Let’s talk about pork, the “other white meat.” Let’s be honest, white meat, red meat, fatty meat, lean meat, it’s all good stuff. Buy quality meat and eat it in moderation and you’ll be okay! The other day, my daughter came home from school and told me that two of her friends declared at lunch that they were now officially vegetarians! I said, “Wow, that’s interesting, how did they come to that conclusion?” She replied, “I don’t know but they said they we are no longer eating meat….except pepperoni and salami.” Amen, I thought to myself (although no judgement to vegetarians at all!). This is a testament to how much some kids love pork products, and my kids are no exception. Hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, sausage…they love it all (although I’ll admit I buy the “turkey” variety of many of these products). They even love the healthier pork alternatives like grilled pork chops, carnitas, marinated pork medallions. There are so many ways to cook pork. We all know that some cuts are more tender than others. A nice pork tenderloin is about as tender as you can get and can stand on it’s own with a light marinade and a little time on the grill or in the oven. However a large pork shoulder or pork butt needs to cook for hours in a crock pot or braise in the oven to become fall-off-the-bone tender. But what about those middle of the line cuts like pork loin or pork chops? Tenderizing these cuts of pork is key to their success.
There are three great ways to tenderize pork — brining it, pounding it, or marinating it. For a great brining recipe, check out my Tender Pork Chops with White Wine Dijon Mustard Sauce. For a great recipe for pounding pork, stay tuned for a Pork Schnitzel recipe. And as for marinating, check out my Chipotle Marinade for Pork or Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Grilled (and marinated) Pork. In regard to marinating, one of the secrets to marinating pork is to use milk. Buttermilk is particularly effective because of the acid in it, but regular milk in combination with the acid of the other marinade ingredients (vinegars, citrus etc.) will work fine. According to livestrong.com, Milk contains calcium, which, according to Shirley Comer at “Fine Cooking,” may have an effect on an enzyme in the meat itself that breaks down the proteins. This process is similar to the way that aging tenderizes meat. Milk also contains lactic acid, which helps to break down the proteins and soften the collagen. Essentially milk-soaked meat becomes tender without drying out or getting mushy.
I love to take a pork loin and cut it very thin and then marinate it (put it in the freezer 30-45 minutes prior to cutting and it will be easier to slice thin). It’s great on the grill or the grill pan and cooks in just a few minutes. It’s a nice meal to make when you don’t have a lot of time to get dinner on the table. The other day, I had purchased a package of soba noodles and some bok choy as I was craving a nice fresh noodle bowl. I created this marinade in the morning and then marinated the thinly sliced pork all day. Usually when I’m creating a marinade I pull out all of the ingredients that go together and just start combining to taste and I would encourage you to do the same — marinades and salads dressings are some of the easiest ways to get creative with flavors. I always make sure I have enough acid in a marinade so it gives the meat a nice tangy flavor. This time I opted for some coconut milk to help tenderize the pork and to give it that extra Asian flavor. I cooked the thinly sliced pork on my grill pan in a matter of minutes, and sautéed the bok choy in another pan with olive oil, garlic and ginger. I cooked the soba noodles according to package directions and tossed them with a little sesame oil, some of the drippings from the cooked pork and some toasted sesame seeds. It came together easily and tasted great.
Coconut-Soy Marinated Pork (Serves 4)
1.5-2 lb pork loin (or tenderloin)
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated (plus a little more if making the bok choy)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce, depending on taste (or another hot sauce, Siracha etc)
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh lime juice (about 1/2 of one lime)
7 oz. coconut milk (about 1/2 of a can)
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
Additional ingredients if making Soba Noodles and Bok Choy:
1 pkg soba noodles
toasted sesame seeds
1 bunch bok choy
1 tsp minced garlic
toppings: Siracha, scallions
Place pork in freezer about 30-45 minutes prior to cutting it, which make it easier to slice. Slice pork into very thin (1/4 inch) pieces. Whisk together all ingredients, from ginger through sesame oil in a medium bowl. Adjust to taste. Put pork in a zip lock freezer bag and add marinade. Make sure all of the air is out of bag and set on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 or up to 8 hours.
Heat grill pan or grill to medium high heat. If using a grill pan, make sure it is coated with oil or cooking spray. Grill pork about 2 minutes per side or until cooked through (try to get some those pretty little char marks).
**When I made this dish, I used up the extra coconut sauce by mixing it with a few tablespoons of some soy sauce and about 1 tsp of fresh ginger. I reduced the sauce of low heat for about 10 minutes.
Soba noodles: Cook as directed on package. After draining, make sure to put them in a bowl of ice water and massage your hand through them to make sure they do not stick together. Drain. Add back to the pan with a touch of sesame oil, soy sauce and some toasted sesame seeds
Bok Choy: Clean bok choy. Cut in 2-3 inch wide pieces. In large skillet, heat 2 tsp sesame or olive oil with 1 tsp fresh ginger. Place the bok choy in pan and saute for 3-5 minutes or until greens just start to wilt and white parts are cooked but still crunchy. Add a dash of soy sauce at the end.