give it a few extra seconds in there spinning to thicken up the mix, then pour back into your pot. To be honest, at this stage the yams still had a bit of a neutral flavor, with only a hint of sweetness, so I added in a half cup of packed brown sugar and stirred it in. Set on the stove at medium heat covered to allow it to steam off some of the moisture while you finish up your pork loins.

    Now, at this stage, to be honest, you could slice and plate your pork loin, and you'll end up with a nice, moist piece of meat that holds the juices from the meat and the garlic well, and has bursts of herb when you get to the edges, and you'll be pretty happy. Alternatively, Chef John recommends letting the meat cool overnight so that it's a nice solid chunk when you slice it and sear it the next day. For my purposes, I split the difference and sliced it and seared it in a seasoned pan. Also, contrary to his suggestion, I left the slivers of garlic on the edges of the meat in, so as to caramelize them a bit against the meat.

    The texture of the meat prior to searing was actually amazingly tender, so the trick here is to slice the meat about half an inch thick, and then set in the oil for a minute or so then flip and sear the other side as well. We want the outside of the meat to take on a slightly tougher, chewier texture, something firm for the palette, but retain the juicy goodness inside. This will also let more of the herbs mix with the meat without overwhelming it. Once cooked, as you can see in the first photo, I plated with some little islands of the yam puree (yeah, I got artsy with it). Eaten together, the puree serves as a sweet balance, almost like a sauce, for the savory, somewhat bitter, herb-crusted pork loin.