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Fri Jun 20, 2008

Smoke-Roasted Sage Crusted Pork Loin

Smoke-Roasted Sage-Crusted Pork Loin with Mostarda di Frutta

I must have been about five the first time my family went camping. It was in New Jersey. But it was nothing like the New Jersey of suburbs and highways and brick and concrete. There were acres of trees in every direction surrounding our campsite and a shallow, clear creek that ran alongside it. Across the road there was a lake and a waterfall.

It’s easy to love camping for the proximity it puts us in to striking natural beauty. It takes us out of our constructed lives, so that we eat and sleep and play by the sun. And regardless if you’re the kind of camper who prefers to reach your outdoor destination by foot or by car, every camper knows the smell of wood smoke. It wraps its fingers around each person sitting around the fire, weaving its way into the fibers of your clothes, working into the follicles of your hair. It infuses your food, from pancakes to burgers to potatoes, with a sweet, earthy smell that is unmistakably simple and natural, like the family hearth from another time.

Unfortunately, we can’t all always be camping. But it’s easier than you think to recreate that wood fire smell without setting your house on fire or spending big bucks. Alton Brown created a smoker on Good Eats using two terracotta planters, a hot plate, a pie tin and some wood chips. An ingenious device to be sure, but I live in a small apartment in Los Angeles with a balcony that barely fits my small gas grill. So I opted for a small, perforated stainless steel smoking box and a bag of untreated hickory chips (though any hardwood: apple, chestnut, walnut or mesquite, for example, would do).

Deciding what to cook was much harder than deciding how to cook it. Poultry, lamb, beef, pork and game all lend themselves to smoking. The trick with this style of grill smoking is to keep it simple. On my little gas ‘cue you can’t escape the flames or vary the temperature much—the low setting is hot and the high setting is hotter—so I knew whatever I was going to make shouldn’t call for cooking over super-low heat for hours and hours.

I finally settled for a variation of the Smoke-Roasted Sage-Crusted Pork Loin with Quick Mostarda di Frutta from June’s grill-devoted issue of Gourmet. It was surprisingly easy and utterly delicious. The leftovers were great on their own, as sandwiches and could have easily been doctored with some eggs for breakfast. And better yet? If you made the mostarda and rubbed your pork with the seasoning paste ahead of time, you could pack it all into your cooler and have an amazing treat for your next car-camping trip (not recommended for backpackers). Cook on a grate near the fire, but not directly over it for that slow-cooked, smoky flavor.

Smoke-Roasted Sage-Crusted Pork Loin with Mostarda di Frutta
adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Note: If you are cooking on a charcoal grill, you can use natural hardwood charcoal for fuel. Cook when the flames go out, though cooking over lower heat will take longer but the results will be delicious.

For the Pork
¼ c olive oil
¼ c coarsely chopped sage
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 2/12 lb pork loin
Kosher salt

For Mostarda di Frutta
1 ¼ cups water
4 tbsp dry brown mustard
½ c distilled white vinegar
¼ c packed brown sugar
1 2/3 mixed dried fruit (I used plums, pears and apricots)
Kosher salt

Grill, smoking tin, soaked hardwood chips

Soak a ½ cup of hickory wood chips in water for 30 minutes. Drain and put into your smoking tin. Place on hot grill grates. As the chips heat up they’ll begin to send smoke through the vents.

While the grill is heating mash together oil, sage, fennel and garlic with a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a wooden spoon and a bowl. You are trying to make a loose paste.

Rinse your pork loin and pat dry. Season with Kosher salt and pepper then rub all over with seasoning paste.

Turn your grill down to its lowest setting and place your meat on the grates. Put lid on and cook until done, 145 degrees for medium rare, 150 for medium and so on. Remove finish roast and let rest for 20 minutes, covered with foil.

While the pork is roasting, whisk together water and mustard until smooth.

Bring vinegar and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over very low heat, stirring frequently until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add mustard mixture and stir in thoroughly, then add dried fruit. Simmer again until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with pork.

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One Response to “Smokin’”

  1. Brooke Says:

    Uh, yummy!

    I saw Jamie Oliver make a smoker out of a cookie tin once and decided I should do that some day…Still haven’t gotten around to it, but I think I will now that I see this amazing recipe!

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