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Brined Pork Loin with Apricot-Onion Mostarda

(recipe, Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)

Introduction

Party pleaser: Cuts of pork of every kind are versatile, flavorful, simple to cook, and popular with a wide range of meat eaters. But pork is easy to overcook, and nobody likes dried-out meat. This loin, made tender and juicy with an overnight brine bath and served with a sweet and savory mostarda, will never let the cook down.

Ingredients

    For the pork
    1. ½ cup (4 oz/125 g) kosher salt
    2. ½ cup (3½ oz/105 g) firmly packed brown sugar
    3. 1 Tbsp. freshly ground pepper
    4. 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
    5. 5 garlic cloves, crushed
    6. 3 sprigs thyme, plus 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
    7. 1 boneless center-cut pork loin, about 3 lb (1.5 kg), rolled and tied by the butcher
    8. 2 tsp. olive oil
    For the mostarda
    1. 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    2. 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
    3. Pinch of kosher salt
    4. ¾ cup (4 oz/125 g) dried apricots (about 12), chopped
    5. ¼ cup (2 oz/60 g) sugar
    6. ¾ cup (6 fl oz/180 ml) dry white wine
    7. 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
    8. 1 Tbsp. white-wine vinegar

    Steps

    1. Make the brine: In a large saucepan, combine the salt, brown sugar, pepper, onion, garlic, and herb sprigs. Pour in 3 cups (24 fl oz/750 ml) water and place over medium heat. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour 6 cups (48 fl oz/1.5 l) cold water into a large metal or glass container. Add the salt-sugar mixture and stir to combine. Let cool to room temperature.
    2. Carefully submerge the pork loin in the brine, adding additional cold water if needed to cover the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight, or up to 24 hours.
    3. Cook the pork: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels (discard the brine). Rub all over with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, pressing them into the meat so they adhere.
    4. Place the pork in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Turn over the pork and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 140 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.
    5. Make the mostarda: Meanwhile, in a nonreactive frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
    6. Add the apricots, sugar, wine, mustard, and vinegar, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the onion and apricots are tender and the sauce has thickened about 10 minutes. The finished sauce should be thick but somewhat syrupy. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
    7. Finish the dish: Turn the pork again and raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Roast until the top is browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with the mostarda.

    Note

    The mostarda will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat gently over low heat, with a splash of water to thin it if needed.