Spicy Mango-Cranberry Pork Roast
Jenn and I love to cook dinner for our friends. Last night we had Phil and Val over to meet Finn for the first time and I wanted to make an easy, mess-free, meal on the grill. So like all good culinary endeavors I headed to the grocery store to make some impulsive purchases. First thing I see when I walk in the door is a big heap of corn. 27 cents an ear. Perfect, I’ll take 7. I stroll back to the meat dept. and what do I see but pork loin roast on sale! This is a great cut of meat if cooked right, and is kind of pricey at $7/lb., but when you can buy one and get one free it’s quite the deal. Lucky for me our local grocery store, Festival, has this deal rather frequently. Anyways…I move on to getting a vegetable. “But Tim…you already have corn, why do you need another vegetable?” Because corn is NOT a vegetable. It’s a grain. We’ve grown to accept corn as a substitute for real vegetables at our cookouts and barbecues beacause it’s tasty, easy to cook, plentiful, cheap, but it’s packed with carbohydrates. It belongs in the same category as pasta, bread and potatoes. So I got what’s in season…fresh green beans!
Okay, so here’s the thing about pork loin roasts…they are tender, juicy, but not terribly flavorful on their own. If you were to just pan-sear it to temperature with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil what you’d get is a hunk of meat that’s burnt on the outside, tough and stringy until the core, which is nice and pink, albeit flavorless. It’s the kind of meat that works perfectly as a vehicle for your favorite barbecue sauce. That’s not nearly what I wanted. I wanted something good, and interesting and as I looked in the cupboard I saw mangoes….oh yeah.
So here’s what happened. I cut the roast in half lengthwise leaving a little flap where the two sides remained connected and opened it up. I used my Misto pump-action sprayer to get a coating of olive oil on both sides. On one side I sprinkled cayenne pepper and kosher salt, on the other I squirted some Sriracha chili-garlic sauce. On the cayenne side I laid whole leaves of fresh pineapple sage from our garden. On the Sriracha side I laid down strips of dried mango from Trader Joe’s and scattered a handful of crasins. After giving the fruit a light smush into the sauce to help hold it in I folded the pork back to its original position and I now had a raw meat, herb and friut sandwich. I would normally have used buchers twine to tie the roast back up, but alas I had none. Instead I took my wife’s suggestion and used our bamboo kabob skewers to “pin” the sides together like one would pin on a boutineer. Holy crap it worked! Now for the rub…literally. In a bowl I combined chili powder, ground black pepper, kosher salt, brown sugar, garlic powder and mace. I just rubbed this mixture on the outside of the roast (after giving it a good coating of olive oil, of course).
Now the trick for cooking these roasts on the grill. DO NOT use direct heat. DO NOT try to cook this on high heat. Here’s why…the low temp allows the fat in the roast to liquify and mix in the roast instead of remaining in chewy globules. It breaks down the connective tissue and the end result is a more tender, flavorful roast. Indirect, low heat is also imperitive for the sake of the muscle fibers. If you heat them up too fast the muscle fibers will coil up like a spring, give up their water and it will leave you with a dry, chewy, stringy mess. Low and slow is the key. Leave the roast on indirect heat, maintaining about 300 degree temp inside the grill for around 45 min., flipping them once.
On the remaining part of the grill I now added the corn, de-silked but still in the husk, right onto the grill with the pork. I left it for 15 minutes, turned the corn, left it for 15 more minutes, and took the corn off. At this point I moved the roast onto the hot part of the grill and turned the temp to medium for a couple minutes to get a nice sear on each side. Not burnt, but seared. This had to be done quickly to avoid blackening the brown sugar in the rub (now caramel).
During these last few minutes I cranked my stovetop to high and sauteed my green beans with olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and thinly sliced shallots in my 12 inch cast-iron skillet. 3 minutes, flip, 3 minutes, flip, turn off the heat and you’ve got snappy, hot green beans with a crispy skin. Everything was ready to serve at the same and there was only one pan to clean. A nice, simple, inexpensive meal that got rave reviews. I’ll be cooking this again sometime soon. That’s for sure.