Recipe: Pork Loin

It’s a whole lot of culture shock cooking at Le Manoir de Champfreau in Varennes sur Loire one day and waking up to pack peanut butter crackers for my boy’s school lunch in Queens the next. I love them both.
All of last week I got up every morning just in time to rush off through the still black fields and sky to buy fresh, full of butter and crackle croissants and loaves of bread pulled to a point sharp enough to stab somebody with. After breakfast my group would wander off to a chateau or fortress or town of turrets or a forest busting with wild mushrooms while I went shopping for dinner.
I don’t speak French. A problem if you hold on to timid but I don’t tend to. If the pork is one side of the counter and I’m on the other there’s only one way to get it–act it out. An unexpected event for sensibly shoed mamans waiting in line behind me, but you know charades is fun no matter what the situation.
And then back to the kitchen–a hundred gorgeous plates and heavy heat distributing pans and wooden handled ancient knives to use, and I think I used all of them. When my hungries got back home we’d pour the wine, get the loins reading for searing, slice up soft cheeses and hard saucisson and start cooking.
On the last night: a loin of pork smothered with dijon, fresh bay leaves, parsley and thyme whole heads of slashed garlic and a good pour of olive oil. Let that sit for a few hours, then smush off the marinade, keeping it to the side. Season the loin with sea salt and sear it off really well so that there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the thing is crispy. Let it cool for a minute and get the marinade back on there. Set it on a cross hatched rack of celery stalks in a roasting pan, give it a pour of white wine and let it slowly come to done and juicy at 300 degrees. To have along side peel and slice super duper thinly, potatoes just pulled from the ground. Heat up a little fresh duck fat–which is very available when you fly yourself to France–and flavor it with a few shallots and parsley. Add the potatoes and salt, grind in some pepper and let them sit in the hot pan for about 5 minutes. Flip when they go golden and keep going like that til they’re cooked through. Simmer a pot of flagoulet and right before they’re done, pour in the best red bordeaux you can get your hands on. Add a slab of good butter to taste. Make sure the butter is fighting with the wine to that perfect place on your tongue. Braise a bouquet garni of leek, thyme, parsley, celery stalk and bay leaf until it wilts, then add carrots grown in sand. Can’t find ’em? France. Sandy carrots alone could bring me back. Serve it all with a tangy vinaigrette over cold and sassy bitter green and red leaves. For dessert there’s no beating an apple tart tatin.
And yesterday I was back in my own bed smacking the alarm button down at half past six, and getting up to push my face into Ferdinand’s warm little neck.

Leave a Reply