This Little Piggy Went to Market

When my favorite grocery store had pork roast on sale, I had to jump. I’m not a big fan of pork or roasts, but it sounded like something that the 1940s American woman would prepare for her 9-5 working husband and amazingly polite and well-coifed children.

With great anticipation, I ran home, pork roast in hand, and began scouring my vintage cookbooks. Lo and behold, nary a pork roast to be found. I found plenty of beef roasts, but nothing specific to pork. I felt like I had just bought a perfect pair of shoes only to realize I had nothing to wear with them. Finally, I went to the bastion of all recipes, Joy of Cooking. The recipe I found was basically, tie it up and cook it until it’s done. Sounds great, Irma. Thanks for that.

Pork roast cannot be that rare as to only warrant one recipe in the bible of kitchen cookery. I guess it’s just not that exciting a cut of meat. After a bit more searching through my cookbooks, I finally found a recipe that sounded promising in Inside America’s Test Kitchen. Those wonderful Bostonians behind Cook’s Illustrated also have a TV show on PBS which has spawned a few remarkable cookbooks. I’m a big fan.

The thing about this cookbook is that it goes into the science behind why the recipes they present work—without being all science-y about it. They also do an ass load of testing before they get it right. Even if you want to skip a step, you shouldn’t. They put it in there for a reason. So, now I present:

Maple-Glazed Pork Roast

  • ⅓ C maple syrup, preferably grade B (I only had grade A… it worked just fine)
  • ⅛ t ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (if you question the amount behind a pinch, you definitely need these measuring spoons)
  • 1 boneless blade-end pork loin roast (about 2½ lbs), tied at even intervals along length
  • ¾ t salt
  • ½ t ground black pepper
  • 2 t vegetable oil

Before I get started on the recipe instructions, it is important to try to tie your roast evenly. When you buy a roast, it will look kind of flat and blobby. If you just throw it in the oven as is, it will cook unevenly with dry pork on the edges and undercooked, bathroom disaster pork in the center. So, be a non-lazy person for a minute and just truss it up. Even if you can’t get it perfectly round, it will still be closer to the same thickness from end to end. This is what mine looked like:

Raw pork tied with string

So not perfect or evenly spaced, but at least I wasn't lazy on this one.

Now, on to the recipe: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position; heat oven to 325°. Stir the maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne together in a measuring cup, set aside. Pat the roast dry with paper towels, then sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed ovenproof 10” nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke, about 3 minutes. (And, yes, you want nonstick that is also ovenproof because you’re going to be baking maple syrup in a minute… and that is not an easy clean-up.)

Place the roast fat-side down in the skillet and cook until well browned, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, rotate the roast one-quarter turn and cook until well browned, about 2½ minute; repeat until the roast is well browned on all sides. (You’re thinking: If I bake it, why do I have to brown it? Flavor development via denatured proteins, people! This browning process is called the Maillard reaction. And, yes, it’s a real thing and not a duck-sounding thing I just made up. I had to learn about it in culinary school. You can Google it, if you don’t believe me [and, no I’m not providing you a link to Google… you really are lazy]. Sometimes I love science. Actually, I only like science when there’s a plate of food at the end.) Transfer the roast to a large plate.

Reduce the heat to medium and pour off the fat from the skillet; add maple syrup mixture and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds (the syrup will bubble immediately). Turn off the heat and return the roast to the skillet; using tongs, roll the roast to coat with glaze on all sides.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast until the center of the roast registers about 135°, about 35-45 minutes, using tongs to roll and spin the roast to coat with glaze twice during roasting time. (I kinda forgot about this until almost the end, so my roast got one spin around the glaze.)

Transfer the roast to a carving board; set the skillet aside to cool slightly to thicken the glaze, about 5 minutes. Pour the glaze over the roast and let rest 15 minutes longer (the center of the loin should register about 150°). Snip the twine off, cut into ¼-inch slices, and serve immediately.

Results

This is what it looked like post-rest. Perfectly done with a seriously nice glaze.

Cooked pork roast with an amazing glaze

The recipes warns that the glaze makes the pork almost sickeningly sweet. They recommend serving with something that will cut the sweet. I chose a salad with oil and vinegar dressing and polenta. You will notice that there is no polenta as I realized I didn’t have any on hand. Sooo, steamed baby carrots it is!

Pork with salad and baby carrots

All in all, an incredibly easy recipe that was a cinch to make on a weeknight. (No, seriously, I made this on a week night. And, we didn’t eat super late either.)

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  1. #1 by Karen on 4.3.2012 - 8:36 pm

    Your pork roast sounds great.

  2. #2 by Bam's Kitchen on 4.4.2012 - 3:02 am

    It does sound like a flashback from the 1940’s. I do hope you were wearing your high heeled shoes and frilly apron while making this delicious maple glazed pork roast, just to keep up the image. You pork looks super moist. Have a great day. BAM

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