The Milk-Braised Pork Test

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You know those tests where they determine whether you’re gay or straight and they attach electrodes to your genitals and flash images in front of you to see whether naked men or women arouse you more? Well this post is like one of those tests, only there’s only one image and it’s the image you see above. We’re testing to see how hardcore you are when it comes to eating. So please attach electrodes to your genitals and stare at the picture: are you aroused? You are! Congratulations: you passed and can click ahead to learn the secrets of a fantastic dish.

Diana’s new boyfriend is a food lover and Diana kept hinting that he was looking forward to an Adam-cooked meal. When I was ready to extend the invitation, I wanted a dish that would dazzle, so I turned to Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking for Mr. Latte” because the recipes in it are some of the best I’ve done. Seriously: the almond cake, vanilla bean loaves, the Arborio rice salad are all things I plan to make again and again and again.

On pg. 201 I found the answer: “Pork Braised in MIlk and Cream.” Not only was it prominently placed in a reliable recipe source, it’s a recipe by one of my favorite New York chefs: Gabriellle Hamilton of Prune. Favorite chef, favorite recipe source. I was destined for glory.

Now it’s important to note that braising pork in milk and cream is not a new idea by any means. Marcella Hazan has a recipe for it, as does Mario. It’s a technique that might frighten the squeamish because the milk is supposed to curdle a bit and make a “broken pudding” like sauce. That actually didn’t happen with mine, maybe because I didn’t get the milk hot enough? But any fears I had about it being too out there were allayed by the ingredients list, in particular the 20 cloves of garlic, the 20 sage leaves, and the rind from 3 lemons. “How could that taste bad?” I asked myself and that’s the single most important question you can arrive at when choosing a recipe. If, after reading a recipe, it seems impossible that it would be bad, then it is safe to proceed.

So here’s how to make it. Buy a 2 lb boneless pork loin from your butcher or grocery store. My store only had a tenderloin which, I know, is a less choice cut of meat because it lacks the fat of a regular loin, but I rolled with the punches. Put it in a container and rub the whole thing with 1 Tbs chopped sage and 1 Tbs chopped garlic. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours (my choice) or overnight, if you can.

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When it’s time to cook, remove the meat from the fridge, bring to room temperature, scrape off the sage and the garlic and season GENEROUSLY with salt and pepper.

Heat a Tbs of olive oil in a Dutch oven and then add the loin. You want to brown it WELL on all sides–don’t move it around while each side is browning–and the process should take about 15 minutes. In a saucepan, heat up 2 cups milk, 2 cups half-and-half and 2 cups of cream. (My friends later asked why not 3 cups milk and 3 cups cream? Why the half-and-half? I didn’t have an answer.) Bring it to a boil and then shut off the heat.

Transfer the well-browned pork to a plate, pour off the fat from the Dutch oven. Turn the heat to medium, add 3 Tbs butter, and when it foams add 20 peeled cloves of lightly crushed garlic. When the garlic is brown on the edges, add 20 sage leaves and stir to coat. Place the pork back in the Dutch Oven, pour in enough of the hot milk mixture to come up 1/2 to 2/3rds of the sides of the pork. Bring to a simmer and add strips of lemon peel from 3 washed lemons and season with salt (that’s important to do here—I tasted it, to make sure it tasted great.)

Partly cover and simmer until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 140 (15 to 30 minutes). Thats key! Pork at 140 is PERFECTLY cooked pork. The reason this dish was such a triumph was the pork was super juicy inside–that’s because it was cooked to 140. Get thee a thermometer.

Once there, turn off the heat and allow the pork to cool. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

That’s all the cooking! When it’s time to eat, pull the pork from the milk mixture (which may be a custard–I don’t know, because I didn’t have time to really refrigerate it) and carve into thin slices. Heat the liquid to a “soupy custard” and when the liquid is loose, lay the sliced pork back in and heat up with the sauce. Serve it with coarse salt. This is what it looks like on the plate:

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Whoah! Your electrodes just blew the circuit breaker. You have great taste in food, my friend. Oh, and based on the other images hidden in the text, you’re gay.

17 comments

  1. i can only imagine this dish using fresh coconut cream and milk, then cooked til you start seeing coconut oil coming out. (throw in a couple of chopped bird’s eye peppers as well!)

    i think the sauce would do well with a bit of roux blended in during the reheat if it’s too runny.

  2. I’ve made traditional carnitas by simmering the pork in milk until the milk evaporates. I guess the purpose there is to put a nice crusty layer of carmelized lactose over all the pork bits. It’s also delicious, but there’s no custardy gravy left over.

  3. I’ve been experimenting with sous vide and poaching things in fat and wonder if I might have an improvement for this? What if, instead of of simmering until the pork reached 140, you simply turn your oven to 140 and put the whole thing in the oven? Then you wouldn’t have to worry about taking it out at just the right time.

    After this, I’d let the whole thing cool (as quickly as you can) and the refrigerate for a few hours. I’ve found that any braised meat is much better if it cools in the liquid (it absorbs the liquid as it cools). Once it’s all cool, remove the pork, bring the liquid up to a simmer, and then put the pork back in to raise it up to temp.

    Hmmm… that sounds so good, I might just have to try it.

  4. I have a confession to make. I’m Jewish and that sounds like the best meal in the world. I’m surprised you didn’t name this post “Rabbi’s nightmare” but I’m also surprised at myself for how much I want to try that :)

  5. I was reading about the idea in the comments that andrew had about putting the oven to 140 and cooking at that temp. Is that a safe temp to cook at outside of a sous vide bag? My undersdtanding is that there is some debate even to cooking sous vide at temps like that. I would imagine all sorts of bacteria would love a warm porky milky bath. Also does anyone have an oven that goes that low? I have never seen an oven that is marked below 200.

  6. I can see you’re getting us in the spirit by posting suggestions for a festive Yom Kippur menu. But seriously, I’ve been meaning to try this recipe forever, even before I read it in Cooking for Mr. Latte. I’m so glad to know it’s truly delicious. What would we do without AG to test our recipes for us?

  7. George,

    140 is generally at the limit of what any harmful bug can stand. If you get the milk mixture to a boil, and then back of the temp to 140 quickly and keep it there, you shouldn’t have any problem. Plus, you are going to be boiling the milk later as an extra step.

    The debate at cooking sous vide at low temps really is about botulism. It can survive in the vacuum, and even if the temp gets high enough to kill it, just a small amount of the toxin that it produced before it dies will kill you. Since we aren’t cooking in a vacuum we don’t have that problem.

    Most ovens now have a temp of 150. I’ve found that with analog controls on my oven, I can adjust the temp from about 110 to 150 by turning the nob past where it clicks on and before you get to the first setting.

  8. Andrew,

    140 degrees is when most bacteria START to die… if you are fiddling with non existing settings on your oven, trying to hit 140 seems dangerous. I’m not trying to be rude, but this seems dangerous enough that it should not be tried. There might be a good reason that your oven doesn’t go below 150.

    I have never seen an oven that even goes that low. When you say “Most ovens now have a temp of 150” are you stating this as a verified fact or is this more of an opinion? Also, are you speaking of ovens that are sold in this America, Europe, Asia, Australia, world wide or other?

  9. Oooh, this would be a kosher/halal nightmare, no? Yes, Adam, it looks 10% scary but 90% delicious!!! At the dinner party with bacon dates, I’m going to have to make this, too. I could also see using coconut milk in this like kayenne mentioned.

    I don’t think I’ll use the electrodes though. I don’t know many guys who’d be into that anyway. :)

  10. Oooh, this would be a kosher/halal nightmare, no? Yes, Adam, it looks 10% scary but 90% delicious!!! At the dinner party with bacon dates, I’m going to have to make this, too. I could also see using coconut milk in this like kayenne mentioned.

    I don’t think I’ll use the electrodes though. I don’t know many guys who’d be into that anyway. :)

  11. Andrew

    Maybe I missed it, where does H.B talk about milk/pork cooking at 140 in the link? The only reference I see to pork is that he thinks 65C is too high. Does this preclude him from thinking 60c is too low? How do you propose to get a constant, reliable 140F temp in an oven that is not rigged for it? This is DANGEROUS and people should not experiment with these temps (especially if the oven is not supposed to sustain that temp()

  12. This was brilliant! The boyfriend, our dinner guest and I all loved it. A couple days later, I cut the pork up into slices and used the sauce on top of pasta, and it was still perfect. Thanks for sharing the recipe. :)

  13. Andrew, are you saying that if you set your oven to 140 degrees that your meat temperature will not rise past 140 degrees?? Really?? Is that what your are saying??

  14. With pork, it’s not the bugs that you want to be worried about.

    It’s the parasites, particularly the Trichinella roundworm.

    160F for 10-15 minutes is a good bet if you don’t want roundworm larvae crawling around inside your body.

  15. If your milk does curdle, just use a hand blender or a thermomix and incorporate it back in, adding a little extra fresh cream. Works perfectly.