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Brined Pork Loin with Apricot-Onion Mostarda

Cuts of pork of every kind are versatile, flavorful, simple to cook and popular with a wide range of meat eaters. But pork is easy to overcook, and nobody likes dried-out meat. This loin, made tender and juicy with an overnight brine bath and served with a sweet and savory mostarda, will never let the cook down.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt 
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground pepper 
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped 
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 2 tsp. chopped thyme 
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 2 tsp. chopped rosemary  
  • 1 boneless center-cut pork loin, about 3 lb., rolled and tied by the butcher 
  • 2 tsp. olive oil 
  •   

For the apricot-onion mostarda: 

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced 
  • Pinch of kosher salt 
  • 3/4 cup dried apricots (about 12), chopped 
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar  
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard 
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar 

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine the salt, brown sugar, pepper, onion, garlic, and the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Pour in 3 cups water and set over medium heat. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour 6 cups cold water into a large metal or glass container. Add the salt-sugar mixture and stir to combine. Let the brine cool to room temperature.

Carefully submerge the pork loin in the brine, adding additional cold water if needed to cover the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight, or up to 24 hours.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels (discard the brine). Rub the meat all over with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the chopped thyme and rosemary, pressing the herbs into the meat so they adhere.

Place the pork in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the pork over and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140°F, about 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the mostarda: In a nonreactive fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

Add the apricots, sugar, wine, mustard and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the onion and apricots are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. The finished sauce should be thick but somewhat syrupy. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Turn the pork over again and increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Roast until the top of the meat is browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the pork into slices and serve with the mostarda. Serves 4 to 6.


Make ahead: The mostarda will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Reheat gently over low heat, adding a splash of water to thin it, if needed.

Recipe redux: This recipe makes great sandwiches. Smear a baguette with a little mayonnaise or aioli and top with pork slices and a dollop of the mostarda. Enjoy with a glass of crisp, dry Riesling or a bottle of beer.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Good Food to Share, by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (Weldon Owen, Inc., 2010).