Blast pork loin at high heat

I’ve struggled with the best way to cook pork loin, which tends to come out dry (there’s not a lot of fat in it). Tonight, I think I figured out the solution:

Blast it at high heat till it’s almost done.

I’ve tried the low and slow approach, with a sear at the end, but it always comes put tough and dry. I bet cooking it sous vide would be great, but you’ve got to plan ahead.

Tonight, or this afternoon rather, I put a frozen 1.5 lb pork loin (I doubt the weight really matters, since heavier loins tend to just be longer but have the same diameter) in salt water to brine. Then I put the loin on a pan in a 425° toaster oven (our oven is gone, but that’s another story). I upped the temperature to 450 after 45 minutes because I got impatient, and the center of the loin hit 125°F after an hour total cooking time. I let it rest ten minutes and sliced it.

So going forward with pork loin (which, honestly, I mostly avoid in favor of shoulder), it’s a hot, quick roast.

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What if: Sweet Baby Ray’s as salad dressing??

THINK about it

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Can you make good pizza in an hour?

Cook’s Illustrated magazine alongside a pizza made from the recipe shownIt’s the kind of claim I’d normally dismiss out of hand: a from-scratch Neapolitan style pie in about one hour, start-to-finish. Everyone knows you need at least an overnight fermentation to get good pizza dough, and two days doesn’t hurt.

If it had just been published on some foodie blog I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but this claim to a solid pie in the time it takes the minute hand to make its full revolution came from none other than Cook’s Illustrated (March—April 2018). I’ve been a subscriber for 14 years, and they’ve almost never steered me wrong.

The recipe goes like this: mix flour (bread and semolina), yeast and sugar in the food processor. So far, so good – I’ve been using Cook’s food-processor based dough recipe for years to great success. Drizzle in water, beer, white vinegar and oil and process till hydrated. The beer and the vinegar are supposed to be a shortcut to flavors that would normally develop over the course of long, cold fermentation. Let rest 10 minutes, add salt, mix till it clears the sides of the bowl, then divide. Here comes another departure from normal technique: immediately place each dough ball on a sheet of parchment, roll out partially, top with another sheet of parchment, then roll out all the way – 11 1/2″ round. Let those rounds rest 30 minutes, then bake in a 500º oven.

It was pretty clear from the start that there were problems. I measured all ingredients by mass (when masses were provided – the flours and liquids) so I was pretty sure I was following the recipe exactly, but the dough mixed up very wet. The 10-minute rest helped a bit, but the dough was still quite sticky. I soldiered on using bench flour and the parchment to divide and roll out the dough. After the prescribed 30-minute rest and following the suggested oven manipulations (heat at 500º with steel 5 inches from broiler, broil for ten minutes just before baking the pie) I flipped a dough round out of its parchment jacket, topped it with tomato sauce and cheese and slid it on to the steel. Eight minutes later, I took it out.

Total time elapsed, from getting out the food processor to cutting board: 1 hour, 5 minutes, 47 seconds. At least the hour part of the recipe was reliable.

thin crust cheese pizza on a cork serving board

The pizza itself was another matter. Given the time frame, I wasn’t expecting a perfect pie, but what I got was much less than perfect. Cracker thin, un-puffed, it was chewy without being crispy and alternatingly charred and blonde. It actually might work as a base for a bar- or Minnesota- style thin-crust pizza, but it had no resemblance to a good, let alone great, Neapolitan pie. And this is a small thing, but it annoyed me to use a total of nearly 4 feet of parchment paper just to make a couple of pizzas, especially when the usual procedure requires no parchment at all.

Some things are just too good to be true, even when they’re published in the pages of Cook’s Illustrated.


Back walking, for today

Tom has returned to running with 1-mile runs for a few days counting and I took advantage of his post-work departure to step outside myself today. As I’d done in the past, I walked out the door, set a 10-minute timer, and simply walked until its buzzing signaled time for my return. I took exactly one picture of one stand-out tulip thinking it might give me something to add to a short post declaring this tiny victory to you. 

Orange tulip bloom in spring with green background


Back on the pizza train

Choo choo!

Hadn’t made pizza in, like, forever. This one’s with New York style crust from Peter Reinhart’s American Pie, fermented overnight. Topped with green olives and spicy salami.

On the bike ride home, I considered my limitations, size wise. My pizza steel is 14×16″. My peel is 13″ wide. So 13″ is my pizza diameter limit. The pizza above used 9.5 oz of dough. Stretched to that limit, it was a pretty good thickness for NY style. 

Finally, the cooking: I’ve been dissatisfied with my Neapolitan crusts being too cracker-like from, I assume, spending too long in the oven. For tonight’s pies, I put the rack with the steel in the upper middle position. I baked them four minutes and then switched on the broiler until spots had charred. That’s a little finicky, but I liked the result: lightly charred but still foldable.


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