Ditch the ham, but keep the pig

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2012

By Alison Ladman
Associated Press
Instead of cooking ham or lamb this Easter, why not go for something a little bit different?
Pork loin roast has an amazing flavor — and is outrageously tender — when brined. That’s because the brining process adds a bit of salt, the flavor of the brine and a whole lot of moisture to the meat. The procedure is relatively simple, though it does require a bit of planning. You’ll want to brine the pork for about 24 hours.
Pork not your thing? This same procedure can be used on whole chickens. The main difference is that you’ll want to brine a chicken for just 4 hours, not 24. Of course, the cooking time will depend on how large your chicken is; just cook until the internal temperature of the meat is 160 F.
We’ve also included some side dish suggestions to help you plan your Easter dinner.
Rosemary-Cider Brined Easter Pork
Start to finish: 26 hours (1 hour active)
Servings: 8
1/4C. kosher salt
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
2 C. apple cider
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tsp. chili powder
4 pound pork loin roast
1 Tbs. canola or vegetable oil
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the salt, brown sugar, cider, rosemary, thyme and chili powder. Stir just until the sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.
In a large zip-close plastic bag, combine the pork loin and the brine solution. Squeeze out any air and seal the bag shut. Place in a bowl in case of any leaks, then refrigerate for 24 hours.
Thirty minutes before you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 F. Fit a roasting pan with a rack.
Drain the pork and discard the brine solution. Rinse the pork with cool water, then pat it dry with paper towels. Rub the surface of the pork with the oil and place on the rack. Roast for 45 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 145 F at the center of the pork. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 380 calories; 180 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 21 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 145 mg cholesterol; 2 g carbohydrate; 44 g protein; 0 g fiber; 570 mg sodium.
Side suggestions:
Lemony Peas
Saute 2 cups of English peas and 1 diced red bell pepper with a little butter until just tender. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the zest of 1 lemon.
Quinoa Pilaf
Cook 2 cups of quinoa according to package directions. Saute 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 sliced shallots and 1 diced red onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until soft. Stir in the quinoa along with 1/3 cup diced dried apricot and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme.
Warm Radicchio Slaw
Cook 4 strips of bacon until crisp. Thinly slice 2 heads of radicchio and saute in the bacon fat with 1 thinly sliced red onion. Season with salt and black pepper, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cider vinegar. Serve topped with crumbled blue cheese and the crumbled bacon.