We’re not really a picky couple when it comes to meat. We pretty much like it all. Our weekly routine usually consists of two nights of fish or other seafood, a night of beef, and pretty much the rest of the nights with chicken of some variety. We also love lamb, goat, duck, and all kinds of game meat, but get our grad-school-budgeted hands on those a little less often. But somehow, I feel like we always forget about pork. Every time we make pork, we always wonder why we don’t eat it more often. Fall and the cooler weather we’ve (finally!) been having made me think about doing a braised dish and this time, my mind went straight to the other white meat! I initially wanted to braise the pork in cider, with apples and potatoes on the side, a dish I make pretty much every fall. But then I realized that would end up being pretty darn similar to the Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits that we made just two weekends ago. So I browsed our two favorite culinary magazines (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine) for some inspiration. Turns out, everyone braises pork in cider in the fall… But working back a few years, I came across the recipe we adapted this dish from – a different flavor profile that was exactly what I was looking for!
Speaking of different flavor profile… I was a little skeptical about the grapes. I thought the grapes might make the whole dish too sweet. I was happily wrong! While they do add a little bit of sweetness to the final product, it isn’t overwhelming. Even more interestingly, the grapes take on some of the savoriness of the pork. When you see them after they’ve braised for half the afternoon, you’ll notice that they’ve lost a lot of their color. I thought that might mean that they would’ve leeched out all of their flavor too. Not the case! As it turns out, the grapes ended up being my favorite part of the dish, so I’m glad I didn’t trust my first instinct to get rid of them!
Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes
(Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
- 3lb boneless pork loin
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- ~1lb black or red grapes (~3 cups)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups vegetable or poultry stock
- 4 large fresh sage leaves
- 2 springs of fresh rosemary
- Season the pork loin with salt & pepper on both sides.
- In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp neutral oil at just above medium heat (#6). Once hot, sear the pork on all sides, 3-5 minutes per side.
- Remove the pork to a plate on the side and lower heat to medium-low.
- After allowing a few minutes for the oil the cool slightly, add the garlic and onions to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Then add the grapes and top with the brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the vinegar and simmer for about 3 minutes.
- Add the stock and fresh herbs to the dish. Now also return the pork. Nestle the meat down into the dish (the top should still be exposed).
- Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce to low heat. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes.
- Flip the pork loin, re-cover, and cook at the same low simmer for another 30-45 minutes. [We suggest checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark, especially if you prefer your pork less than well-done!]
- Remove the pork loin from the dish and ensure it is cooked sufficiently with a meat thermometer (the FDA recommends a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees for pork).
- Meanwhile, increase the burner heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While the sauce is reducing, intermittently skim fat/oil/debris off the top. Also, remove the sprigs of herbs.
- Serve the pork sliced, topped with sauce.