Chile-crusted Pork Loin with Tomatillo Salsa, Chile Cream, and Chile-dressed Salad

Chile-crusted Pork Loin with Tomatillo Salsa, Chile Cream, and Chile-dressed SaladHave I mentioned my passionate love of all things pork? While the sexiness of bacon, ham, slow-cooked pork belly, and ribs is undeniable, there are few cuts of pork, much less any meat other than chicken breast, which are also lean and flexible to flavor. Chicken breast, though easy to adapt to cuisines, can present quite a lot of issues to many cooks when trying to achieve just the right level of doneness. A little too long and it's unappealingly dry, but too underdone and it's potentially deadly. Pork chops are also fairly difficult, without some experience, to get at just the right place for tender, yet cooked. Pork loin, on the other hand, is a nifty roast so gives you the failsafe of an easy internal temperature gauge to your perfect doneness.

Hooray for big chunks of light deliciousness!

Pork loin rocks the leftovers, this time in an open-faced sandwichAnother lovely thing about pork loin, among many, is the incredible leftovers. Roasted pork loin makes great sandwiches, tacos, added protein for salads,  recycled for an add-in to fried rice or soups, you name it! I've even sliced and browned some for a tasty breakfast treat. With it often being on sale in either full form (great for freezing in smaller cuts for later) or dinner + leftovers sizes, pork loin is a favorite around our place.

Lean + flexible + affordable + leftover-friendly = Epic Food Win!

This week, I got a bit of an itch for something with Mexican flavors but not the same old. And, as luck would have it, pork loin was on sale, giving me the chance to play with a full meal menu with groovy, cohesive flavor profiles. The accenting flavor I chose to bring to the other components was chiles, since they are also incredibly flexible with such wonderful variations of taste in so many forms.

With very little strain on the brain, a menu come together pretty quickly. I decided to use a mix of dried chiles and citrus as a marinade and crust on the loin, which would double as a base for a dressing for a spinach and veggie salad. I would also accent the pork with a tomatillo salsa, for a bit of tangy bite, and a cream made of fire-roasted chiles and yoghurt.

Here are the details for the full meal:
(makes enough for a family or a nice bit of great leftovers!)
Tomatillo Salsa
2 lbs. tomatillos - husks removed, cleaned well, and cut into 1/2" chunks
1/2 red onion - finely diced
4-8 garlic cloves - peeled and smashed (I use a lot because we LOVE garlic. Your mileage may vary.)
juice of 1 lime
2 TBSP olive oil
kosher salt to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup cilantro - leaves only - loose chop (I like my salsa with a bit more fresh greens. Your mileage may vary.)
1/4 - 1/2 cup scallions - greens only - loose chop (ditto)

Chile Cream
2 poblano chiles - fire-roasted, skins removed, and loosely chopped
2 Anaheim chiles - fire-roasted, skins removed, and loosely chopped
1 cup yoghurt (Middle-eastern kind is best for thickness and full-flavor)

Chile-Crusted Pork Loin
2 dried chiles - negro entero (ground in coffee/herb grinder)
2 dried chiles - pasilla/ancho (ground in coffee/herb grinder)
4 TBSP granulated garlic
1 tsp ground lemon (available at Middle-eastern markets)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup orange juice
pork loin roast - boneless (2 - 3 lbs)

Chile-dressed Salad
1 - 9 oz bag baby spinach
3 carrots - grated just before serving
1/2 can black olives - broken or chopped
1/2 cup cilantro - finely chopped
1/2 cup scallions - med-thin slices - greens only
1/4 cup tortilla chips - crumbled
juice of 1 lime
red wine vinegar - to taste
3 - 4 TBSP olive oil
*nice additions
*grated cotija cheese
*fresh ground pepper
*granulated garlic
*Persian cucumber
*red onion
*whatever else might float your boat!

PRE- Preheat oven to 400º
1 - In a pyrex or deep roasting pan, combine the salsa ingredients except cilantro and scallion and cook for about an hour (or until the top has a bit of golden caramelization), stirring well halfway through cooking time.
2 - While tomatillos cook, start the pork marinade. In a bowl or container, combine dried ingredients and mix well. Then add juices and mix into a paste. Separate 2/3 to use right away and reserve the rest for salad. Smear the paste all over the outside of the roast, including ends, and allow to marinate at room temperature for about an hour (this will allow the pork to lose its chill before roasting).
3 - After the pork is marinating, you can fire-roast the chiles for the cream, allow them to sweat in a covered pot or bowl, then peel charred skin and remove seeds before loosely chopping. Then, put them in the food processor with the yoghurt on low (scraping the sides once or twice) until it's at the smoothness you want. Then store it in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
4 - When the salsa is done and cooled, pour the cooked mixture into food processor and add the greens. Then pulse on low until smooth with small chunks. Reserve in the fridge until ready to serve and keep oven at temperature for the pork.
5 - If you're using a temperature alarm, insert the probe to reach the center and set to 140º - 145º (depending on the level of doneness you want - I set it at 140 for a pinkish center and it was juicy good) before putting the roasting pan (ideally, you want the roast on a rack, if possible) in the oven. This should take in the neighborhood of 35-40 minutes for a 2 lb roast and a little longer for 3 lb. but that's just a basic notion, based on the roasts I've done recently. The thickness of the roast + the temperature consistency of your oven will impact this quite a lot.
6 - Always allow the roast to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving into it or even removing the temperature probe. Any poking or opening the meat will cause all the juiciness to spill out onto the cutting board, which is very sad.
7 - In the chile paste bowl, add the extra lime, then red wine vinegar to taste (I used a few tablespoons at first, then a little splash more after the oil) and olive oil and whisk together. Mix salad greens and extras in a big bowl, re-whisk dressing and add a little before tossing. Ideally, the dressing is added is increments so the salad isn't overdressed and you can get it to your taste.
8 - Top the pork loin slices with salsa and cream and serve with a generous side salad.

** If you're using an instant-read thermometer, you should probably check a smaller roast at about 30-35 minutes and about 35-40 for a larger one (meaning bigger in diameter)**

*** If you're flying by the seat of your pants, you can either go with the slightly higher time-frame for safety and do a bit of trial and error or, if you go for the lower time to go for pinkish and tender center, allow to rest before cutting through the middle of the roast and risking needing to put it back in if under-cooked. Pork is not really meant to be consumed rare, though lightly pink is groovy. ***

After this NOMNOMNOMmy meal, we were all geared up for some leftovers. We wound up, since we were out of tortillas to do tacos, making some open-faced sandwiches. I layered toast with thinnish slices of leftover pork, then sliced avocado, shredded carrots, salsa, chile cream, and shredded cotija. Such a groovy, healthy, and filling brunch with all the work done last night ... HUZZAH!

And, it should be little surprise that we'll be having some more pork in the next day or so, perhaps in a hearty dinner salad using the salsa or cream as the base for a dressing ... maybe in some tacos if we have a chance to go to the store. Either way, it'll save a lot of time and money, two things which make me smile!

Have a fab weekend, all, and I'll be back with more food porn next week!