With the fall season on the horizon, I am very excited as it is my favorite time of the year. The reason fall is my favorite time of year is because I get to harvest the vegetables from my garden and prepare them in dishes. Braised meats & roasts are among the top foods that really strike a cord in my chef soul. The smell of a beautiful roast in the oven and how it fills our homes with such intoxicating aromas is such a simple yet beautiful pleasure.
Today I found a beautiful pork rack at my local butcher and thought what a perfect time to pair it with some of the items I have harvested from my garden such as purple beets, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, & carrots.
I am going to walk you through the process and give you simple tips on how to adjust the “recipe” to fit both your palette and your budget.
First off a whole pork rack can be one of the more expensive cuts of the pig. This doesn’t mean that you have to follow me to exactly with each step. I am simply going to give you a guideline and allow your inner chef to decide where to take it. Remember I am going to teach you about how I develop a meal from a professional chef’s perceptive as well as how to cook without using any exact recipes.
If you are on a tighter budget you can use a different cut of pork for this such as pork shoulder or butt.
I want to start with some simple ways to put your dishes together with a simple rule to follow. Whatever protein you decide to use, try thinking about its natural habitat and then choose ingredients from there to start putting the pieces together.
Lets use wild game like Moose for example. What do you find in its natural habitat? Being in British Columbia the Moose in my neighborhood live among things like fruits such as apples & pears, nuts, berries, grains, & mushrooms. So I would start to put the elements together based on this guideline and then work from there.
This will be much easier than trying to put moose with items from a warmer more tropical climate like mango’s and coconuts. I am not saying that you cannot pair these items, but that they will be more difficult to have success. Once you start with a good foundation then you can start to step outside of the box to create more elaborate creations. Stay within your comfort zone and work from there and before you know it, you will be coming up with some more exotic dishes.
Getting back to the Pork rack, there are a few directions you can go, but I have chosen to roast mine on a bed of vegetables. I love doing this because as the meat roasts and releases its juices, all of the vegetables will absorb them and begin to caramelize with a very intense robust flavor. This can work for roasted chicken very well, which I recommend you try at least once this season.
I like to add as much natural flavor as possible and it’s the little things that will make the difference with a good dish and a great dish. Do not try to overpower your dish with excessive spices and other flavors. It’s all about bringing the best out of each main ingredient and maximizing their flavor.
I am going to do one of my favorite precooking steps which is a brine.
The brine can be whatever you want and a simple way to break this down is to make a tea by steeping the flavor profile you want and then chilling it prior to submerging your meat in it. For this I will use garlic, onions, thyme, rosemary and my brine solution.
The brine solution can be just water and your aromatics or you can get a little more creative and add salt, sugar, and acid as your base. By adding a brine you will add more flavor to the meat which will be absorbed and give you a juicier bite.
People often forget about citrus or vinegar’s as an equally important seasoning step as salt and pepper but believe me they are, especially when dealing with richer more fatty foods. The acid will help balance the flavor of everything and intensify your meat.
The length of time the meat sits in the brine should vary depending on the size and cut. A steak, chop, or chicken breast should not brine for more than an hour or two. Where a larger cut such as a whole chicken, pork rack, or turkey can go for up to 24 hours. This also depends on the acidity levels as well. If your brine is more on the acidic side of things you could end up with a chewy sour final product if you leave it too long.
A good way to make the best brine is to taste it and have a nice finish on your tongue with strong notes of salt, acid, and sugar. If they are well balanced then you should have no problem.
For this particular recipe I used a large 5 bone rack with its fat cap in place. The actual cooking time for this was about 1.5 hours at 325 F. The key is to not rush the process and let the meat cook slowly. Low and slow will give you a more tender juicier rack. Should you find that you do not have the time, then it is best for you to choose a different dish so that you can avoid being disappointed. Lets say you do not have 2 hours to make this dish then simply cut out steaks then either pan sear or grill them.
Just because I gave you a time and temp for your dish does not meant you have to follow this in a strict manner. Just remember that the internal temperature should be 145 F and the perfect temperature to get there is between 325 and 350.
- 1 pork rack
- 2 small beets
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small head of cauliflower
- 1 small rutabaga
- 1 small celery root
- 1 small onion
- 5 whole garlic cloves
- 2 small Yukon gold potatoes
- Dijon mustard
- olive oil
- 1 sprig rosemary (chopped finely)
- 1 sprig thyme (chopped finely)
Cut all of the vegetables so that they are uniform. I am sure you have heard this term before. For those of you who do not know, this is where all of the ingredients are cut to the same size and shape. The reasoning behind this is so that everything cooks at the same time. Smaller cuts will end up burning in order for the larger cuts to reach their doneness. On the flip side, larger cuts will not cook through if you finish when the smaller cuts are done and you will be left with under cooked unpleasant bites.
Mix all of your vegetables together and season them with salt, pepper, olive oil and preferably some hard herbs such as thyme or rosemary and lay them out on a baking tray.
Mix the oil, herbs and Dijon mustard in a mixing bowl until mixed thoroughly.
Score the fat cap in a crisscross pattern to allow the meat to cook more evenly and season well with salt and pepper. Once you have done this, you want to slather the pork in your Dijon rub and place it on top of the vegetables.
Preheat your oven to 450 F and cook the meat for roughly 25 minutes at this temp and then drop the heat to 325 – 350 F and finish your pork at this temperature. The reason behind this is to give a crispier outer layer. Crispy savory, and aromatic crust combined with a sweet soft and very tender inner layer will make each bite so good that your legs will go weak.
Remember this little bit of advice and do not get discouraged with each dish. What makes a great athlete amazing at what they do is the practice and repetition of the skills that they are acquiring. The same goes for cooks in all aspects. There is a reason why professional chefs are good at what they do and even more so there is a reason why our grandparents make such amazing food. They have done it over and over for decades and each time they prepare the dish, they fine tune one element to tighten up the perfection.
I personally love root vegetables which is why i chose to go this route, but that does not mean you have to. You can use only one vegetable if that is what your budget is restricted to. Just remember that whatever it is that you use in this dish that it is a heartier vegetable so that it holds up to the cooking process and serves a purpose. In this case the vegetables purpose is to act as a flavor catching roasting rack, so choose something according.
One more very key aspect that I want to to talk about is what to do with the meat once it comes out of the oven.
A big problem that people seem to have or have a hard time resisting, is letting the meat rest. It should almost rest for as long as it cooks. Now that seems silly when you think that a pork rack has cooked for nearly 1.5 hours. I should say that you don’t have to let it rest for that long but there is a reason for letting it rest and ways to do it properly.
The basic breakdown of why to let the meat rest is the cooking process and heat locks up the tissue so that it becomes tough and the resting process allows the meat to relax and soften up. This is why you often see a lot of juices and blood pooling up after something has been sitting on a plate for so long. Think of it this way, one you will get a more tender bite if you let it rest, and two you will be able to use the juices released in your sauce.
To prevent the meat and vegetables from getting cold is to cover with aluminum foil and let it rest. When I created this dish I let the pork rest for nearly 20 minutes and the final outcome with perfect.
The final element of this is the sauce. A sauce should been used as something to highlight your dish and not act as the main attraction.
One little trick I often use when developing a dish is the same thing that an interior decorator would use when choosing colors for their work. For example a decorator is trying to choose a color to paint the walls in a room so they may look at a carpet and pick out a faint color in it and use the color of the walls to pull it out.
Use the same concept when cooking and this sauce will be a perfect little introductory sample of what you can do with this concept.
I will use the crust as a base because of its strong Dijon charactaristics. Dijon has some friends that like to join it in recipes so lets talk about that. Dijon likes, honey or maple syrup, goat cheese, horseradish, sweet white wines and garlic.
Let’s build our sauce now!
Pour the pan drippings into a small sauce pot and bring it to a simmer. drizzle a little bit of honey and whisk it in followed by some white wine and bring back to a simmer. Add a little bit of Dijon mustard to it and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Play with the balance of flavors until it is where you want it and all that is left to do is spoon a few tablespoons over the plated pork and you are ready to go.
Thank you so much for spending time with me for my first of many blogs and I appreciate your comments, concerns or questions.