TND: Dinner – October 22nd

October 25, 2013

October 22

Dinner – October 22nd
Coconut Braised Pork Loin
Spiced Tomato & Potato Gratin
Green Beans

Coconut Braised Pork Loin
(serves 8 people at Dinner – possibly more non-Dinner people
I sliced my 4lb pork loin roast into 12 – ¼” thick slices and most people went back for an additional ½ slice after they’d finished their first serving, so possibly not)

I opted for a pork loin roast this week because I wanted something that wasn’t chicken, but that wasn’t going to be as heavy as a pork shoulder.  I was a little dubious about whether as lean a cut of meat as a pork loin was going to be something that braised well, but I’d seen recipes that said it could be done so I figured I’d try.  The recipes were right, you can braise pork loin and it is tender and flavorful and lovely.  That said, if you wanted to do this with a more traditional braising cut of meat like a pork shoulder it would work very nicely although you’d need to increase the braising time.  You could probably also do this with chicken thighs, although obviously your cooking time will be much much shorter (more like 30 minutes of braising).  I really want to try this with a leg of lamb because I think the combination of lamb, coconut milk and spices would be spectacular if only I could somehow arrange for the half of Dinner who dislikes lamb to all be unavailable on the same week . . .

pork in progress
4 lb pork loin
3-4 leeks, sliced (depending on the size of your leeks)
1 apple, peeled & chopped to a ¼” dice
1 fresno chili (or other mild chili), seeded & thinly sliced
4-6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-3 stalks lemongrass, minced
3” piece ginger, peeled & grated
½ tsp garam masala
1 ¼ cups coconut milk
¾ cup chicken stock
Zest & juice of 2 limes
1-2 tsp honey
(optional – ½ Tbsp cornstarch)
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted

Heat a little olive oil in a large dutch oven.

Trim most of the fat cap from the pork loin – leave a little, but not much.  Season the pork loin generously with salt, pepper, and garam masala.  Sear on each side for 4-5 minutes, or until well browned.  Remove from pan.

Add the sliced leeks, apple, and chili to the pan and season with a little salt & pepper.  Cook until the leeks have softened.  Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and garam masala and cook for another minute.   Add the coconut milk, chicken stock, lime zest and juice, and honey.  Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Nestle the pork into the bed of leeks, cover the pot with parchment paper, foil, and lid to create a tight seal.  Braise in a 325 oven for about 90 minutes, or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150.

Remove pork from pan, allow to cool and then refrigerate overnight.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the solids from the sauce and spread in the bottom of a large casserole pan.  Cool, cover & refrigerate overnight.  Refrigerate the sauce separately.

The next day, slice the pork into ¼” thick slices and arrange on top of the leeks in the baking dish.

Skim any excess fat from the sauce, and season to taste with salt/pepper/honey/lime juice.  If you want/think you need to, you can thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch (make a slurry with the cornstarch in a separate bowl, and then add that back to the main pot – if you try and add cornstarch directly to your pot of sauce you’ll just end up with lumps).  Spoon about half the sauce over the pork slices, cover the baking dish and place in a 350 oven for 30-35 minutes to rewarm.

Serve the pork garnished with the toasted coconut, and with the remaining sauce on the side.

Spiced Tomato Gratin
(serves 8-10)

This is an Indian Summer dish for a variety of definitions of both Indian and Summer.  It’s a dish spiked with (subcontinental) Indian spices and coconut milk, and a dish that embraces the glories of a (New England) Indian Summer (are we still allowed to call it that, or is that no longer politically correct?) when the farmer’s market tempts me with both the final burst of field ripened tomatoes, and an influx of newly dug potatoes.

I was seduced by blue potatoes, and baby Yukon gold potatoes and did a mix of half and half.  But, if you weren’t being beguiled by visions of a multi-hued casserole, I’d recommend using all Yukon gold potatoes, or something similarly creamy for this gratin.

This came out maybe a little spicer than I expected, and I might take the amount of cumin/curry powder down a little next time.  I think it would also be good with garam masala in place of the cumin, although I probably then wouldn’t use basil.  It also came out a little saucier than I expected it to, I’m not entirely sure what to do about that – perhaps only use the ½ cup of coconut milk and omit the ¼ cup of chicken stock next time.

gratin in progress

¾ tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp curry powder
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp butter
2 ½ lb thinly sliced white onions
2 lb potatoes
½ cup (full fat) coconut milk (you can also use heavy cream)
¼ cup chicken stock
2 ½ lb ripe tomatoes
a small handful of basil leaves, slivered
2 tsp salt, divided
½ tsp pepper, divided

Combine the cumin, curry powder and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.  Reserve.

Melt the butter in a large skillet or dutch oven over high heat.  Add the sliced onions and stir to coat.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook the onions over medium heat until they are deeply golden and caramelized.  This will take about 40 minutes.  When the onions have turned a deep golden color and smell fantastic, deglaze the pan with a splash of chicken stock (or sherry), stir in the spice mixture and cook for another minute or so.  Set aside.  Caramelized onions can be made 1-2 days in advance and refrigerated until needed.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Slice the potatoes into 1/8” thick rounds (use a mandolin unless you have crazy knife skills). Place in a medium bowl and toss with the coconut milk, chicken stock, 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.

Cut the tomatoes into ¼” thick slices, toss with the remaining 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper

Smear half the caramelized onions across the bottom of a 9 x 13” baking dish.  Layer half the potatoes on top of the onions.  Layer half the tomatoes on top of the potatoes.  Drizzle with 4 Tbsp of coconut milk from the potatoes and ¾ Tbsp of olive oil.  Scatter half the basil over the top.

Repeat with the remaining onions, potatoes, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and all the remaining coconut milk from the potatoes.  Gently press down on the vegetables so that the coconut milk distributes evenly.

Cover tightly with foil, place on a baking sheet to catch any stray bubbling over drips, and bake for 1 ½ hours.  Increase the oven to 450, uncover the gratin and cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until the top takes on a nice golden color.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Alternatively, if you’d like to serve this on a week night and don’t have 2+ hours to devote to baking something before dinner you can split the cooking time over two nights.  Cook the gratin, tightly covered for 1 ½ hours one night.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool completely and refrigerate.  The next night place the gratin, still covered, back in a 350 oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil, increase the oven temperature and continue to cook for 30-40 minutes, until top is crispy & browned.

Green Beans
Tossed with chopped crystallized ginger, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt/pepper & a drizzle of olive oil.
green beans



  1. Was your tomato gratin saucier because of “wet” tomatoes? I find that using plum tomatoes in this sort of dish reduces the “wetness” factor.

    • I was using plum tomatoes, although they were very vine ripe, so possibly later winter tomatoes would work better. I might just seed them next time to eliminate some of the liquid.

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